Fat Willy’s Rib Shack
2416 W. Schubert Ave.
Chicago, IL 60647
Hours :(open for lunch and dinner):
11:30 a.m. – 10 p.m., Sun. – Thurs
11:30 a.m. – 11 p.m., Fri. and Sat.
Prices: entrées: $12.95 - $24.95
By Lee Barrie and Cindy Kurman
Story originally appeared in StreetWise
Ah, barbecue! There are days when nothing else will hit the spot. Fun, comfort and good eatin’ all wrapped up in one meal. We happen to enjoy a good dry-rubbed slab of Chicago baby backs and Fat Willy’s, right across the street from the Kerasotes City North 14 movie multiplex, is one of our favorites. The popular restaurant has been around for a few years and is as busy as ever.
What we like about Fat Willy’s is the combination of good service, hearty portions and the quality of the barbecue. They pay attention to details and the preparation is superb.
We dined here recently with some good friends and their food lovin’ teenage sons. We had a great time and the teens were more than delighted with their feast. But keep in mind that this is no dieter’s paradise. The food is rich and you can quickly accumulate mucho calories, so moderation—in other words, sharing—is a good idea at Fat Willy’s (be prepared for a $3 sharing charge, however). A roll of napkins is on the table and you’ll use plenty, but that’s part of the fun.
The dinner menu begins with a variety of rich but tasty appetizers. We loved the baked artichoke dip, smothered in garlic cheese and served with bite size rounds of garlic toast. The BBQ chicken wings are meaty, not too hot and served with three types of BBQ sauce. The chili cheese fries are what you would hope for—indulgently gooey and delicious. If you want to cross over into fried food, the Jalapeno Corn Fritters are truly decadent, with a touch of bite but not overly hot. Other decadences include a hand dipped corn dog (kids will love ‘em) and amazingly plump doughnut-inspired onion rings.
Although we didn’t order soup in the hot weather, Fat Willy’s does offer a robust Andouille sausage gumbo, with nice chunks of okra. Again, it’s got bite but is not too spicy. Fat Willy’s signature chili is what you would expect—a nice smoky flavor paired with rich cheddar; jalapeno salsa served on the side.
On to the barbecue! Fat Willy’s serves several cuts. They are dry rubbed, marinated, smoked and finished on the grill. The full rack of baby backs is generous, and served with fresh cole slaw, soup or salad and choice of side dish. The ribs have a modest amount of sauce, which is how we like them, but there are three BBQ sauces on the table to enhance your food, if you desire. The Kansas City style ribs are larger, with the same preparation. If you’re a rib tips fan, you can get these as well.
Additional entrées include a very moist and tender sliced barbecue beef brisket, which our friend loves, and a clean but smoky flavored barbecue chicken which is smoked over Applewood and hickory. If you’re a mac and cheese fan, Fat Willy’s is the place for a hearty, baked-to-order dish. This is a great dish to share; no one will be disappointed unless you didn’t order enough. If jumbo shrimp are a favorite, you can order them either breaded and fried or marinated and grilled.
The meals come with a choice of side dish and there are several good choices. The baked beans were excellent and, as corn bread fans, we enjoyed Fat Willy’s rich take, with some jalapeno and cheddar thrown in for good measure.
If you’re in the mood for a sandwich, Fat Willy’s offers rich, hefty choices. Our teenage dining companions went simply wild about the BBQ Burgers. These ¾ pound monsters were thick, juicy and when ordered medium rare, they came out tender and pink on the inside, the way they’re supposed to be. Other sandwich choices include a hearty BBQ beef brisket sandwich, a non-greasy smoked chicken sandwich and a satisfying pulled pork sandwich.
Fat Willy’s doesn’t skimp on dessert, but you should plan ahead if you’re going for it. There is a very good New Orleans chocolate pecan pie, a rich and moist chocolate brownie served with ice cream and a creamy peanut butter chocolate pie made with an Oreo cookie crust.
There is a nice kids’ menu, and other extra touches include homemade lemonade and yes, some nice salads, including a cobb salad and a roasted veggie salad.
You can park in the movie theater ramp for $2 or there is some limited street parking.
Note: DineWise is a weekly column appearing in StreetWise magazine. Lee Barrie is on the StreetWise board of directors and he and his wife Cindy own Kurman Communications, a Chicago-based public relations agency specializing in lifestyle, restaurant and hospitality strategic branding, marketing promotions, media relations and social networking. If you'd like your restaurant to be featured on the DineWise blog and in StreetWise magazine, please contact DineWise@kurman.com.