An Iconic Harlem Soul Food Restaurant Is Expanding to the UWS and Beyond

The fried chicken favorite is looking to become a citywide chain with several locations around the city.

Charles Pan-Fried Chicken
Charles Gabriel, the owner of Charles Pan-Fried Chicken | Photo by Christian Rodriguez for Thrillist
Charles Gabriel, the owner of Charles Pan-Fried Chicken | Photo by Christian Rodriguez for Thrillist

After shutting down the restaurant’s flagship location in Harlem last year, Charles Pan-Fried Chicken has begun its comeback.

The iconic fried chicken spot opened its first new location on the Upper West Side this week, and it's the first of at least two outposts slated to open in Manhattan this year. “We’re trying to do the whole island of Manhattan,” Quie Slobert, chief operating officer told us. “When we do deliveries, we want to make sure everything is covered.”

Known for frying up wings, breasts, and thighs in a cast-iron skillet rather than a deep fryer, Charles-Pan Fried Chicken offers up its signature menu item along with sides like biscuits, collard greens, and Southern-style black eyed peas. The UWS location on 146 West 72nd Street will also offer new options like barbecue pulled pork and fried chicken sandwiches.

The restaurant’s legendary owner, Charles Gabriel, originally learned to cook from his mom at a young age while growing up in Huntsville, North Carolina. Being part of a large family that included Gabriel’s 12 brothers and eight sisters, it was his way of chipping in to help her in the kitchen, and her advice from early on would shape his culinary career. “She told me, if I ever open up a restaurant, never do my chicken in the deep fryer,” says Gabriel, “she says ‘always cook your chicken in a frying pan.’”

Charles Pan-Fried Chicken
Charles Pan-Fried Chicken | Photo by Christian Rodriguez for Thrillist

Gabriel launched his Harlem institution in 1995 from a folding table along Amsterdam Avenue before trying out the concept as a food truck and later opening a brick-and-mortar location. Now, with new investors and a loyal following, the eatery has its eyes set on global expansion.

“In a perfect world, you will see Charles’ recipe book coming out soon, and Charles Pan-Fried Chicken all over the globe,” says Slobert. “There should be one in Virginia, one down South, one in Miami, and a location in every NYC borough. That’s the goal.”

Charles Pan-Fried Chicken’s second planned Manhattan outpost will be in Harlem on 145th Street and Edgecombe Avenue, which is several blocks away from the original location of Copeland’s, a restaurant once famous for its Gospel Brunches and where Gabriel worked in his twenties soon after arriving in NYC.

“Harlem is my home,” says Gabriel. “So the whole area there brings back memories of when I was working at Copeland’s.”

Charles Pan-Fried Chicken’s Upper West Side location is now open for lunch and dinner.

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Liz Provencher is an associate editor at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter or see what she eats on Instagram.