Driving along Highland Ave., I’ve noticed people steaming into Fat Sal’s, located in a strip mall on the corner of Fountain Ave. Last week, my daughter and I parked in front of the restaurant to see what the buzz is about.
I learned that Fat Sal’s makes “Fat Sandwiches.” In the 1970s the Fat Sandwich was created by some guys from the famous grease trucks at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Fat Sandwiches were cheap for the broke college student and best consumed in the wee hours after a night of partying.
What is a Fat Sandwich? Picture a soft sub sandwich made with fatty ingredients from a fryer and griddle such as brisket, chicken fingers, bacon, fried eggs and mozzarella cheese sticks all between two pieces of bread. They aren’t sophisticated, they require a handful of napkins, because they are juicy and messy. Also if eaten daily, they might eventually clog an artery or two.
Inside Fat Sal’s is a lively, pop culture vibe. Hip-hop music plays in the background and doors slide open allowing a pleasing cross breeze.
We sat at a banquette with a high table next to families and young men devouring large sandwiches, fries and shakes. While looking at the extensive menu above the register, the owner and CEO of Fat Sal’s Joshua Stone, approached our table and introduced himself. His distinctive appearance could easily cast him to be a regular on the reality show, Jersey Shore. We learned both Stone and his business partner Sal Capek are from New York. They wanted to bring Fat Sandwiches with East Coast flavors to the West. So they opened their first fast casual restaurant in Westwood near UCLA. With its success, they opened other locations including this one in Hollywood. When I asked where the name came from, Stone told me, “My business partner Sal. He is not fat, he’s a robust man.”
We ordered a variety of items based on Stone’s recommendations. The first to arrive to our table were the chili fries bathed in melted cheddar & mozzarella cheese. The chili is enhanced with Italian sausage and juice from pickled jalapeños. Stone told me they have contracts with the national purveyors who supply McDonalds with their iconic French fries. They make at least nine different Fat Fries and their newest is Stromboli fries. “It’s a meal in itself topped with ham, pepperoni, salami, melted provolone and mozzarella and our housemade marinara sauce,” Stone said. Fat Sal’s does not believe less is more.
Looking at the menu board, I noticed a variety of Fat Sandwiches made on extra wide hero bread. There is a Fat Anthony, Fat Joey, Fat Mona, Fat Jamie and Fat Bahn Mi-ki. Some of these sandwiches were created by foodie fans who won their ultimate food challenge, by eating an entire Big Fat Fatty. I dare you to order one while sitting inside the restaurant. You must consume the entire sandwich by yourself in 40 minutes or less. If you do, it’s free and you get to create and name your own Fat Sandwich. If you can’t finish it, it will take you back $49.99. What is a Big Fat Fatty? It’s a 27 inch garlic hero layered with cheesesteak, cheeseburgers, pastrami, chicken fingers, crisp bacon, mozzarella sticks, a few fried eggs, fries, onion rings, a ladle of chili, marinara and fat sauce.
Stone told me they like to liven things up by introducing LTO’s (Limited Time Only) and wanted me to try the Fat pizza sandwich. “The earth hasn’t seen anything like this before,” said Stone. What I liked was the authentic Italian flavors and the soft sub bread made from a local French bakery that delivers it fresh daily.
“The quality of the ingredients are top notch,” Stone said. “When we buy our tuna for our Amazing Albacore Tuna sandwich, we don’t buy the $30 a case tuna, we purchase the $175 a case tuna to provide the best Fat Sandwich for our diners.”
My daughter’s favorite sandwich was the Fat Texas made with layers of bbq pastrami brisket, chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks, crisp bacon, grilled onions, melted cheddar and mozzarella. Fat fries and a spread of mayo and honey bbq finish out this garlic hero. She paired this with a #2 shake made with coffee ice cream, shaved dark chocolate and pretzel crumbs. I noticed their #5 shake is made with vanilla ice cream and a whole slice of NY cheesecake, a few strawberries and graham cracker crumbs blended together. WOW!
I wanted something a little more simple and healthy, so I ordered the standard veggie burger. Sal’s makes a variety of signature and standard burgers. It was excellent on a soft bun with shredded lettuce, tomato, pickles, onion, and their homemade fat sauce. I asked Stone what was in the Fat sauce? “It’s a special blend of your condiment favorites – horseradish, Heinz ketchup, A-1 sauce, French’s mustard and other ingredients mixed together to give your taste buds an overload of pleasing flavors.”
They grill up signature 1/4 pound USDA certified angus meat burgers made fresh and cooked to order. There is a pastrami Western burger, pepperoni pizza burger and even a chicken teriyaki burger.
Stone excitedly shared with me his pop-up barbecue last weekend at Big Sal’s in Hollywood. He invited the BBQ King of Studio City – Burt Bakman to create a special two day only Fat Sandwich. “Barbecue is an art, not a science to Bakman” said Stone. “He traveled to Texas researching barbecue, while learning about the best rubs and types of wood.” Bakman smoked 25 lbs. of brisket for Saturday and another 25 lbs. of brisket for Sunday to make Fat Trudy sandwiches with purple slaw and housemade sweet potato fries. “In the two days, we had 34 hours of smokin’ going on.”
I told Stone that when I drive by, I always see people at Fat Sal’s. “You should drive by at 1 to 2 a.m., after people leave a club or bar. We are packed.”
As the college students at Rutger’s did years ago, come experience a Fat Sandwich or Fat Burger with an order of Fat fries, while sipping an outrageous shake. It’s so good, I dare you to finish it all. If you can’t, ask the friendly staff to wrap it up and enjoy it later for another meal. $ Open daily from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Sundays, and 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. Monday through Wednesday. On Thursday through Saturday they stay open until 4 a.m. at the Hollywood location.
1300 N. Highland Ave.(855)682-4373. Other locations include 972 Gayley Ave. (855)682-4373, and soon 16901 Ventura Blvd., Encino.