Rating: ©©©©-1/2 chips (lip-smacking)
This bag had us asking questions right off the bat. “Who is this Charley?” “Are these chips really famous?” “Thin…?” They don’t look especially thin to us. “Proudly Made – Local Products – Locally Produced” Where are these chips from because we have never seen them before. “Perfectly seasoned?” Now that’s a bold statement, but not one that we will automatically dismiss based on the ample chip coverage we can see through the clear bag!
So, we began our Charley’s Chips question answering journey the same way we imagine every teenager doing a book report these days does – we got busy with the Google! As it turns out, these chips, and their creator Jim Raredon, are from Wyoming, Michigan, and include quite a history / back story:
It took over 20 years to perfect his recipes and over 10 years to develop a seasoning that would stick to the chips…. The road to commercial success for Charley’s Chips has been an interesting, but bumpy one; a combination of luck, perseverance and legal wrangling coupled with more than a hint of whimsy.
“Who is Charley?” is a question asked a lot. Answer: There is no Charley. “Charley” is a menu character created for Charley’s Pub and Grill, a restaurant that opened in 2011 at the Anazah Sands West pool hall at 1339 28th St. SW. On the original menu, Charley was a “hard-drinking womanizer” who died in a fire and haunted the building. Owner Scott Wellman, a lawyer, hired Raredon to helm the kitchen at the restaurant. Raredon introduced… a menu of full of gimmicky, yet popular items… One of those items was a simple, yet flavorful basket of tortilla chips and salsa. Nearly every restaurant serves chips and salsa, but there was something special about the chips at Charley’s. As demand began to increase, staff found themselves Ziploc-bagging them for take-out sale. Raredon, who was living in a house owned by Wellman near the restaurant, began to devote more and more time to production of the chips. The two men found a suitable building… and shifted production out of the restaurant. (www.mlive.com)
There is a lot more to the Charley’s Chips story (so feel free to click on the mlive link above), but we think that gives you a good enough glimpse into the history of these “famous” chips. We may have found Charley’s Chips at our local grocery store, but spotting them still reminds us of all of the times we’re traveling somewhere, and just happen to stumble upon some delicious, locally made, hidden gem! Below is just too cool of picture not to post! This looks like some place we will have to visit at least once in our lifetimes!! We’ll pretend like we just happened upon it… Like we smelled the fried chips in the air!! (Add to bucket list now!)
Alright, enough jibber-jabber, what about Charley’s chips?! What makes them so special?? Well, first of all, we are happy to report that Charley’s Chips are a delightful addition to the seasoned tortilla chip game (we must of course give thanks to Doritos for allowing others to play on their playground!!)! When we first grabbed this bag from the grocery store shelf we simply assumed that the chips were coated with the same old, obligatory, dusting of some sort of mildly spicy, chile pepper powder. To our surprise Charley’s Chips were coated with so much more! A unique seasoning combination of garlic, onion, salt, some spices, and lots of sugar. Charley’s seasoning reminded us a lot of a traditional seasoning salt that veered towards the sweeter end of the flavor spectrum. The seasoning was unlike any combo that we had tried with tortilla chips before, and we’re happy to report that it complimented, and heightened, the natural corn flavors quite well. We were impressed! Speaking of those corn flavors, the tortilla chips themselves are very impressive. We’re not quite sure if we agree with the thin description from the front of Charley’s bag; we would have called these medium thick, sturdy, yet crispy tortilla chips. Rustic or hearty would be a good descriptor. The tortilla chips, like we said, have a good amount of real corn flavor. All in all, Charley’s Chips are solidly impressive!
So, if you, or we, ever find ourselves in Wyoming, Michigan, we should swing by The Chip Palace, say hey to Jim Raredon, and enjoy some super fresh, and lip-smacking, Charley’s Chips! Just don’t expect to find Charley!!
As always we would love to hear what you think. Agree or disagree. Let us know.
Chips discovered at Brookhaven Marketplace; Burr Ridge, Illinois
Chip Ratings Scale:
© – return to sender
©© – tolerable
©©© – notable
©©©© – lip-smacking
©©©©© – “A” list