This week, we're visiting Fat Jack's BBQ, the latest outlet of a small Philadelphia area chain that serves up hearty portions of slow-cooked meats and suitable side dishes. They're in Ithaca's southwest, in the former home of Garcia's and, before that, Ralph's Ribs.
The triple-meat Texas Twister, perfect if you can't decide where to start.There are ribs here, and burgers, or go with your choice of meats, as many as three, on a sandwich or platter. On our first visit, I went with a Triple Play sandwich, piled with Carolina pulled pork, sliced brisket, and "Memphis pulled chicken" -- to get a decent cross-section of the menu, you understand! The Texas Twister adds sauteed onions, slaw, and monterey jack to the Triple Play. You get a choice of sauce on the sandwich, as well as crisp fries and pickle slices.
The pulled chicken is fine, but it's not very exciting -- the brisket is much more flavorful by itself, and there are fun sauces ranging from basic BBQ, tomatoey or vinegary, your choice, to some fun spicy sauce. The pulled pork, too, stands well on its own.
Burnt Ends, where brisket scraps get a new life as unbelievably tasty morsels.A plate instead of a sandwich lets you focus on the meat, and we love the burnt ends -- chunks of brisket, left after the brisket is sliced for sandwiches, smoked extra long for a deep meaty crispness. The plates come with two sides, such as perfect collard greens with healthy chunks of pork, smoky sweet BBQ beans, or macaroni and cheese sprinkled with an extra dose of shredded cheese.
Yes, most of the sides are cooked with meat, even the red beans and rice. If you're looking for vegetarian fare beyond the mac & cheese and the salad bar, this isn't it. The chef, until recently a vegetarian himself, does say he plans to add some vegetarian items to the menu down the road.
The salad bar isn't getting a lot of traffic so far, the staff says, but it's a nice option if you want more vegetables to your meal than cole slaw and pork-flavored greens. The excellent Ithaca Root Beer is on tap here, and we'd love to see some beer for sale, as well. For now, the other alternatives are in a soda cooler by the door.
Fat Jack's has counter service, rather than table service, but this isn't fast food. Allow several minutes for the staff to call your name to let you know your tray of food is ready. (This may be a good reason to start with the salad bar.)
Plan on spending $10-20 on a meal, and plan on sharing so you can try as much as possible. Find Fat Jack's BBQ at 344 Elmira Road or fatjacks.net, or give them a call at 607-319-0920 and tell them you heard about them here.