By Linda Bladholm
Charles "Chuck" Godel was a snowbird from Montreal with no plans to stay in South Florida full-time. Then, two years ago, the former wholesale jewelry salesman took a floundering Skylake Mall grilled-chicken franchise off friends' hands and found a new career. He changed the place's name to Chuck's Grill and hired Lela Charles, a Haitian cook everyone there calls "Mommy." The small batches keep the food fresh, and strict cost controls keep the prices low. At $10.99, a whole-chicken family meal with rice and beans is about two-thirds the cost at a brand-name chain.
Meals here are tasty and healthful and as well as thrifty and speedy. Half-chickens and boneless breasts are marinated in a seasoning blend that produces tender, flavorful meat. The breasts are grilled skin-on to prevent drying but served skinless unless the customer requests otherwise. There's also bourbon chicken, a Louisiana take on teriyaki with dark thigh strips baked, grilled and glazed with a slightly spicy soy-sauce mixture (no bourbon). Churrasco is made by steeping long strips of skirt steak in a chimichurri marinade (olive oil, vinegar, parsley, garlic) and cooking them on the open kitchen grill.
Caribbean-style white, yellow or brown rice can be had with a ladleful of black beans. Other accompaniments include parsley-garlic potatoes, steamed vegetables and, on the heavier side, mac and cheese, sweet plantains (the only fried item) and a sweet potato casserole laced with cinnamon and topped with gooey miniature marshmallows.
Chop bowls and wraps come in a variety of flavor profiles including Cuban (chicken, beans, rice, plantains) and Mexican (chicken or churrasco, guacamole, sour cream, shredded Cheddar). Or pick a sauce such as curry mustard. Your chosen ingredients are wrapped into a flour tortilla or served in a bowl. Salads are made with spring mix or romaine.
If you've kept it light, reward yourself with a house-made oatmeal-raisin cookie for dessert.
Chuck's Grill, 1608 NE Miami Gardens Dr. (Skylake Mall), North Miami Beach; 305-405-9100; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon-Fri, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sat; salads $6.49, chop bowls and wraps $4.99-$6.49, half chicken $5.99, whole chicken with rice and beans $10.99.
FYI: Delivery in the North Miami Beach area.
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Grilled chicken is the signature item at Chuck's Grill in Skylake Mall, served with a choice of starches, beans and vegetables with various sauces. Photo: Linda Bladholm.