One night, I decided to take a detour on my usual route home from the gym and head to a restaurant I noticed has been getting a lot of attention recently.
Take Out Charley’s opened in the Orange City Marketplace shopping center at the corner of Saxon Boulevard and Enterprise Road, within the past year.
A change in ownership a couple of months ago made Brian von Hein the owner. Although the restaurant was fairly new, the previous owner decided it wasn’t for him, Brian said.
Brian has made some changes to the restaurant, which formerly was takeout only.
Brian had been working as a trucker. He said that he wanted to open a restaurant because he was tired of being away from his family all the time. Naturally, the new restaurant caters to families.
“Part of my plan is to give this place to my kids when I’m ready to retire,” said Brian, as he glanced over to his daughter Jen who was working with other customers at the time.
Jen, along with two of Brian’s other children, lends a hand on weekends. Brian’s wife works part time, as well.
“I wanted to have a business my kids could be a part of and eventually take over,” Brian said.
While we didn’t get the chance to meet Brian’s wife or other children, Jen was certainly an upbeat gal with a sense of humor similar to her father’s. We can imagine her taking charge when Brian retires someday.
Brian has quite the commute, as he lives in Ormond Beach. I asked him why he wanted to open a restaurant in Orange City.
“I live in Ormond Beach, but I didn’t want a restaurant on the beach because it would be too dependent on tourism. I wanted a place in a neighborhood with a steady customer base,” Brian said.
He also made a point that restaurants by the beach don’t necessarily need to serve outstanding food, because people dining there aren’t usually repeat customers. Brian made it clear his ambition is to serve memorable food that’s genuinely good.
Although he’s spent a lot of time on the road, Brian is no stranger to the kitchen.
“I started working in a restaurant at age 16 where I was a dishwasher in Rhode Island. I worked my way up to cooking a few years later,” Brian said.
I had a good feeling that Charley’s menu would deliver on its freshness and taste after Brian told me nearly everything they serve is made-to-order, including the burgers. This means that you can order larger- or smaller-sized burgers, as well. Other items can be customized, too, which is exactly the kind of involvement Brian wants for his customers.
The menu is not too solidified yet, as the new team is still experimenting and adding new items every so often.
I asked Brian what the most popular items on the menu are, and went with most of his suggestions. I ordered the Italian beef sandwich with Swiss, and my guest ordered a pastrami sandwich with Swiss.
We also got a chili cheese dog, and Brian threw in some pickle fries, which came with horseradish peppercorn sauce. Jen is the one who filled us in on the popularity of the sauce — their own creation, tweaked with the help of feedback from many of their early customers.
Now, I just want to say that I had never had an Italian beef sandwich before, so I wasn’t sure what I was getting into, but I was certainly surprised by what Brian delivered.
What instantly caught my eye (and my ol’ olfactory) was the steaming cup of au jus that came on the side of my Italian beef.
While I’ve had it on the side with a prime rib in the past, I’ve never tried it with a sandwich. I eagerly dipped my Italian beef into the juice and figuratively died and went to au jus heaven. The combination was so good, and I joked to Brian that I could’ve taken a bowl of the au jus and eaten it as a soup.
The chili dog was ordered steamed; you have the option to have it charred.
I stole a bite of the pastrami sandwich, and it was also yummy. The meat is grilled, which gives it a different flavor, and the portion was enough to leave my guest satisfied.
I’m not the world's biggest fan of pickles, but my guest enjoys them and did like the pickle fries with Charley’s homemade sauce, which tasted like a combination of horseradish and some spices.
Brian explained to us that most of his restaurant’s food is based on Chicago-style dishes. However, he uses the Chicago name loosely. Not everything he serves will taste the same as it does there, as the South Side of Chicago serves things differently than the North Side.
Different parts of Chicago prefer different ways of cooking, and as Brian put it, “The water here is also different, so it just can’t be the same.”
I’ve never been to Chicago, but I can imagine his dishes pay a great tribute to the real thing.
Brian is hoping that the food will speak for itself, and that customers will hear about him through word-of-mouth.
Apparently that strategy has been paying off so far, and the food is certainly good enough to garner a loyal following. I plan on becoming a repeat customer myself and reliving my encounter with the Italian beef once more.