Fat Larry’s BBQ & Southern Favorites – Bartlett, TN – Crash

 

 Fat Larry’s 

 

Walking into Fat Larry’s and trying to decide if it’s a Meat and 3 that serves BBQ or a BBQ joint that offers a wide variety of veggies is like trying to figure out if your intelligent girlfriend is smokin’ hot or if your gorgeous beau is brilliant…it really doesn’t matter, just enjoy the fact that you’re part of the equation.

The smell of hickory brightened my day as waitress who was cleaning a table looked up for a short second to tell me to sit wherever I liked.  I looked around and decided to grab a seat at a four top next to the window and another waitress arrived from the back and asked if I wanted the BBQ menu or order off of the veggie menu which was modestly written in dry erase marker and hanging on the wall.  While the choice of BBQ Bologna, Country Fried Steak and gravy, and Chicken and Dressing looked really appetizing, I opted for the BBQ menu and a sweet tea.

Fat Larrys app

The BBQ menu offered the normal menu items that average places have, pulled pork, ribs, sandwiches, plates, but did offer a Memphis rarity…brisket; there was also rib-eyes, filets, and catfish.

The appetizer section advertised

 some tempting items which included BBQ Nachos and Fried Dill Pickles but since I knew I wanted some pulled pork, I went with the Sausage and Cheese Plate.  I was about to order my old faithful of ½ slab and pork sandwich but they offered a few combo plates that also offered brisket so I ordered the BBQ Sampler #1 which included 3 bones, pulled pork, brisket, beans and slaw and since it was my day off and I had nothing else to do that day, I went ahead and ordered the potato salad as well.

While I waited for my appetizer, I looked around the front dining room adorned with deer heads, BBQ trophies, (most of which were for whole hog and brisket) and tacky country knick-knacks that would be found in any local junk store.  I glanced at the dozen choices of vegetables and side offerings and was secretly proud of myself for pairing, in my head, what I thought would be the perfect sides for each selection of meat.

Fat Larrys food

While wondering if everyone around me knew what level of genius surrounded them, my waitress delivered my Sausage and Cheese Plate.  I chuckled to myself as she walked away with my empty glass to refill my drink and the guy and girl next to me said my appetizer looked wonderful; I guess they did recognize my proclivity for all things amazing.

 

I wanted to thank them for the compliment and explain what was wrong with their plates, but most times genius is wasted on the innocent so I decided to smile politely and indulge my appetite instead of my ego.

The Sausage and Cheese plate was a perfect size portion of fried Kielbasa, assorted cubed cheeses, Pepperoncini peppers, and dill pickle wedges accompanied by a monkey dish of sauce and a basket of saltine crackers.

I know it’s just meat and cheese, but there is something about that combination that touches my heart and makes me forget all of my troubles, if, for only one short second.  I have had many sausage and cheese plates but this one outshined every single one in regards to presentation.  It really doesn’t take a lot to impress me, but just the fact that they took the time not to just throw each individual element into different individual piles, touched me.

The sausage was amazing and there was a perfect meat to cheese ratio (again, proving that this dish wasn’t just thrown together but was a product of love), but my only gripe is that serving cubed cheese isn’t the best way to do sausage and cheese.  The perfect S & C plate offers blocked cheese cut into thin slices.  If you serve cubes, the cubes need to be halved so they sit on the cracker properly to allow sausage and peppers to properly fit.  If you don’t, you either have to open up really wide and risk making a mess and/or looking like a pig or do the deconstructed sausage and cheese (taking a bite of each individually in succession ) which ends up like the tequila shot routine but instead involves meat, cheese, peppers and sauce.   This looks more “civilized” but takes away some of the “essence” of the dish.  I could go on and on about the philosophy behind the combination of meat and cheese, but again, genius is so often unappreciated by present generations that I won’t even delve into that.

I was a few bites into my appetizer (I was dining alone and didn’t know anyone in the dining room so I went the tall stacking routine) when my combo plate came topped with a few fried onion rings and accompanied with a basket of warm rolls and fresh cornbread.

My eyes lit up as I pushed the appetizer to the side and she placed my entrée in front of my; if there is one thing that you can say about Fat Larry’s…they do not skimp on the portions.  Everything looked and smelled amazing and I went in for the sides first.

The baked beans were nice and hot and filled with chunks of smoky pork shoulder.

 

The cole slaw was premade and had the typical overly sweet and overly creamy texture that only comes from stuff you get in a tub and I have a suspicion that I know exactly where it came from.  I added some salt and hot sauce to cut some of the sweetness, but I was still a little disappointed.

The loaded baked potato salad was premade and confirmed my hunch that they get their stuff from a local place in Memphis that sells to Sysco.  I have had this and I admit that I have served it also.  It is potato salad made with everything that you would find in a baked potato: bacon, chives, sour cream, cheese, and a touch of garlic and mayonnaise.  I know I say that I hate potato salad that isn’t homemade, but this is really good and if you are going to serve something out of a tub, then this would be it.

I had already tasted the sauce that accompanied my appetizer so I went in for a bite of the pulled pork.   Before I even tasted the pork I could tell by the dark crusty bark and the reddish/pinkish hue of the smoke ring that got lighter and lighter as you looked inward, that the pork was going to be something special.  I wasn’t disappointed as savored a bite that was nice and tender, perfectly spiced, and a touch of smoke (hickory, I believe) that wasn’t overpowering at all.

The sauce, a sweet, ketchup based sauce speckled with black pepper, was a little disappointing.  I know sauce is like politics and religion and can be debated to death and this may be the perfect sauce for you, but this simple mix of ketchup, sugar, black pepper, and a touch of vinegar lacked the depth that I enjoy in most sauces.

I went in for the ribs next.  I picked up my 3 rib portion which took no effort at all to pull apart.   The ribs were great and were perfectly seasoned with a Memphis dry rub.  You could tell that they were smoked over wood for a while and then were steamed in the oven to finish them off, by how clean the bone was when the meat fell off.

They were flavorful and unbelievable ribs but my only complaint was that they didn’t take the time to pull off the membrane from the back.  It only takes a minute and removes that parchment paper like substance from a cooked rib.

There are a few things that you can be certain of in regional restaurants: the pizza in NY and Chicago is going to be great, the gumbo in Louisiana will be perfect, and the pork in Memphis will rock your world; so far I had enjoyed my pork, but, to my surprise, the highlight of the plate was the beef brisket.

Cooking beef brisket is an art; brisket is one of those things that HAS to be done right or it is absolutely horrible and whether it because there isn’t much market for it or because no one around here grew up cooking it, most places around Memphis (as well as the south) don’t even offer it, so I was delighted that someone not only had the balls to offer it in the middle of pork country but had the ability to do it well.

The slices that were served to me were tender and so full of flavor that before the lingering taste disappeared, I went in for another bite.  While I didn’t particularly care for the sauce on my pork, it complimented the beef really well and was even better with a small bite of an onion ring chaser.

As I took one more bite, I noticed the large helping of homemade banana pudding layered with real bananas and whipped cream.  My server offered me one but there was no more room.  I thought about getting one for later but instead settled for a to go box and my check as could faintly hear my couch calling out to me.

In a town full of big name barbeque restaurants this is definitely a place worth the trip.  I already have plans to go back and try the Meat and 2 and banana pudding but I just don’t know if I can bypass the BBQ.

Fat Larry’s BBQ & Southern Favorites7537 Highway 70Bartlett, TN901-386-1900Open for Lunch and Dinner Monday-SaturdayClosed Sundays

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