Fatty Johnson’s is a pop-up restaurant [now closed] from Zak Pelaccio of Fatty Crab / Fatty ’Cue fame. The cartoon figure in the logo might be Samuel Johnson—I am not sure. When Pelaccio explained his idea to the Times, he didn’t really clear it up.
It replaces his goat-centric restaurant Cabrito until he figures out what to do with the space, which he told the Times will offer “a slightly more grown-up menu and service style.” The bartenders at FJ are sticking with that story, saying that renovations will begin around March 1. It will still be “Fatty something.”
According to the website, the menu changes daily. Several of the dishes are what Pelaccio called “ham centric,” as if that were a surprise. The other night, he was offering a mean-looking cassoulet (I mean that as a compliment), perhaps suggestive of the more Frenchified cooking style that he has in mind for the permanent restaurant that will be coming next.
I had come for the cheeseburger, which Robert Sietsema of the Village Voice loved so much. There are options with ham and a fried egg on top, but I didn’t think a burger needed all that help.
My favorite burgers have a thicker patty than Fatty Johnson’s, but this one isn’t bad at all. It had a nice, crunchy crust and a faintly smoky flavor. The staff said that it has a 70/30 beef/fat ratio, which is more fat than most burgers. But then, this is a fatty joint, after all.
The fries, or rather, fried confit potatoes, were too greasy and not crunchy enough for my taste, although that didn’t stop me from finishing them.
The burger is a trifle expensive for what you get. It’s $14 by itself. The ham and egg, if you go that route, can punch it up to $18. Neither option includes the fries, which are an extra $7. In contrast, the Minetta Burger at Minetta Tavern—a better product at a better restaurant—is $16 and it includes the fries.
Fatty Johnson’s is a bare-bones space right now, as a pop-up is meant to be. It was close to empty at 6:00 p.m. on a Saturday evening, but the staff said that it normally fills up after 8:00. A number of well known “guest bartenders” have been featured. Nobody famous was on duty when I visited, but we had a good dialogue about cocktails, as the expression goes.
Fatty Johnson’s (50 Carmine St. between Bedford & Bleecker Sts., West Village)