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First Bite: Charlie's, Fast Food And Dog Food

By Sep 30, 2015 Dining
"You don't have any salad on the menu?" asked one customer. No. The healthiest option at Charlie's, the newly rebranded Piro on Changshu Lu, is an underwhelming grilled cheese sandwich. They still offer burgers, fries, beer, and ice cream, but they've changed the vibe from "sports bar" to "upmarket fast-food…and homemade dog treats", with plans to expand as a chain. The TVs are gone, but pets are still allowed. After our meal, Ya Yang, a black cat that looked like the cousin of Luna from Sailor Moon, peered out from under the sofa and yawned.

A cat in a restaurant is a good sign -- they keep rats away. Like felines, Charlie's is clean and sleek: two floors, exposed ceilings, a neon cow showing the different cuts of meat, a large option kitchen with slabs of beef hanging from the ceiling, and lots of windows for natural light. It's a comfortable neighborhood spot. The playlists could use some work though -- dog-friendly fast-food doesn't have to involve Pitbull.

The burger is the way to go here. You're unlikely to find one with a patty this fresh for 35rmb elsewhere in town. Caliburger is great, but Charlie's patty is thicker, and has that homemade, backyard cook-out kinda taste. The sauce doesn't overwhelm the beef flavor (actual beef flavor, not that hospital flavor you'll find at BK or Carl's), and the bun matches well.

Everything else, from the watery lemonade to a bland, snapless hot dog and a real-but-not-stellar 45rmb mint chocolate-chip shake (not as thick as they claimed) was just alright . Somehow their chili [liquefied] cheese fries tasted almost healthy, and the chili actually tasted like chili -- the soup kind -- but the fries could have been crispier.

And then, there is the dog menu, which we didn't try. That includes three peanut butter & bacon biscuits for 15rmb, a "woof" unseasoned beef patty for 20rmb, and a 25rmb "Puppy Ice Cream Cup", which involves vanilla ice cream and a dog biscuit. Should dogs eat ice cream? Computer says no, but turns out this is a special "doggie" ice cream. Nice touch.

They don't have salads or "healthy" food, but the fact that you can pull up and sit outside with your dog and drink a 45rmb pint of Brooklyn Lager, Dead Guy, Urban IPA, or Cider Republic draft makes up for that. Pet-friendly fast food is a less crowded niche than healthy food anyway. Shout out to Ya Yang the cat.



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  • food reviewer

    Surely music is for everyone, everyone has different tastes, why can't Pitbull be played in a dingy diner like this ? Maybe your a musical snob trying to hack it in the blogging world but some people appreciate the talents of Pitbull

    Hope SS get a Dining Editor soon......REAL SOON

  • jtf87

    Yeh I agree with the previous guy, I thought it was a bit closed minded to judge the music there based upon your own taste Ian. Pitbull seems a reasonable choice of music to me, if for example they were playing some filthy Skrillex dubstep track, then I think you would have more of a leg to stand on.

  • happysh01

    Piro was always well liked, but I was only a supporter when forced to go. I'm not a big fan of having an in-house animal where I eat. People bringing them along is one thing, but a resident animal in the kitchen is another. The new style and renovation looks a lot like they are trying to follow in the footsteps of the '5 Guys' concept from the U.S. Well, at 35 RMB it's still worth a try to see how close it comes. Hope their burgers are the $*#@! Will let you know how it goes!

  • Peachlife

    Mistakenly didn't read this review before I tried them. Ordered the pork grilled cheese and some fries, only to be welcomed with 2 day old congealed pork belly lain inside 2 pieces of bread with some semi melted cheese and tomato. My fries were all hot lamped end pieces. It wasn't even underwhelming, just absolutely horrible.

  • Chavster

    Nope. Reviewer was right. Pitbull is a deal-breaker.

  • TSkillet

    Did they fix having the worst service in all of China?

  • happysh01

    Ok, so I headed over as promised. The new layout was surprisingly refreshing and not as '5 Guys'ish as expected. Burgers and Wisconsin Cheese Curds were tasty, and well priced. Their dual ordering setup was cool, but hardly utilized because there was only one employee that was making any effort (a really nice Philippino lady), that was running her tail off to compensate for all the other morons working there. Anyway, it seemed like maybe the other employees are fresh, and hopefully with a few more days of training they can get their act rolling smoothly. 4 stars

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