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Deal's Big Deal

[whitespace] Charlie Deal
Choosing His Noodle: Charlie Deal heads for the hills.

Charlie Deal, the man behind Charlie Hong Kong, plans a new eatery in Felton

By Janet Blaser

BELIEVE IT OR NOT, it's been a whole year since Chef Charlie Deal traded his Oswald dress whites for a more streetwise ensemble at Charlie Hong Kong. With the motto "The wok is mightier than the sword," Deal has endeared himself to his neighbors on the East Side of Santa Cruz as well as to Asian and organic food aficionados throughout the county. It had been a while since I'd been to the little café near from the Rio Theater, and the menu's been impressively streamlined in the last year to make it easier and more efficient to order. Asian-inspired soups, salads and "bowls" (hearty noodle-and-veggie/meat/seafood combos) that will satisfy whatever craving you have are explained in succulent detail, and the day's toppings--extras to the main dishes--are clearly described on a board near the counter. The hardest part is deciphering from the smells exactly what to have; my advice is to go with at least one friend so you can share.

Charlie also added a few kid-sized dishes, which have proved ideal not only for the younger set but also for those of us whose tummies hold less than we might like. Only the TV hanging from the ceiling seemed an anomaly, tuned to some sports event that was neither organic nor Asian. (Deal says just because he's "into cooking," people think he's not into sports--au contraire). The big news here, though, is twofold: first, Deal is engaged (and yes, will be cooking his own wedding-day supper), and second--and more important--he's opening a second Charlie Hong Kong in the very near future. The lucky spot is the former Felton Pantry, smack-dab in the center of the little mountain community, and Deal's got plans, big plans, for his newest kitchen. The menu and focus will be the same, and although the restaurant needs extensive renovations to turn it into the Asian oasis Deal envisions, he says opening day should arrive in time for the holiday season.

Charlie Deal

Deal, never one to relax in that rare spare moment, has been looking for a second location for quite some time. And while his eye was drawn to downtown Santa Cruz, when this spot became available he went for it. Plans call for an immediate lightening and opening up of the interior, and by spring "The Felton Fury" should have a back patio up and running too.

Being open 12 hours a day has given Deal a unique perspective on both the preparation and consumption of food. He's been forced to have some of his specials remain constantly available, like the gado gado that's been on the menu for three months--by popular, ahem, demand. Regular customers want what they want when they want it--no ifs, ands or buts.

"The soup of the day has become the soup of the month," Deal says. "What's going to happen when corn is out of season?" If you haven't discovered Charlie Hong Kong or it's been some time since your last visit, now's as good a time as ever to take a trip. And if this chilly weather keeps up, your body's going to want some warming food to ease it into the autumn months. The wok is workin' from 11am to 11pm seven days a week at 1141 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz, at the corner of Seabright Avenue. You can call ahead and order to-go, too--the number's 426-5664.

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From the September 15-22, 1999 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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