chicken charlie’s frybq / clairemont

Back in late December, Jake and I (with S in tow) got around to checking out Chicken Charlie’s FryBQ, the new storefront restaurant from the guy who sells all of the crazy concoctions at the fair every summer (think Fried Kool-Aid, Fried Pickles, Fried Twinkies and Krispy Kreme Chicken Sandwiches). In the fall last year he opened up shop and we were looking forward to seeing how a storefront would do in San Diego.


Honestly I don’t usually get stuff from Chicken Charlie’s at the San Diego Fair because it’s usually a lot of food and a little pricier. I like to try a few things and it feels like too much of a commitment to get a whole meal with all of those french fries at Chicken Charlie’s. I wish they just sold samplers!

Here at the restaurant they have the usual fair minded fried food offerings (like the fried BBQ, fried Oreos, fried frog legs, etc) along with regular non-fried BBQ, chicken sandwiches, fried or roasted chicken, and even their Maui Chicken (which is served in a pineapple shell). A few of their Fair desserts made it to the restaurant menu as well, such as the fried Oreos and fried Klondike ice cream bar.


[happy hour specials]

Some cool deals are their happy hour specials we spotted on the side of a napkin dispenser after we placed our order. I didn’t see this menu listed on the Chicken Charlie’s FryBQ restaurant so hopefully it’s still around – I’d kind of want to come for the $5 desserts more than anything else! Dessert first is a legit thing, right?


[frybq ribs / $10.95]

We stuck with just sampling two entrees for the three of us to share that evening. Jake and I had never tried the FryBQ ribs and figured this should be apart of our first sampling.


The ribs are indeed fried first and then coated in BBQ sauce. They’re baby back pork ribs with a fair amount of meat on the bones. The fried coating gives the ribs a bit of crunch that you normally never see on a rib and then they’re covered in a tangy BBQ sauce. I didn’t really dig the sauce – it was much too tangy for my liking. Maybe if I had ordered them dry I would have liked them better. It was hard to get past the sauce in this case since they’re completely covered but I thought the fried ribs on their on own were okay. I didn’t get the full benefits of the frying since the sauce masked some of the crispy texture with the drench of sauce on top.

I think I’d still rather have smoked ribs or grilled ribs though. I don’t think ribs necessarily need to be crunchy…


[chicken and waffles / $10.95]

We also got an order of Chicken and Waffles. We got the 4 piece chicken to split between the three of us and cut the waffles into quarters as well.

The waffle was on the softer side. I thought the powdered sugar was a little overkill since you got a little container of overly sweet maple syrup along with it. It tasted fine, nothing really outstanding about it though. 


With the chicken we got a mix of white and dark meat – we got one wing, one leg, one thigh and one breast. Good on the variety at least! The chicken itself was run of the mill – nothing really special or spectacular in my opinion. It had a fair amount of seasoning, was a bit crispy and not overly greasy… but nothing really “wow” or awesome about it. It’s a few notches up from KFC but nothing that I’d really crave to have again.

I had higher hopes for Chicken Charlie’s but everything just felt like “meh” to us. The restaurant wasn’t very busy on our visit, the people working there seemed kind of bored, it just felt like a really average, no frills experience to us. I think the only thing that would make me want to return would be to try and fried things I haven’t before (like the fried avocados) or some of the other desserts. But as it is I’m not really hankering for a return visit.

Chicken Charlie’s FryBQ
5407 Balboa Ave
San Diego, CA 92111

Chicken Charlie's Frybq on Urbanspoon

10 thoughts on “chicken charlie’s frybq / clairemont

  1. Doesn’t it make the fair food less special if it’s served all year round? But I guess if you want to avoid the crowds you could go here in the summer. No paying for parking or fair admission! I don’t expect this place to be around too long but that’s coming from someone who doesn’t usually eat fair foods in the first place!

    1. Hi Lynn – There are these fried mushrooms at the fair that I loved and I tried having them at the actual restaurant they’re from and they didn’t taste the same… so in way it does make the fair food less special. Also, I kind of only want to eat fair food once a year anyway… haha.

  2. at least you got to try this place once though. I agree with lynn that i don’t see this place as having any lasting appeal. yeah, their food is fried (and they’ll fry anything it seems), but that seems like a one trick pony to me.

    1. Hi CC – I think the appeal of the fried fair food is that you can only get it for a limited amount of time, making you want it more. Do I really need fried Oreos year round? Not really. I wonder how they’re doing.

  3. Bummer that this place wasn’t better, another restaurant from Balboa Mesa I have had my eye on. I think a little bit of the fair magic is lost in the translation to a brick and mortar location. But at $5, I might still try them!

    1. Hi Lauren – Yeah, I think that’s what the allure is – is that it’s at the fair! Oh well, maybe other people dig it more than I do. We were in that area last Saturday and every place was crazy busy! Must remind future self to not go over there on Saturday evenings, hah.

  4. Mary, we’re sorry your first experience at our restaurant was not the best experience for you. We have been working every day to improve food and service in the restaurant, and reviews like yours help us to understand where we can improve and do better. Thank you for that.

    We have taken a couple of your concerns to heart (namely the chicken, because we were experiencing problems with it on the kitchen side for some time). We have fixed the issue and hope you will come back to try it again, or enjoy one of the many other items we have on the menu that aren’t necessarily fair related including our grilled chicken sandwiches and salad, rotisserie chicken and 1/2 lb. ribeye cheesesteak. We are also adding new menu items all the time and this week will be announcing one of the best happy hour beer specials in San Diego.

    Again, thanks for coming in and for the honest feedback. We work everyday to improve so we can give back to the community that has provided us with so much.

    1. Hello Chicken Charlie – Thanks for taking the time to respond to my post/review! Nice to see someone is out there reading these and taking them to heart. The restaurant could do more to make the experience a friendlier, more memorable experience so maybe we will stop in again to see the changes that have happened. Thanks!

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