Walking into Big Fatty’s in Hartford s like walking into a country kitchen. There are just a few seats and stools, with a view into the open work area, where ribs are cut and vegetables for sides are chopped. The napkin holders on the counter and one table have amusing Big Fatty graphics. On the wall is a "frequently asked questions" sheet that’s even more amusing. There is no bar and they don't serve alcohol.
The menu at Big Fatty’s is abbreviated. They have pork spare ribs, BBQ chicken, pulled chicken and pulled pork. Brisket is available on Wednesdays only. They have some interesting sides, though, including collard greens, sweet potato fries and hushpuppies.
As I usually do on first visits, I tried the ribs (¼ rack) and pulled pork combo, which comes with cole slaw. For $16, I thought there would be cornbread and two sides included, but no such luck. I decided to add a side of baked beans just to try them out. When my plate arrived, it was piled high with three thick, meaty ribs and enough pulled pork to make two sandwiches.
The ribs were slightly crusty on the outside and very tender, almost—but not quite, thankfully—to the point of falling off the bone. They had a good flavor, but not really smoky. Overall, I’d say they were good but nothing special. The pulled pork was super tender, with lots of finely pulled strings and hardly any bark. It had a strong pork flavor, without any spice or smoke. I found out later from the chef that they slow-cook the shoulders in an oven for 14 hours, with no rub. The ribs are cooked outside on a grill.
Both meats were sauced right before being served, both with the same Big Fatty’s BBQ sauce available by the bottle. It’s a good compromise between sweet, tangy and hot. It did the job, but I wish they had more choices.
Cole slaw tasted homemade, but similar to the kind you get in a supermarket. The baked beans were the star of the show: five different beans, with different sizes and textures, in a sweet sauce with a strong brown sugar taste (and maybe a little cinnamon?). Very different and very good.
The bottom line: It’s not what I'd call authentic barbecue, but for what it is, it’s OK, albeit a little expensive (and cash only). If I lived close by, I'd visit every once in a while, but it's not destination barbecue.
Seven Days review of Big Fatty's by Suzanne Podhaizer
The owner created this blog "to pass on my thoughts and hear back from you about what is thought to be good BBQ.
We get a lot of repeat customers who swear our BBQ is great and then read in blogs and review sites how bad it sucks."
I hope he's not referring to this site, because I never said it sucked. Not even close.