Note: Fatty ’Cue (West Village) closed in May 2014. Fatty ’Cue (Williamsburg) and Fatty Crab (UWS) had closed previously, after founder Zak Pelaccio left the company. The West Village Fatty Crab is the only remaining member of the brood.
For the record, there are Fatty Crabs in the West Village, the Upper West Side, and on St. John, Virgin Islands; and also a chain of kiosks and food trucks called Fatty Snack. The new Fatty ’Cue was formerly the pop-up Fatty Johnson’s, and before that the unsuccessful Cabrito. Pelaccio calls the whole brood Fatty Crew.
If there’s a sense of monotony and a lack of range, it’s offset by Pelaccio’s uncanny sense for tailoring his restaurants to the neighborhoods they’re in. Pelaccio and his P.R. manager told Sam Sifton that this Fatty would offer “a slightly more grown-up menu and service style. . . .” Sifton added, “the seating will be comfortable and cozy, he said, and the room ‘will be quieter.’”
That’s all true. No one would call any Pelaccio restaurant formal, but the new Fatty ’Cue is more upscale than the UWS Fatty Crab, and considerably more grown-up than the original Fatty Crab or the Williamsburg ’Cue. It takes reservations and isn’t marred by the occasionally amateurish service that plagues the other locations.
At least, that’s my sense after two visits last week to a restaurant that is not yet a fortnight old. If they can keep it up, this could be the most enjoyable of the lot.
The cuisine is the same Southeast Asia-meets-barbecue theme of the Williamsburg restaurant, but there are very few dishes in common. The menu is in five sections, lightest to heaviest, though to call anything light here would be a bit of a joke. Plates range from $9 to $48, but most are under $20 and are suitable for sharing.
On my first visit, I ordered two dishes. This was the first time in my experience that a Fatty kitchen actually seemed to understand the concept of pacing a meal. Until now, Pelaccio’s restaurants were known for sending out food at the kitchen’s convenience, not the diner’s. Have they learned a lesson, or did I just get lucky?
I loved the Heirloom Tomato Salad ($13; above left) with pepper, fresh coriander, charcoal, and olive oil, resting in a pool of kimchi water. This is a typical late summer dish, but the spices and seasoning seemed just right. Heritage Pork Ribs ($12; above right) were juicy and enormous. One might complain at paying $6 a rib, but I couldn’t have eaten much more.
On my second visit, I ordered just one item: Deep-Fried Bacon ($18; above) with sweet and spicy salsa verde. It’s hard to come up with a bacon dish I don’t like, so bear that in mind when I tell you this one is excellent. The bacon is tender, with a crunchy crust from the fryer. Non-bacon addicts might be advised to share this one with a friend, but I was happy to eat it myself.
There’s a modest beer and wine selection, but I stuck with cocktails. The Chupacabra ($12; tequila, chili-infused domaine de canton, fresh watermelon, lime) and the Smokin’ Bone ($13; bourbon, smoked pineapple, lime, chocolate bitters, tabasco) both pair well with the food. I’m especially fond of the latter.
I sat at the bar both times. On Wednesday at about 6:30 p.m., the restaurant wasn’t at all crowded. At the same time on Friday, I got the last free bar stool, and the hostess was quoting walk-in waits of an hour or more for tables. Service was the best I’ve had at any Fatty establishment. The bartenders were knowledgeable about the food and happy to explain the odd combinations of ingredients at length.
I don’t want to over-sell Fatty ’Cue, but in the early days it is the most enjoyable Fatty restaurant I’ve been to, with both food and service a cut above its brethren.
Fatty ’Cue (50 Carmine St. between Bedford & Bleecker Sts., West Village)