Fat Head’s Saloon – South Side Pittsburgh

My most recent endeavor to Fat Head’s was regrettably timed along with an important NCAA basketball game. This made standing room in the packed waiting/bar area tighter than a pair of size 2 stretch denim jeggings from H&M. Before I even had a chance to start complaining, a pair of seats opened up across from the bar. Much to the chagrin of some adjacent heavyset patrons, my nimble wife and I were able to swiftly get our behinds on them before anyone else could get there. 

I draped my cardigan onto the newly ganked stool to mark my territory and then wormed my way through the deep trench of bros at the bar. I passed the time waiting for some bartender acknowledgement by listening to the bros recount the previous evenings sexual relations. I saddened as I thought about these deplorable d-bags and the many like them, victoriously enjoying burgers and beers on the morning after whilst their conquests were concurrently dealing with feelings of regret and probable STD’s. Then the bartender finally saw me and I forgot all about them.

The draft list at Fat Head’s is quite extensive and considered by many to be the best in the ‘Burgh. I was extremely pleased to find a bitter listed on the chalkboard amongst the myriad of beer types. Bitters are the English version of pale ales however they actually are less bitter due to a lower alcohol content. My draft of Paul’s Bitter Holiday (ESB – 4.00% ABV) from Duck-Rabbit had a clear, copper color and a modest taste profile of faint caramel toastiness. The beer was almost unaggressive to the point of being mute, but I thoroughly enjoyed its mellow flavor and found it to be the perfect companion for this leisurely Sunday afternoon.

I was a little more than halfway done with my libation* when we were wisked away to a small, two-seat table near the host station. Our seasoned** waitress appeared almost immediately and stoically took our orders. It’s been awhile since I’d been to Fat Head’s so I decided to abstain from trying anything new and went with my usual favorite. A Beauty & the Beasty headwich quickly arrived along with a huge pile of chips. The site of all this unhealthiness piled upon the plate started to make me question not only my decision, but also my mortality. I eyeballed the heap of pulled-pork slathered in barbeque sauce and thought that this day will play out again in my mind if I ever have triple bypass surgery. 

I’m not a competitive eater like Adam Richman, but I pride myself on rarely backing down from a food challenge. With courage reminiscent of Sir Edmund Hillary, I began to the climb the mountain which was the Beauty & the Beasty. The substantial bun was wonderfully bready and did a great job containing the avalanche of juicy, roasted pork. Creamy coleslaw and dill pickles were delicious additions to the sandwich and helped counteract the jalapeño heat of the barbeque sauce. These toppings cooled my mouth down just enough to make the defeat of this formidable opponent a tangible reality.

The accompanying chips were thick, crispy and fortunately light on the grease. They served as the perfect salty counterpoint to the sweet tanginess of the sandwich. Overall the meal reminded me of Susan Boyle – not much in the looks department and somewhat sloppy, but the way every note was hit perfectly made the total package impossible to not fall in love with.

Final Call: There are a few certainties about life in Pittsburgh – the Pirates will lose more games than they win, the city’s snow plow will clear your street last, and Fat Head’s will always be crowded. Afternoon, evening, weekday, weekend….it doesn’t matter. When you arrive, give your name to the hostess and then try to wedge yourself somewhere near the bar. Eventually you’ll get a seat, eat a bunch of great tasting food that’s horrible for your diet, and go home happier (and heavier) than when you arrived.

* I tend to measure my restaurant wait times more often by the volume of alcohol I consume than by ticks of the clock.

** “Seasoned” sounds so much better than “old”.

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