I first discovered Fat Matt’s Rib Shack seven or eight years ago when someone suggested that I go there and hear this blues band. Now I end up there about once every five or six weeks. Somehow, I’ve failed to blog about it. This entry actually comprises two visits (so that I can cover more of the menu. Yep. That’s the reason) The menu is simple – and on the wall. Ribs (sandwich, 1/2 rack, full rack). Chicken (1/4, 1/2, whole). A rib and chicken combo. A chopped pork sandwich (there is no pork plate). And sides (baked beans, cole slaw, potato chips, Mac and cheese, collard greens and Brunswick stew).
Three of the best things about Fat Matt’s:
The live music. Starting up some time after 8:00, there is live blues music every night. And, as it is really small, it is really loud. Primarily local and almost exclusively blues.
The place, itself. Everyone that works there seems to enjoy it – the service is quick, but not immediate. When you place your order, instead of giving you a number, you get a picture in a plexiglass stand – this evening I was Marilyn Monroe. There is a mural that is a parody of Mt Rushmore (Muddy, BB King, Robert Johnson and (what may be) Albert Collins) on the back wall. The slightly raised stage is in front of the mural, at the back of the restaurant, with a Hammond B3 on one corner and amps lining the back. They’ve been in business since 1990, which puts them in the upper echelon of local restaurants, in terms of tenure.
But the top reason is the ribs. They have just the right amount of smoke, are meaty, with a charred crust and are cooked to the point that, with just the right pull of your teeth, you can pull back a clean bone. Some of the best in town, consistently winning awards in local fan polls.
Since I knew that I was going to be writing about it soon, on visit one I decided on a 1/4 rack of ribs with Brunswick stew and a pulled pork sandwich, which is served with chips.
I knew I was going to like the ribs – I always do (see #3 above). They are served almost with sauce on them, but not dripping, with a styrofoam container of sauce for dipping. I like to eat the ribs without sauce and dip the bread in the sauce. To each his own.
The chopped pork and stew were the new choices for me. The stew was very meaty, with only a few add-ins. It isn’t the best stew I’ve ever eaten, but it wasn’t bad. The pork in the sandwich was finely chopped and was sauced well (think of a barbecue sloppy joe) – it wasn’t dry, but the bread wasn’t soggy. A fine line to walk, but they succeeded. And it was a little spicy. I wouldn’t hesitate to order the pork sandwich again, but I’d pass on the stew if I ever manage to order anything other than a rack of ribs, which I’ve done almost every time I’ve been.
On the second visit (tonight), I again ordered the pork sandwich, this time with a 1/4 chicken with mac-n-cheese. The chicken was as good as the pork and almost as good as the ribs – tender and juicy. Their sauce is one of my favorites, it always seems to be hot (temperature-wise) and complements white bread like little this side of Tuscaloosa.
For years, they’ve been cash only (which has led to scrambling for money when out to dinner with other couples), but they’ve begun to accept cards in the last few years. There seems to always be a line, but the later you show up, the longer the wait – seating is fairly limited, both inside and out. But when it is 10:00 pm, you’re in the city and you need some ribs, this is the place to go.
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