Longtime Eagles coach Andy Reid is making a return to Philadelphia Thursday, but this time with a different hat, as the new head of the Kansas City Chiefs. “Big Red” won’t be the only one clad in red, however, when the two teams face off in Eagles territory.
Big Charlie’s Saloon, nestled in the heart of South Philly at South 11th and McKean streets, has been a haven to Chiefs fans for three decades.
“Some guy nicknamed us Arrowhead East,” explains owner Paul Staico, referring to Kansas City’s main football stadium, Arrowhead. Chiefs’ memorabilia, signed photos, helmets and flags plaster the walls of the bar’s cozy back room.
Staico says it all started in 1983. That’s when he took over his father’s restaurant and started showing the games there.
“There was about four, five of us at the time. And now we gotta fit like 70 people back there,” says Staico.His own love of the team dates back to early childhood.
“I know my father had bet on them the previous year, so I got a bike out of the deal,” Staico recalls. “And then when I finally remember seeing the helmet, I fell in love with it and that was it. It’s just a different kind of red, there’s nothing like it.”
Staico’s love soon spread to friends and neighbors, so much so that members of the Chiefs themselves have been known to pass through.
“It is an Eagles town, but it’s a Chiefs neighborhood,” says Charlie’s regular, Domenick Berardi Jr.
Local fans now hope their new head coach, Andy Reid, will bring them some success on their neighborhood turf.
The group will be barbecuing Thursday, as they often do on game day. They’re also bracing for an influx of out-of-town fans. The NFL network plans to live-stream the game there.
“It’s going to be a madhouse,” says Annette Flint, a regular at Charlie’s. Flint, a secret Giants fan, says the atmosphere is always friendly. Eagles fans are welcome, but they might want to steer clear of that back room.
Damian Weinkrantz, who lives around the corner, can attest.
“I’m rooting for the Eagles,” he says, walking by the bar with his son. But, he adds, he’ll be doing so quietly.
“We’re outside of Big Charlie’s,” he says, laughing.