The oddly named Fatty Beltbuckles is located in a Rocky Point strip mall. If you didn't know better, you might not recognize it as a restaurant, much less a BBQ joint. Inside, Fatty Beltbuckles is arguably the nicest looking barbecue restaurant on Long Island, with an ample dozen-seat bar at the back, large booths along the left wall and varnished wooden tables spaciously arranged to the right. There's even a display of extra large belts hanging on one of the walls.
One more thing about the name: if by chance the owners chose it as a riff on the name of the 1920s actor/comedian Fatty Arbuckle, then that choice is rife with irony. Google him and you'll know what I mean.
Three types of ribs are available: babybacks, St Louis "grand" and "Colossal" beef bones. Brisket can be had chopped or sliced; chicken is served as half birds or pulled; pulled pork and smoked sausage round out the barbecue menu. Platters include ribs by the half or full rack, ribs plus one other meat, and 2- and 3-meat combos.
The menu is fairly deep, with emphasis as focused on appetizers, burgers and steaks as on barbecue. Fatty appetizers include burnt ends of brisket, fried pickle chips, fried onions, piggy wings (pork), chicken wings, chicken fingers, chili and burgoo stew. House and Caesar salads can be ordered toppd with chicken, pork or shrimp.
A bar menu offers many of the appetizers as smaller portions with corresponding prices. This is not only a good strategy for increasing bar sales but also a nice way for customers to try multiple dishes.
I visited Fatty Beltbuckles on a Saturday afternoon with two other barbecue enthusiasts, allowing a good sampling of the menu.
The chili, not pictured, was among the best I've ever tasted in a barbecue restaurant. Loaded with tender meat that was smokier than what was to come, its flavors were complex, possibly including beer.
Wings, billed as smoked, had no smoky flavor or color and depended on the sauce for all their flavor. The hot sauce wasn't bad, but the soggy skin and cold temperature ruined the deal even if they were smoked.
Fried pickles were a generous portion of slices, covered in a crunchy cornmeal batter. I liked them, but would have preferred some rub or other flavor boost on the pickles themselves, along with a more interesting dip than ranch dressing.
We had to really examine those burnt ends to determine whether they were brisket or pork. It turns out they were beef as advertised, but the texture was very similar to a pork chop. The meat was tender and flavorful, though the flavors weren't nearly as intense and concentrated as in the best burnt ends I've tried. Like the wings, the burnt ends didn't look or taste smoked and the exterior should have been crisper. Unlike the wings, they were still at least pretty good.
We went with the St Louis ribs, ordered without sauce, as part of a rib-plus-one combo. The ribs arrived with a nice looking crust whose rub leaned toward the salty side. Inside, the meat was moist but not pink or smoky. Other than the salt, there wasn't much flavor.
An abundant pile of pulled pork was sauced and fairly sweet. Where the burnt ends reminded me of pork, the pork here reminded me of chicken, both in texture and flavor. The ratio of bark to meat was fairly low and the meat wasn't all that pink or smoky, but it did have moisture that didn't depend on the sauce.
Brisket was the one meat that looked smoked, displaying a faint smoke ring around the edges of each slice. The edges were dark butnot crisp. The inner meat was slightly tender but lacking in flavor.
Two sauces are available in glass decanters on the table. Both were slightly-thinned-down, tomato-based varieties and both were okay but not noteworthy. There wasn't much difference between the two.
Cole slaw had subtle herbal flavors in the mix and was creamy to an extreme. Baked beans offered a few different varieties, presented as a home style version with a little more oomph. Collard greens were the standout among the sides, mainly because it consisted of 50% meat (pork), but also because the flavors balanced sweet and tart without overpowering the vegetable. Cornbread was ordinary.
The bottom line: Despite some shortcomings in the barbecue area, the place seemed to have potential. The service was friendly, the menu was interesting, the portions were huge, the prices were reasonable and they seemed to be trying. I just wish the execution were better.
Newsday report on Fatty Beltbuckles owner, cook charged with rape