about eating inside a Quonset hut that makes the food taste better.
“OK, not really. But when it's served in a Quonset hut decorated as a '50s-style shiny diner chockfull of nostalgia, that opinion certainly holds true”
(Illinois Times). Welcome to Charlie Parker’s and the home of the sixteen-inch pancake.
We saw Charlie Parker’s featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives where host Guy Fieri partook of Springfield’s signature dish (the horseshoe) and the giant pancake. Charlie Parker’s has been voted the best breakfast spot in town, so with that double recom-mendation, a late-morning breakfast was in order.
“As it turns out, Charlie Parker’s is not an easy place to find, even if it is located inside a Quonset hut. It’s hidden off Stanford Avenue, the main traffic road through the area, at 700 North Street in Spring-field. The arched metal exterior of the building is disguised inside as a small 50’s-themed diner, complete with 8 bar stools and a counter, 17 tightly packed tables, 6 shiny red booths, and walls full of 50’s memorabilia. Think Happy Days and you’ve got an instant mental image of the interior décor.... Our waitress, as well as a poster near my table, confirmed that the restaurant was named after the famous jazz bebop saxophonist Charlie Parker”
This description is echoed on roadfood.com: “Charlie's is an out-of-the-way Quonset hut diner that goes back decades, but has only recently been given a spiffy-kitschy 1950s interior makeover that includes plenty of glass bricks, neon, and chrome-banded stools at the counter.
"The breakfast menu should carry the warning ‘For Big Eaters Only’.”
The Breakfast Shoe includes egg on toast topped with your choice of ham, bacon or sausage, smothered in gravy or cheese sauce or both, and, finally, topped with hash browns or seasoned American fries. Or you can order (all with two eggs, potatoes, toast, and coffee) the smoked pork chop special, the rib eye steak breakfast special, chicken fried steak special, or the eight-ounce ham and eggs breakfast special. Or how about the breakfast burrito (eggs and cheese with your choice of three fillings that include bacon, sausage, ham, green pepper, mushroom, tomato, and onion with sour cream and salsa on the side), or the Reuben breakfast sandwich (scrambled eggs, corned beef, Swiss cheese, and thousand island dressing on a grilled bagel and served with fruit), or the breakfast boom boom (an egg, a layer of hash browns, bacon, and boom-boom sauce [?]).
Being the sensible one of the group, our cousin Dora ordered the vegetable omelet with tomatoes, onions, green peppers, mushrooms, and cheese—but hold the mushrooms. (This must be a family thing, since Chuck won’t eat mushrooms either.) This came with a side of potatoes, and since she would be sharing the potatoes with Chuck, Dora deferred to Chuck in the potato choice. It should come as no surprise that he chose the American fries over the hash browns.
We, instead, ordered a mélange of a la carte items—starting with the sixteen-inch pancake. To this we added a side of ham, a side of sausage links, and a side bowl of the sausage gravy. Egad!!! And don’t forget we had half of Dora’s potatoes.
The American fries were good, deep-fried, cubed potatoes. The ham was subtly smoky and not at all salty. The sausage links were larger around than my thumb were lean and delicately seasoned. But I thought that the sausage gravy was a disappointment—especially after the wonderful gravy at Jungle Jim’s Café. It was bland, lacked sausage taste, and needed an infusion of pepper.
And now the behemoth pancake which was served on a pizza pan and is turned on the flattop using a pizza peel. Our worst fear was that the center would be raw batter. How do you make a pancake this large and have it cook through? I don’t know how you do it, but they did it. This was a surprisingly tasty, light, and fluffy pancake. Still, even with Dora helping us, enough came home with us to feed Chuck breakfast the next morning.
As we were leaving, we stopped to talk with the owner (left in the photo). When he asked about our next stop on the road, we told him Iowa. “My sister is from Iowa – Iowa City. She’s standing right behind you.” A conversation about the home of our alma mater began. Small world, huh?
I still give the breakfast edge to Jungle Jim’s for the wonderful sausage gravy, so we’ll give Charlie Parker’s a 4.5 Addie rating.