First Taste

Aiello's Charr Has Got the Goods But Needs to Kick Up the Seasoning

When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out -- and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).

Restaurant: Charr Location: 777 East Thunderbird Road Open: About a week Eats: Burgers, salads, and sandwiches Price Point: $11 to $30

If there were a year for husband-and-wife team and ex-Manhattanites Joe and Myrah Aiello, 2012 may be it. In addition to recently closing their namesake restaurant, Aiello's East Coast Italian Dining, and searching for a new spot in which to re-open it (possibly in the One Lexington building in midtown), the two have been quietly taking over a strip mall in restaurant-poor Moon Valley. First, with Aiello's Salumeria, then next door Isa's Pizza, and finally Charr, the nothing-Italian-about-it American burger bar that opened last week.

Charr's menu is decidedly all-American along with a seafood bar of oysters, clams, and shrimp. The tidy menu includes starters, salads, seven kinds of burgers, and five grilled sandwich selections. And a solid selection of wine, beer, and cocktails is available for those who wish to indulge.

Six charred garlic chili glazed chicken wings ($9) were tender and boasted quality meat, but they were overly sweet and missing the spiciness I was hoping for. Much better are the housemade onion rings ($6). Lightly breaded, crispy, and with bright, sweet onion in every bite, they were satisfying but could have used a few shakes of salt to enhance the flavor.

Although recommended by my friendly and helpful server, Charr's Steak & Blue sandwich ($12) sounds better on paper than what it ultimately delivers. Overly packed with unmanageable pieces of well-prepared yet under-seasoned chunks of flat iron steak, it was a difficult to eat bread and meat affair, with barely there blue cheese, mushrooms, and caramelized onions unable to assist in the sandwich's overall flavor or uniqueness. Frequent utilization of the accompanying horseradish mayo helped, but not much.

And like the sandwich, the Black Angus chuck patty on my burger called The Phoenix ($11), was of good quality and prepared to my specifications, but again, under-seasoned. Too bad, given its roasted green chile, pillow-y garlic knot bun, and stellar slice of cheddar.

The amount of TVs in the bar and dining area could make the atmosphere of Charr border on sports bar, but with its bistro lights and family friendly interior, that decision is up to its customers. Charr might not be the out-of-the-gate success its sister restaurant Isa's Pizza was when it first opened, but the quality ingredients are there. And with some extra kicks from the kitchen in the area of seasoning, Charr's could be Moon Valley's new favorite burger joint.

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Laura Hahnefeld
Contact: Laura Hahnefeld