by Alice Levitt
55 Main Street, Burlington, 864-5513
When Big Fatty's BBQ first opened on Main Street in Burlington, I was excited. Good barbecue in Vermont is extraordinarily hard to come by. I can rely on the Belted Cow on Tuesday barbecue nights or make the trek to one of Curtis' locations in southern Vermont, but the rib landscape in the Burlington area is barren at best.
After my first trip to Big Fatty's in 2007, I didn't even consider it among my options. I found the selections overpriced and underflavored. However, after four years, the craving grew overwhelming. It was time to give Big Fatty another chance...
On first glance, one of my original complaints had not been improved upon -— prices were still extraordinarily high for barbecue. Three ribs with four ounces of slaw has a going rate of $11.25.
"Is the meat local?" my boyfriend asked, looking for an explanation.
In fact, according to the sign with the restaurant's "rules," the grub is proudly nonlocal.
Looking for the best deal, I ordered the $15 1/4 chicken and 1/4 rack combo. I am partly to blame for the problems with the pleasantly herb-rubbed chicken. I did order the breast and wing portion, but, boy, it was dry.
Worse yet, so were the spareribs. The ribs were large, but only the parts adhering to the bone were comfortably edible. The extra flap of meat was so arid that I could barely tear pieces apart to eat. Once I did, my jaw started aching from the effort of chewing.
The saving grace was the Carolina-style barbecue sauce. A heavy slathering of the liquidy concoction eased up the dryness and lent an addictive bite of vinegar. I liked the whiskey-maple sauce, too, though I found it a bit boozy.
If I were to return, I'd go for the Carolina dog instead. The juicy beef hot dog, covered in pulled pork, sauce and slaw, may sound like a recipe for disaster but the taste was great. Be warned, it's definitely a knife-and-fork sandwich.
I found the coleslaw at Big Fatty's bland overall, but it added a lovely crispness to the dog. The only problem, once again, was the barbecue itself.
The pulled pork made my TMJ act up, and with such small shreds of meat, that's saying something.
Still, for the overall experience, it was worth some soreness.
The macaroni and cheese tells me a lot about a barbecue joint. I found the stringy cheese promising, but was disappointed by the creamy but nearly tasteless pasta dish.
I preferred the baked beans. Composed of several varieties, the textural mix was fun. I often find bean dishes overly sweet. This one had just a hint of sugary maple flavor.
I liked the flavor of the cornbread, too. However, it also was pretty dry. I prefer my cornbread with the texture of a corn-filled, dense pound cake. This crumbled so easily that it was difficult to grab enough for a mouthful.
Maybe in another four years, I'll give Big Fatty's a third try.