When Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe closed its doors in 2014, after nearly 90 years on Columbus Avenue in the South End, Boston lost a piece of its soul. Since 1927, the restaurant had served its famous turkey hash, tuna melts, and seared burgers to many a famous athlete, gangster, and politician—including President Obama a year before its doors shuttered.
But Evan Deluty, the South End chef and owner of Stella, wasn’t going to let the restaurant go without a fight. A neighborhood resident and staunch Charlie’s enthusiast, he quickly put in his bid. Deluty announced his plans to completely gut the building and reopen under the same name just a few months after the kitchen closed.
A year and a half later, the day Deluty and other devotees have been waiting for is finally here: On Friday at 7 a.m., Deluty will fire up the griddles, and start plating eggs, burgers, and hash for anyone who sidles up to the counter. He plans to stick to breakfast for now, expanding into lunch once he feels the business is ready.
“I’m psyched,’’ Deluty said as he stood in his new restaurant, waiting for the health inspector to show up. “It’s been a year and a half. It’s been a complete rehab, the building was gutted to the bricks, but we tried to maintain the integrity and wonderful charm that Charlie’s had. And, you know, trying to recreate an iconic landmark is not an easy task. But we’re going to give it a go.’’
Deluty changed the interior as little as possible and is keeping the menu exactly the same as it was under former owner Arthur Manjourides—who worked at the restaurant for 61 years. The barstools, with their cracked, red leather seats, await hungry customers in front of the linoleum counter. Deluty also turned the door of the wooden eight-by-eight foot refrigerator into a frame, which now displays all the old photos that once adorned the walls.
And then there’s the briny pickle jar, which sat behind the counter starting in 1927. But this time, he’s elevating the glass container and it’s very old, slightly worse for wear contents to icon status on a wooden shelf.
“We’re actually mounting it on the wall right now,’’ he said. “As we speak, it’s going up on the wall. We’re building it its own little sanctuary. A little shrine to pay homage to the greatness of Charlie’s.’’
Deluty said that all the Manjourides—Arthur, his brother Chris, and his sisters Marie and Fontaine—have been involved in the reopening. Arthur, along with Marie, who will work at Charlie’s on the weekends, was in the shop on Thursday afternoon as the staff prepped for the morning. Deluty said he’s honored to have a member of the Manjourides family back at Charlie’s, which is named after the restaurant’s original owner.
“I’m very excited,’’ Marie Manjourides said, perched on a red stool. “Because I miss the neighborhood, I miss the people, I miss the family atmosphere, and it’s a new family coming in. They’ll bring their family and it’s wonderful.’’
Asked about his hopes for the future, Deluty paused and thought for a moment.
“Just to carry on the legacy of Charlie’s,’’ he finally said. “To continue the legacy. We just had a small break, so to rekindle the history. To continue to be a part of the neighborhood’s growth and just to the wonderfulness of the South End.’’