Meat me at Fatback’s

Family BBQ puts Dayton in Hog Heaven

By Paula Johnson

Photo: Pulled pork, chicken and brisket with crusty buns and cornbread at Fatback’s BBQ

Natives of the Caribbean islands have been smoking and roasting meat for centuries. They called it barbacoa. The modern American equivalent of this is barbecue, and it’s most associated with the southeastern United States. But that could possibly change once BBQ aficionados get a taste of something a little further north, perhaps something at Fatback’s BBQ. This place just might put Dayton on the BBQ map. We didn’t expect this would be the case, however, as PIP (Palate In Progress) and I drove unenthusiastically to what we thought was going to be just another BBQ joint.

All in the family

Located in the space that formerly housed owner Bub Britton’s HVAC business, the building has been in the family for 40 years. These days, Britton, with help from his nephew Jesse Brown (and a giant smoker out back), puts out pounds of porky goodness in his transformed space. Britton operated Fatback’s as a catering operation for several years before opening the restaurant in 2013.

The pig rules at Fatback’s, if the decor is any indication. Before you cross the threshold you’ll notice a huge pig sculpture perched atop the adjacent garage door, your first clue that you’re about to enter hog heaven. Once inside, it’s pig paraphernalia central, with posters, artifacts and photos of the noble beast everywhere you look.

Clean sweep

Yes, I noticed the pigs, but what I noticed most of all upon entering the small dining area was how spotlessly clean it was. There’s a walk up ordering counter, with the kitchen in full view. With neatly stacked shelves and spotless stainless steel counters, it looked freshly scrubbed though this was in the midst of dinnertime. The floor of the dining area was practically gleaming. Even the condiment bottles on the tables were filled and not the least bit greasy. Everything seemed meticulously just so, which suggested to us that if same amount of pride and care went into the food, this wouldn’t be just another BBQ joint.

Oo Oo that smell!

Then there was the smell. Yes, that smell. The sharp, smoky, meaty fragrance of BBQ enveloped us as we made our way to the counter, where we were greeted by Jesse. The menu doesn’t feature combination platters, and we wanted to try several different things.

“No problem!” he said. “How about a half pound of the three pulled meats, along with buns, corn bread and two sides?” We agreed, choosing macaroni and cheese and baked beans, plus an order of green beans with ham. Because, you know, vegetables. In a place like this it was hard to remember what those things were.

Our platter was a bit of a custom mix, but typically the meat is sold by the pound a la cart (with or without sauce), pork and chicken going for $11.95 and brisket for $14.95. Family meals serving four to six people include two pounds of meat, two quart-size sides and corn bread or buns for $42.95 or $46.95.

Move over porky

The platter Jesse prepared for us had three generous heaps of steaming shredded meats. Pork, chicken and brisket, liberally sprinkled with black pepper, were served with crusty buns to make sandwiches.

Chicken can be an also-ran when up against brisket and pork, often a little dry and not quite as tasty. But not in this case. The chicken was outstanding. All three meats were succulent and moist with little bits of crispy fat, perfectly delicious without any sauce.

Sleepless in Dayton

All sauces are family recipes, developed over the years by Britton, with Jesse’s 98-year-old grandmother even having a hand in it. There are four sauce choices: sweet, warm sweet, hot and the newest, vinegar, recently developed by Jesse.

The vinegar was a winner. As were the remaining three sauces, with a good balance of acid and sticky sweet molasses notes and varying degrees of heat.

“I’ve been playing around with different recipes and spice combinations for a while, and now I’ve finally got the right one,” Jesse says of the vinegar sauce. His Uncle Bub did quite a bit of experimenting of his own to perfect Fatback’s smoking technique. “The meat is smoked with hickory for 12 to 14 hours. My uncle worked on it for years. There were many sleepless nights till he got it just right!” Jesse told us.

Chewing the Fatback’s

We chatted with some other diners as we enjoyed the meaty and pleasantly sweet baked beans. PIP pronounced them the best he’s eaten. He’s right. They are a must-order. The macaroni and cheese was acceptable, and I liked the addition of small potato cubes to the smokey ham and vinegary green beans. I used the sweet corn bread hunks instead of the bun to make a little BBQ sandwich.

The folks at the next table were feasting on ribs, something I’ll try next time. “My grandfather and Bub were in business together,” said the happy diner. “Our families go way back. We’ve been eating this BBQ for years. As a matter of fact, it’s the second time we’ve been here this week!” “I like the way that guy thinks,” said PIP. “I can’t wait to come back either, and we haven’t even left yet.” Seeing as how there’s a half rack with my name on it, I can’t argue with that!

Fatback’s BBQ is located at 1334 Linden Ave. in Linden Heights. For more information, please call 937.254.RIBS (7427) or visit fatbacksbarbecue.com.

Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at PaulaJohnson@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at PaulaJohnson@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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