Thursday, May 19, 2011

Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em

While I have only written about Fat Casual BBQ in Macedonia, Ohio once before, I have been back many, many times. Because the first article I wrote about them covered so much of their menu, there hasn't really been a need to cover them a second time, even though the food has been outstanding every time I've returned. Over the last eight months since Walter Hyde and Scott Slagle opened Fat Casual, they have continued to evaluate and innovate to keep the menu focused, relevant, and most importantly, tasty. In addition to their regular offerings, every day seems to bring a new special, some of which make the regular menu and others turn out to be a one-day appearance.

Over the course of the last two Friday nights, I got to enjoy some not previously covered flavors that were so good that it would be a shame for me not to share them with you, gentle reader. Before we get into the two meals, I first wanted to share the revised and newly printed and laminated menu:

Fat Casual BBQ Menu Front
Fat Casual BBQ Menu Back
As you can see, the main proteins were still available: smoked pork loin, turkey, brisket, and chicken. Most of the sides remain on the menu, some have been reformulated since the opening (e.g., macaroni and cheese), some have been dropped (e.g., beans and rice), and some are brand new (e.g., fried potato salad and suffer'n succatash). Of course, when Fat Casual found a side that worked well, like the incredible warm sweet potato salad, they realized they had a good thing on their hands and didn't change a thing. Thank goodness!

On my first Friday dinner visit, I decided to go with something that Walter and Scott introduced during the season of Lent, a time of year notorious for fish fries. While they did offer a Friday fish fry (which just had to be better than anything I got this year during the Lenten Project II), they innovatively applied the frying concept not only to their fish, but also to their smoked chicken.

While the fried smoked chicken isn't actually on the regular menu, if the restaurant isn't too busy and you tell Walter or Scott that they are very handsome and talented men, you might just convince them to fry you up a portion of their smoked chicken. On my first Friday visit, a mere mention of the fact that I was looking forward to this very thing all day was enough to convince Walter to break out in a grin, ask Scott if they could pull it off, and told me to take a seat and wait for my dinner to be prepared. Note that because the fried chicken was made to order, my dinner probably took longer to prepare than if I had just ordered something that was ready to go.

Needless to say, it is SO worth the wait.

Having placed my order, my second thought turned to sauce. Of course, just like I wrote in my last blog post, every single sauce offered at Fat Casual was made from scratch. And the variety being offered (five to six different sauces each night I was there) was enough to satisfy any sauce-lover's craving. Sweet, smoky, spicy, acidic ... Fat Casual had a sauce to please everyone. Here was my choice for the evening, the Memphis-Style sauce:

Homemade Memphis-Style BBQ Sauce
Within maybe ten minutes of sitting down at my table, Walter walked out from the kitchen with my dinner:

Fried Smoked Chicken Dinner
The fried smoked chicken dinner (which is priced the same as the smoked chicken dinner at an amazing $9.99) came with two of Fat Casual's side dishes and some of their homemade cornbread.

Here was a closer shot of the fried smoked chicken:

Fried Smoked Chicken
Every time I've had this chicken, my eyes roll back into my head. The combination of Fat Casual's incredibly juicy smoked chicken (which sadly, isn't the norm for smoked chicken at barbecue places in northeast Ohio), combined with the crispy and crunchy fried crust makes for a culinary experience that you absolutely must try. Everything about this chicken was perfect: crunchy, smokey, savory, salty, juicy ... it all just works so well. Each order is essentially a half chicken, breast, back, leg, and wing.

In addition to the chicken, my meal also came with two of Fat Casual's newer sides, the Fried Potato Salad and the Suffer'N Succatash:

Fried Potato Salad and Suffer'N Succatash
While the warm sweet potato salad remains my all-time favorite side at Fat Casual, these two sides were pretty close behind that one. The fried potato salad, so called because the potatoes are first fried before being combined with the dressing, was rich and delicious. The succatash, containing Lima beans and sweet corn, was tender, juicy, peppery and buttery. So many times, I have disliked Lima bean dishes because the beans were starchy and unpleasant. Not this time. I finished the entire container and just about licked the bottom of the cup. I heartily recommend you give both sides a try.

