wireless_kitchen (2006-05)

Living Large

Big Fatty’s doesn’t back down from taste

Since I remembered Big Fatty’s from a party they catered, I was happy to hear that Lisa and Ree had opened a restaurant in the former location of Little Star in Bearden. And I’m apparently not their only fan. In the week between their mostly-unpublicized opening and my getting there, I heard from three friends—none of whom knows each other—who wanted to be sure I had heard the news. Any place with that kind of word-of-mouth buzz is doing something right.

The uncluttered space pops—literally—with a print of a pop tart on one wall. Another wall is rosy, a couple more are mint green and the sky blue stripe around the top of these walls adds another colorful splash. Primarily, the restaurant is furnished with light wood tables and chairs, but one small area has chrome soda shop furniture upholstered in a fluorescent shade of violet that somehow works with the harvest gold walls in that corner. It made me want to tie up a pony tail, put on some bobby sox and sing Shelley Fabares’ version of “Johnny Angel” or maybe Shaggy’s version of “Angel of the Morning.”

I came prepared to eat, not nibble. Friends have asked how I maintain my desired weight with all the occupational eating I do. It’s not easy, but I have a plan. I nibble, and I eat lots of salads when I’m not noshing on the clock. Fabulous virtuoso former Metro Pulse restaurant reviewer Bonnie Appetit (Hillari Dowdle) wrote a farewell column in which she mentioned what this line of work does to one’s thighs. It’s definitely an occupational hazard.

I could have nibbled or eaten a salad at Big Fatty’s. In fact, I plan to order the Happy Fatty, a delectable-sounding salad of wild greens topped with mangoes, blue cheese, pecans and chicken—next time. There are several light-sounding options. But this day I went for the kind of food that, if consumed too often, could definitely turn one into, well, a big fatty.

I ate hearty home cooking as a child and somehow remained stick thin. I’m not sure whether this should be traced to my mother’s “If it’s not horrible weather, children should be outside” policy, genetics or a world-class metabolism—probably a combination of all three. But those days are over. Still, how could I pass up the blue plate special? Bring on the calories, carbs and fat!

While I was disappointed to discover that, this being a Wednesday, I had already missed meatloaf and chicken and dumplings, the minute I saw the metts and beans special, I was sold. I’ll try the meatloaf, chicken and dumplings, pork roast and pot roast another time—especially the chicken and dumplings and pot roast—but I have not had metts and beans very often, except in my kitchen, since the Wrangler closed. If you’ve been around here for a while, you remember the Wrangler.

I easily talked my companion into the crab cake po boy and French fries. I did remind her that I needed generous samples of her food in order to do my job well. On the other hand, she seemed pretty interested in sampling my meal, too. 

The crab cake po boy was like a burger, a big, thick meaty crab cake on a bun with shredded lettuce and sliced tomatoes. It was supposed to come with tartar sauce, which didn’t arrive until we requested it, mainly so we could taste it. The tartar sauce was great, but the sandwich was plenty moist without it, so request sauce as you wish. The French fries were not too thick, not too thin, good and salty, hard to resist. Between the two of us, we ate them all and didn’t even consider reaching for the ketchup.

The metts and beans were fabulous. I loved the horseradish, raw onions and sauerkraut served alongside. Oooh—it was good. The wedge of corn bread was too sweet for my taste. Allow me one trip back down memory lane to say that if you know how to make fried corn bread patties like the Wrangler made, I want to hear from you. The slow-cooked greens were excellent, especially when enlivened with a splash of vinegar.

I thought I had eaten fried okra in most of its variations: whether it’s batter-dipped (not in my house!) or dredged through corn meal (now, you’re talking). This was the most interesting fried okra I’ve ever had, fried okra crumbles, no whole pieces, just crumbly crunchy okra. I wouldn’t have thought I’d have liked it, but I loved it.

I have mixed feelings about the banana pudding, topped with whipped topping, not meringue. I suspect the custard’s not homemade. It’s too yellow. It was rich and creamy with lots of bananas, but it’s not mamaw’s ’nanner pudding, which, admittedly, sets a pretty high standard.

Big Fatty’s serves breakfast between 9 a.m. and noon on Saturdays and is open until 8:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Try some fried okra crumbles with those eggs!