You’ve heard of Fat Fella’s. I have noted here in the Blog that it was praised by my late, great Aunt Ann Griffin, as well as by my brother Jim, and by his older son, Jimbo — all of whom I trust with my palate. Newport, of course, is a pretty long drive from the beach, especially if you have the World’s Greatest Shrimpburger at the Captain’s Kitchen just down the road. Serendipitously, on our recent trip to Pine Knoll Shores, I had the opportunity to pick up my niece, Anne Rain Tanner Brown, at the airport in New Bern, which meant a drive through Newport. I carpe’d the diem.
As you get off 70 and head north toward downtown Newport, you see the eponymous Fat Fella on the sign.
The Fat Fella also makes his appearance indoors, including at a fishing tournament and Times Square.
The remainder of the decor is farm-related. The Fat Fella gets all vegetables from a nearby farm. And note the tennis balls on the chair legs. They eliminate that annoying scraping noise when someone pulls out a chair, or worse, scoots out a chair while still in it. It’s an unorthodox but thoughtful touch.
The service at Fat Fella’s is country-friendly. They treat you like a neighbor, a neighbor that they really like, not the one who never returns borrowed tools. There’s a menu, but I just glanced at a whiteboard on the wall and saw “BBQ and Chicken plus two sides, $8.99.” I ordered it. I had trouble making up my mind about the sides, so I ordered three: collards, green beans, and butter beans. Here’s my plate:
And here’s the plate again after the drumstick had sacrificed itself to give you a better view of the pork.
First the pork. It is smoked with hickory in a cooker powered, alas, by electricity rather than hickory coals. It is roughly chopped and emerges moist and tender, and with a good smoke flavor. It tastes good, and confirms the positive reviews.
There are two sauces, and you can see them peeking into the first picture of my plate. The Hot Sauce is thick and pretty hot. It has some sugar, but more vinegar, so the sugar doesn’t smother the flavor of the barbecue. The Original Sauce is more of a traditional Western North Carolina vinegar and pepper sauce with a bit of ketchup and a very little bit of sugar. Either sauce works with the meat.
The pork tasted good, but the fried chicken was even better. As always, I got the dark meat (dark meat always has more flavor). The chicken has a good crust, not over seasoned to the point of competing with the flavor of the chicken. The meat is tender, juicy, and full of flavor. This is good fried chicken.
As I mentioned, the vegetables all come from a nearby farm, so they are fresh and tasty. The green beans and butter beans were good — they could have used a bit more fatback, but they were good, and the collards were very good. As you can see, some of the leaves were very pale. I noted the color to the waitress and asked if the collards had been cooked with cabbage. She said no, they were “summer collards.” The two of us lacked sufficient background in phytology to get deeper into the biology involved, except to speculate on a deficiency of chlorophyll. You, dear reader, may be able to shed light on the subject.
Whatever their hue, the collards were very good. A basket of hushpuppies had appeared mysteriously. I eschewed the butter that accompanied them, and devoted them to soaking up the exquisite potlikker. It was a lot of food, and left no room for dessert. And anyway, as I gazed wistfully at what looked like a world class peach cobbler going by, I had to get to the airport to pick up Ann Rain. Maybe next time.
Fat Fella’s lived up to its billing. The food is good and the service is as friendly as you could wish. I’ll bet they serve a great breakfast. I can just tell. Its definitely a place to stop on your way to or from the beach, or any time fate puts you near Newport.
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