Last month, my wife and I had the opportunity to take two budding scholars on a trip to our Nation’s capital, Ottawa, Ontario, to tour my wife’s alma mater, Carleton University. Even though our visit was more academic in nature, we wanted to show our young friends the food and entertainment side of Ottawa too. Since both Mae and I lived in Ottawa for over ten years, we knew that we had to take them out for dinner somewhere in The Byward Market area of the city, also known as ‘The Market’. Next to visiting Parliament Hill, it’s one of the must-see spots in Ottawa – particularly in the summer. Even though we were visiting at the end of winter, and Ottawa decided to dump some of its characteristically wintery weather on us that day, we just knew we had to get down to the market – if not for the atmosphere, then at least for the diverse and amazing eats that can be found in the hustle ‘n’ bustle of The Market.
It’s been over a year since Mae and I lived in Ottawa, and over seven years since we lived near The Market area of the city. Since it was blustery out, and not really a pleasant evening for walking, we decided to do some searching online to see what was new (or at least new to us) for restaurants in the area. It didn’t take long for us to spot a restaurant that we had never been to in The Market, and boy, were we excited!
Fatboys Southern Smokehouse promised us a taste of great southern cooking. That’s hard to find in our chilly Northern slice of the world. Mae and I, and our guests, were sold as soon as we took at peak at their online menu. Our taste buds were stimulated by the notion of smoked chicken, ribs, pulled-pork, and beef brisket. We knew we were in for a meaty meal, and one with a little spice too … perfect for the late winter weather chilling our bones that day.
Of course, we knew we wanted to take our prospective Ottawa residents somewhere for great food, but it also had to have atmosphere. Judging from the promotions on their website, Fatboys seemed to fit the bill. Any place that promotes themselves using these keywords: BBQ, rockabilly, gospel brunch, charity burlesque shows, sounds like it has got atmosphere to us! So, it was settled. We were off to feast on pounds of delicious meat and visit what alluded to be an interesting and very fun dining establishment.
True to what they promise on their website (BBQ & Southern hospitality), Fatboys delivered! When we arrived, the entrance was jam-packed. We had the ill-timing to arrive just as the charity organization who was benefiting from the entertainment that evening was setting up their information booth. It was also already very busy inside the restaurant with diners. Oh, and the aroma of this place – out of this world! Frankly, I’m not sure I could work in a place that smells that delicious. The sweet and smokey aroma of barbecued meats sure got our appetites fired up.
We were greeted very quickly by the host who asked if we had a reservation. Oops. We did not. Apparently, it was a busier than usual Saturday night because they were having a burlesque charity event to benefit a Mastiff rescue (yeah, you read that right… and seriously, how cool is that?!). The host indicated that it shouldn’t be a problem to find us a table, if we wouldn’t mind waiting a couple minutes. Of course we didn’t mind waiting! We were already excited about this place before we arrived, and became even more curious about it when we got there. It was packed! Seriously, packed… and that charity event, well it wasn’t starting for another couple hours. Clearly, this place was a popular spot.
Straight up about this place: If you’re looking for a quiet, intimate, dining experience, then this probably isn’t the place for you. It’s busy, bold, and loud. Not loud like a nightclub loud, but loud in the sense that everyone is having a really, really great time. How can you tell? Lots of laughter. It’s clear that this is a place that people come to have a great time, and a great meal.
It didn’t take long for our host to return and escort us to our table. We scored a booth near a window and proceeded to look over the enticing menu full of slow smoked meats, and delectable Southern side dishes. Honestly, we wanted to try everything. It’s a good thing that our waiter, Nick, arrived shortly thereafter. He greeted us and then asked us if we’ve ever been to Fatboys Southern Smokehouse. Once we informed him we hadn’t, Nick gave us the insider scoop on how they smoke their meats and offered some suggestions on getting the most bang for our buck while being able to sample a wide variety of dishes. They must hire psychic waiters there, because that’s exactly what we wanted to get out of this meal: great food, a sampling of the fare, and all at a very reasonable price.
We ordered two of their Sharing Plates: The Mother Clucker and The Kentucky Derby. Nick informed us that the Sharing Plates option usually feeds two people. So we ordered two different sharing plates for the four of us, and so we could sample as much of their menu as possible.
The Mother Clucker is served with four pieces of Southern fried chicken and ½ a smoked chicken. The Kentucky Derby featured ¼ lb of meat (your choice). We ordered beef brisket and ribs. Every sharing plate is also served with two Southern sides and Kansas Cornbread. We chose four different sides, mostly because none of us had ever had any of the Southern side dishes being offered. We decided on: Smoked Bacon Mac n’ Cheese, Sweet & Spicy Collard Greens, Chipotle & Dill Potato Salad, and Southern Spiced Cream Corn.
We really enjoyed ordering food this way because we got to sample so many new flavour combinations that we never have before. The best part is that even if there’s something that doesn’t quite agree with your palate, there’s still plenty of other yummy stuff to try. So, yeah, Mae wasn’t a fan of the collard greens. They were a bit too spicy for her, but the rest of us enjoyed them.
Although we were mainly there for food, Mae and I each sampled one of their fine alcoholic beverages. For me, it just seemed appropriate to order a Jack Daniel’s shot. Mae ordered their in-house Sangria, which she found to be absolutely perfect: not too sweet, and not too tart. She was also eyeing one of their signature drinks that was a play on the traditional Cosmopolitan, except it was made with bourbon and topped with cotton candy. Next time, she assures me she’ll give it a try.
There’s one other thing that we loved about this place, besides its amazing eats and friendly staff: The décor. There’s bumper stickers and signs covering pipes, and vents and walls. It’s bold and busy. Perhaps the one thing that got us most excited were the bathroom sinks. They are hands down the coolest bathroom sinks ever. So cool, my wife excused herself twice that evening, the second time so she could bring her camera into the bathroom and take a photo of the sinks. We’ll let the bathroom sinks speak for themselves:
Bottom line is this place if fantastic and a perfect fit for the diverse options available in the Market. It’s got a fun atmosphere, amazing food – especially the smoked meats, inventive signature drinks, kick-ass décor, and awesome staff. And the best part? Our bill for our party of four was under 100 dollars (including our drinks). How’s that for reasonable prices in the heart of downtown Ottawa?
We highly recommend stopping in. You won’t be disappointed.
Gregg & Mae
P.S. Like we stated, we weren’t paid to write this post. We just really liked the place, and thought you might too! All opinions are our own.