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grub: Best BBQ in town

On personality, atmosphere and taste, Fatz smokes the competition.

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Run by brothers Tony and Clayton Easter, Fatz inhabits a small brick building that’s terribly low-key amid the bustle of Jeff Davis Highway: Five bucks says you miss it the first time you head south on the main drag. Still, the Easters prepare big meals, complementing their tangy, vinegar-based North Carolina-style BBQ with homemade mashed yams, baked beans and sweet potato pie for dessert.

“This type of cooking, it comes from the heart,” says Tony Easter, pressing a palm to his breast. “It’s a labor of love.” The Easter brothers, who celebrated their one-year anniversary July 6, opened Fatz after realizing there was relatively little competition in this part of town. Though the location — in the shadow of the art deco Model Tobacco warehouse, and dead smack in a neighborhood rife with social ills — is hardly an entrepreneur’s dream, the brothers have attracted a host of repeat customers, surely the best measure of their success.

Tony Easter, who has yet to quit his full-time job working for a local printing company, puts in some very long days seeing the operation through. “That’s what it takes,” he says, then laughs. “But I can’t take it no more.” He plans to leave his job soon and devote all his energy to barbecued meat.

Fatz makes a good buck catering to the late-night crowd, which is the reason for the sparse, security-minded décor. “You know, people come in, they’ve had a few beers,” Tony says. “You don’t know who you’re gonna get.”

For this reason, the brothers take orders over a rigged intercom system, and nod through thick plate glass. Customers wait on a bench in a sliver of a lobby area, where they dabble on the Galaga video game or sit on a bench, knees touching the opposite wall, and browse the flyers. (“Please can you help find my son’s killer!” one implores.) Tony Easter could just as easily be talking about the late-night clientele when he says, referring to his vinegar-based sauce, “It makes your forehead sweat a little bit.”

No matter, Fatz is absolutely worth the trip. There are no pretensions here, and the Easters, gracious and hilarious hosts, provide a solitary picnic table to enjoy the meal. While we sit outside picking the last tangy bits of meat off the butcher paper, a brisk wind sucks our napkins right off the table. “Oh, don’t worry,” says Clayton, chasing them down. “That happens to everybody.” S



Fatz Barbecue

713 Jefferson Davis Highway

231-6400

Tuesday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

Friday-Saturday 11 a.m.-1 a.m.

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