By Cathy Wharton
For Hometown News
If you haven't been to Charlie Horse Restaurant lately, this might be a good time to quench that "all-you-can-eat" desire for Alaskan snow crab legs, or to sample any number of other taste-tempting items.
There are often waiting lines at this long-established eatery -- and there's a good reason why.
Owners Dan and Margie Peckham bought the Charlie Horse in 1994. Since then, this family operation -- including daughter, Lori Dupree, co-owner and general manager, and son, Danny, also a manager -- has kept the Charlie Horse right on track, consistently offering a tried and true combination of good food and generous portions.
It had been awhile since I'd been to Charlie Horse, so I was ready to experience any changes I may have missed. Arriving on a soft-rain weekday afternoon, I was immediately greeted by the hostess who, because of the pre-evening rush, gave me carte blanche as to seating arrangements. I chose a table in the front dining room that allowed a good view of the main entrance.
After settling in, I was presented with a not-too-small menu that was chock-full of delightful choices. In the meantime, my server, Julie Graham, approached and asked if I'd like something to drink. A glass of white wine came quickly to mind, even though Charlie's offers a Cuervo Gold Margarita for only $5 -- same price every day. I decided to go with the wine, though the 'rita was tempting.
Curious, I began to glance around. This was definitely a place geared for comfort -- laid back, friendly, welcoming -- and no loud music. The TVs (about 10 or so) were part of the overall scene, but none were amped, allowing customers a quiet and enjoyable dining experience. Knotty-pine flooring, central ceiling fans and tiffany-style lighting above the windows added to the casual environment.
During primetime, Charlie Horse is off and running -- usually filled to capacity, which keeps the 39-plus staff on their feet and moving fast. Nothing seems to dampen their pace: Service at Charlie's is quick and efficient.
In looking over the menu, I was amazed by the many choices. After all, this is the home of all-you-can-eat Alaskan snow crabs! Beginning with appetizers, there are a number of items to choose from, including Buffalo shrimp, peel and eat shrimp, bite-size Maryland-style crab cakes and a smaller portion of crab legs.
Next on the menu is Buffalo Wings. Mild, medium, hot, teriyaki-garlic, honey BBQ and 'You'll Pay Tomorrow' are only some of the choices. In addition to portions of 10, 20 or 30 wings, larger amounts -- such as 50 wings ($36.49), or 100 ($69.99) -- are also available.
When it comes to entrees, the famous 'all-you-can-eat' (no sharing) crab legs tops the list, followed by a 1 1/2 -pound snow crab dinner for $21.99. Steak selections include a 10-ounce (or 20-ounce) sirloin, 12-ounce ribeye, 10-ounce New York strip and a 16-ounce T-bone -- all ranging in price from $13.29 to $19.99.
Charlie Horse also offers dinner specials Monday through Friday.
Other menu categories include seafood, such as shrimp skewers over pasta or rice, fried shrimp and Captain Brian's seafood sampler; chicken and ribs; sandwiches and burgers; soups and salads, including homemade New England clam chowder and the Charlie Horse signature salad.
Finally ready to order, I decided to start with the spinach-shrimp spread -- an appetizer consisting of large chunks of shrimp mixed in a creamy spinach dip and served with crispy wafers. Delicious! Next, a cup of hearty crab bisque. Deciding on an entree, however, was somewhat more difficult -- so much to choose from! In the end, I paid heed to my taste buds, which all the while had been registering high on the seafood barometer. OK, crabs it is!
In addition to good food and cheerful service, the restaurant's full service bar offers several drink specials -- Blue Tide, Georgia Peach, Honey Badger's Bad@$$ Brother and other intriguing creations. There also is a large selection of domestic and imported beers.
So next time you're craving crabs, or just want a satisfying meal in a comfortable environment, Charlie Horse is just the place.
Charlie Horse Restaurant is at 810 S. Atlantic Ave. in Ormond Beach. Hours: 11 a.m. until, Monday through Saturday; noon until Sunday.