Fat Boy's BBQ (Antioch, TN)
Moving to a new city is always tough. You have to find a new dentist, a new barber, and, of course, a new favorite barbecue joint. I'd prefer my teeth and my hair to come out perfect the first time around, but I don't mind a little trial and error when it comes to tracking down good 'que. I noticed Fat Boy's BBQ just a few short miles from our new home, and I thought I'd give them a try.
The combination of a giant pink pig and a smoker right out front was a good omen. It also told me that pork would likely be the focal point here. This isn't Texas, so I suppose I shouldn't be shocked to find beef playing second fiddle.
Fat Boy's has a rather divey atmosphere to it. The first thing you notice upon arrival is a presumably load-bearing web of duct tape over a crack in the front door glass. Inside, you'll find a hodgepodge of assorted booths, tables, and chairs. It's a fairly small dining area, with enough seats for 31 dine-in customers by my count. Decor was minimal, at best. I hoped this meant their attention was fixed squarely on the meat.
To get a good feel for their food, I ordered the FB's Sampler: three meats and two small sides. For my meats, I picked brisket, ribs, and pulled pork. Ordinarily I might have selected sausage as the third member of my meaty trio (had it been available, that is), but pulled pork is a much more popular barbecue option in Tennessee. Oh well, when in Rome. Despite the regional preference to the contrary, I did, however, ask for my meat without sauce. Picking side dishes was a bit more difficult. My usual order is potato salad and pinto beans, but I like to venture out of my comfort zone from time to time. I had seen numerous reviews online which raved about Fat Boy's mac and cheese, so I thought I'd give it a shot. For my second side, I decided to try the white beans, which isn't a side dish I've encountered thus far in my barbecue travels, but appears to be a provincial favorite.
The mac and cheese came out piping hot. It was pleasantly creamy and tasted like actual cheese rather than Velveeta. I liked the addition of black pepper, although I would have preferred more of it. This wasn't the best mac I've had, but it was still very good. The beans looked rather intriguing. They had a creamy, soup-like texture: slightly mushy, with plenty of in-tact beans remaining too. I'm not overly familiar with legumes, but they tasted like either cannellini beans or navy. The beans had a nice seasoning and big chunks of meat (ham, I think) mixed in. I'm glad I tried them.
Once I had thoroughly sampled the side dishes, it was time for the main course. The brisket came in thick, Texas-style slices. It had decent bark and a slight smoke ring. Sadly, the fatty layer near the edge looked a little under-rendered. The meat itself had good seasoning and a great smoke level. It was also very tender. Upon closer examination, the fat was more rendered than I had initially thought, but it was still too rubbery. Properly cooked fat should melt in your mouth. All in all, the brisket was pretty good, but it could have used an extra hour or so in the smoker, or perhaps just a touch more heat during the cooking process.
In my admittedly non-expert opinion, a perfect serving of pulled pork should include fairly even amounts of bark, plain pork pieces, and pink-to-red smoky pork pieces. This pulled pork had only plain pieces, which resulted in a fairly bland portion. It had minimal seasoning and almost no smoke. The meat was also a little dry. I guess that's what the tabletop array of sauces is for. Their regular mild sauce was a pretty run-of-the-mill sweet, tomato sauce. The vinegar-based sauce was much tastier, but I feel like I shouldn't have needed it. The pork was actually quite good with the accompanying cornbread-esque pancake though, which is an interesting substitute for rolls and bread.
The big, meaty ribs had a good crust and a nice smoky hue, but here again the fat looked under-rendered. It was better than the brisket fat, though still not translucent enough. The ribs were tender and juicy, with the meat coming off the bone perfectly. I also enjoyed the hefty smoke level as well as the seasoning. These were probably my favorite of the three meats.
Fat Boy's homemade banana pudding seems to be fairly popular as well, so I thought I'd try it despite my exceptionally-full stomach. What can I say, I'm a sucker for good 'nana pudding.
The pudding had a great flavor. It wasn't too runny, nor was it too thick. They also don't skimp on the Nilla wafers or the bananas. My one complaint is that the wafers were a bit soggy, which is probably because they make the pudding a little too far in advance.
Fat Boy's has the potential for really phenomenal barbecue, but they're not quite there yet. Maybe their meat is just specifically designed to be covered in sauce. After all, this region's barbecue style definitely seems to favor sauce much more than Texas does. That being said, ice cream should taste good regardless of whether you pour chocolate syrup on top, and I feel like barbecue should work the same way.