My first meal finished, I packed up the entire breast (it really was enough food for two people) to have a wonderful mid-day snack the next day. My meal came to roughly $12, including the chicken dinner and a bottled water that I ordered. If you are looking for flavor AND value, you have come to the right place.

The following Friday (as in, last Friday), I hadn't planned on returning for another meal, but fellow Cleveland foodie, Kay, decided that she wanted to stop in and try one of the newer special items on the Friday menu, the smoked prime rib. Honestly, it had been on the menu during my previous visit, but I was really in the mood for that fried smoked chicken, so I gave it a pass. This time, however, I was bound and determined to try this somewhat unorthodox, but intriguing sounding dish.

After all six of us arrived, Walter came over to our table to determine what the group wanted to eat. It turned out to be unanimous ... smoked prime rib! Walter went back into the kitchen and perhaps ten minutes later, large plates of beefy goodness started arriving at our table:

Smoked Prime Rib with Jus and Horseradish Sauce
This IMMENSE portion of prime rib was accompanied by beef jus, homemade creamy horseradish sauce, and a small garnish of horseradish-infused pickles and sliced radishes. Even without tasting it, I could tell that the meat was obviously cooked perfectly medium rare. Like extras on the set of The Flintstones, all six of us eagerly dug into the huge portion of prime rib and discovered some of the best meat that any of us had ever tasted. More than one of the diners tonight noted that they had been turned off by bad prime rib served at buffets and weddings. Tonight's meal put to rest any notion that prime rib couldn't be prepared so that it was an incredibly tender, juicy, and flavorful cut of meat. While the jus was certainly tasty, the creamy horseradish sauce stole the show and made the perfect complement to the beef. Not to be outdone, the pickles were also amazing all on their own.

While the smoked prime rib dinner was normally offered with the garlic mashed potatoes, because there were six of us tonight, Walter put together a tasting of several of Fat Casual's sides:

A Mess 'O Sides
Going clockwise from the rear, we had cole slaw, fried potato salad, macaroni and cheese, garlic mashed potatoes, blueberry Figgy Pudding, and the warm sweet potato salad. As if the smoked prime rib wasn't good enough, the myriad of sides made the dinner even more delicious. While the jus served with the prime rib wasn't utilized as much as the horseradish sauce, it did end up making an excellent complement to the garlic mashed potatoes, as discovered by fellow food blogger, Nancy from Fun Playing With Food.

Finally, after we had made our way through most of the enormous amounts of food brought to us by the kitchen, Walter showed up with individual serving cups of one of their newer items that they had been tinkering with, smoked beef sausage with barbecued cabbage:

Smoked Beef Sausage with Warm BBQ Cabbage
Fat Casual had started out making all of this sausage in-house, but when demand got too great, they outsourced this meat product to a local company, but still maintained the quality using the recipe that Walter and Scott originally concocted. After smoking the sausage, Fat Casual had paired it with barbecued cabbage; this balanced the savoriness of the sausage with the sweetness of the cabbage. While not officially on the menu yet, I am looking forward to having this again once it does become a regular item.

Everything said and done, our smoked prime rib dinners came out to an incredible $12.99 per person. Anyone who is a fan of prime rib knows that typically, prime rib dinners run much, much higher than that. Given the incredible preparation and flavor and the very reasonable price, I have to say that this was one hell of a deal. Between the fried smoked chicken and smoked prime rib, I honestly don't know which one was my favorite. At this point, it was like picking your favorite child. Both dishes brought much happiness to my mouth and my wallet. My advice? Go with a friend and order one of each in order to share. Do note that for now, the smoked prime rib is only available on Fridays.

While several commenters on my last write-up on Fat Casual BBQ were not impressed with the food they received when they visited, I know for a fact that many others have been. On the Urbanspoon page for the restaurant, out of 92 people who voted on the restaurant, 96% marked that they liked it. That should tell you something. While there is certainly barbecue closer to me than Macedonia, it is so worth the drive to check them out. And if you happen to go on a day when Walter or Scott is willing to fry you up some smoked chicken, take them up on it. You won't regret it.

1 comment:

DineInDiva said...

Extras on the set of the Flintstones - lol. Let me know the next time you go - yabba dabba do.

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