As you prepare your holiday feast and are faced with the challenge of perfectly carving the turkey, here’s Charlie the Butcher to the rescue. He sharpens his knife with 102 years of family experience.
Charlie’s grandfather started the business in 1915 at Buffalo’s Washington Market, then the Broadway Market, and even served as mayor of the City of Buffalo in the 1930s. Eventually, Charlie’s father and uncle took over and Charlie joined as a young teen in the late 1950s.
Today Charlie Roesch spends much of his time serving meals at his flagship restaurant at 1065 Wehrle Drive in Amherst, which already is busy with holiday travelers. He also juggles catering and express locations while continuously promoting Buffalo’s beef on weck. He stepped away from the carving station to share some tips to make your holiday feast a success, which starts with this: Give the turkey a breather.
"It should be 165 degrees in the thigh," Roesch said. "Let it rest with a piece of foil on the counter for half an hour. That lets the heat out and the juices go back in."
Q: What’s the best technique for successful carving?
A: The easiest way to do it is in the kitchen rather than at the table - it will fall on the floor without proper skills. So basically take the flesh meat off – the breast will come off with the skin on it. At that point put it on a platter and slice across the grain. The same way, the legs can be pulled off and leave the meat on the drumsticks.
Thigh meat, the dark meat, can be taken off the bone and sliced and put next to the breast and the wings can be left intact and set it all up on the platter. It’s so much easier to carve as full muscle on a carving board rather than on the carcass.
Q: Is Charlie the Butcher busy for Thanksgiving?
A: We’re closed on Thanksgiving as it’s all about family. But we’ll get a lot of out of town people Wednesday night as the airplanes come in. Wehrle and Cayuga is our tourist point. That’s been here 25 years.
We’re loaded Friday, which is a shopping day. And then Saturday and Sunday, the out of towners will bring families in. Normally we’re open seven days a week.
Q: After 102 years, how have you adapted to feed your hungry customers?
A: We have home meal replacement and grab and go at express locations in Noco. We are in Noco Express in Orchard Park, East Aurora and Williamsville. And we have our Ellicott Square location.
We carve sandwiches every day – turkey, ham, meatloaf, corned beef, prime rib on Thursdays. We cook in there and carve in there - we don’t transport. It’s not fast food, it’s good food.
Q: How do you plan to carry on the Charlie the Butcher tradition?
A: We tend to reinvent ourselves every few years. We are doing trade shows across the country as we spread the word about beef on weck. Ours is classic. We cook it overnight and tenderize and age it.
When I first started, we were cooking top rounds in a Hamilton Beach roaster and now we have 15 or 20 oven cavities. You can also get our roast beef in all Tops supermarkets across the state – just go to the deli and get a pound. We’ve had Bobby Flay here and that’s all good stuff to put Buffalo in the spotlight.
Q: You’re passionate about beef on weck and have become a national spokesperson for Buffalo. What would you like to see happen next?
A: We’re proud of what Buffalo is doing food-wise. If you look at the history of beef on weck, it was around 100 years before chicken wings. Wings went around the world and now our quest is to get beef on weck around the country.
*Read last week's post by Elizabeth Carey: