From the service to the soul food, Fat’s Chicken & Waffles aims to make you feel at home.
The scent of vanilla wraps you like a hug as you pass through the Dutch door into Fat’s Chicken & Waffles. That would be the waffles destined for the marquee dish at Marcus Lalario’s cheerful Central District cafe.
The waffles are thin, crisp, sweet platforms for the buttermilk-dipped fried chicken of your choice: craggy, Creole-seasoned breast pieces brined in pickle juice, or plump, salt-brined legs. If you are a leg fan, like me, you might skip the waffle, the whipped butter and the syrup, and just get the gams, two for five bucks. They call that an “appetizer” here.
New Orleans-born, Seattle-raised chef Patrick Dours has worked for Lalario before, at Captain Jack’s on Capitol Hill. He’s also cooked at Gannon’s on Maui and at Rosario and Doe Bay Resorts on Orcas Island, but his family roots in Louisiana go back to the 1880s. You can taste that heritage in his cooking here.
Fat’s Chicken & Waffles ★★½
2726 E. Cherry St., Seattle; 206-602-6863 or fatschickenandwaffles.com
Reservations: not accepted
Hours: dinner 5-9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and Sunday, 5-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday; lunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; brunch Saturday-Sunday 9 a.m.-3 p.m.; happy hour 3-5:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; closed Monday
Prices: $$ (appetizers and sides $4-$7, dinner salads and entrees $10-$14, lunch mains $8)
Drinks: cocktails, wine and beer; soft drinks; sweet tea
Service: brisk and friendly
Parking: on street; limited free parking behind the restaurant
Who should go: folks who fancy deep-fried New Orleans-inspired comfort food
Credit cards: all major
Access: no obstacles
Besides chicken, he fries catfish, shrimp and oysters, okra and green tomatoes. All of it tastes clean and crisp. The cornmeal dredge is heavy on the allspice and delivers some peppery heat, but not agonizingly so. Bottled hot sauces are on the table for those who want more of a burn.
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The buttery sauce for shrimp and grits is lit with Crystal hot sauce and a touch of Cajun seasoning. The grits are creamed with pecorino. Though the menu says Anson Mills, lately the grits are from Bob’s Red Mill, a high-quality Oregon brand that proved easier to get than the heirloom South Carolina product.
Zesty pimento cheese escorts thick, meaty slices of fried green tomatoes. Tartar sauce loaded with dill and pickles is a dip for fried okra, bite-size nubbins that lacked the crispness of the other fried foods.
Vegetables aren’t all fried. A spunky vinaigrette dressed the “seasonal market salad,” a bountiful plate of tender young lettuces with crunchy ribbons of rainbow carrots and roasted green beans, broccoli and corn. A side of tender collards simmered in chicken stock, garlic and wine also satisfied a hankering for greenage.
Chicken and waffles are on the menu even for weekday lunch, when Fat’s fields a more limited lineup — mostly sandwiches. At weekend brunch, honey and a little Hennessy cognac are whipped into the butter for the waffles. Brunch beverage options include mimosas, Bloody Marys and Pedialyte for those in need of hair of the dog and/or hydration.
I regret not ordering the pimento cheese BLT at brunch, given how good the bacon was in the eggs Benedict I chose instead. The runny yolks of the fluffy white poached eggs repeat the vivid yellow hue of butter-rich hollandaise, kissed ever so lightly with Crystal hot sauce. You can get the Benedict with fried green tomatoes instead of bacon. Either way, it is built on light, flaky square biscuits (which can also be had smothered in andouille gravy) and come with great garlicky fried potatoes on the side. Beignets are a must with a mug of strong Caffe Vita coffee.
At brunch, as at peak dinner hour, things can get a bit hectic. General manager Erika White takes names and seats people as swiftly as possible. Ask how long the wait might be, and she’ll likely reply, with the hint of a wink, “10 minutes or an hour.”
Fat’s furthers the community spirit established over 30 years by its predecessor, Catfish Corner. Respect for that legacy extended to covering the expenses for artist James Crespinel to restore his mural of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the building’s outside wall.
Inside, macramé plant hangers frame a contemporary mural by local artist Jesse Brown. Nick Yoshihara created the slated walnut benches and matching tables. Metal counter stools that face the street match the atomic-orange vintage Eames table lamps that glow after dark.
Fried green tomatoes $4
Seasonal market salad $10
Red beans & rice $12
Shrimp & grits $14
Chicken & waffles $14
The customers are as diverse in ethnicity as they are in age. Depending on the hour and the day, you’ll see babes in carriers, kids in soccer shorts, guys in ball caps, giggling girlfriends and couples young and old. Fat’s wants to be “a place that makes you feel like you’re at your favorite family member’s house,” says White. “From the food to the music and service, we are here for the people.”
One weeknight, a late dinner rush caught White by surprise. Without any backup on the floor, she single-handedly took orders, bussed tables and served as both cashier and bartender, uncorking wines and mixing drinks. She never lost her cool — or her sense of humor.
Swiping a customer’s credit card at the counter, she nodded toward a large dispenser labeled “Hurricane” nearby (next to another labeled “Sweet Tea”). “I’m going to need a big one of those when this night is over,” she said. She deserved it.