Fat Head’s Saloon
1805 E Carson St
South Side, 15203
Once upon a time, back in my early days of neuroimaging, back when I was a youngin without a care in the world and no shape except for that which my undergrad degree and adolescent years had lent to me, back when I didn’t yet know a thing about beer, way way way way way wayyyyyy back then, I went to Fathead’s for my first time. In fact, it was some kind of Yay-We-Opened-This-New-Brain-Imaging-Center! celebration, so a whole brainiac group was there. I knew nothing of this Fat Head’s place, and to be honest I was a little nervous sitting down to dine and drink with all these professors and post-docs and people who generally knew approximately 5 million times the amount that I did at the time. I was just gonna play it cool and be a meek dumb girl and order a salad, but then – I looked at the menu. And nothing… no one… was gonna stop me from ordering ex-act-ly what I wanted. Which, by the way, was this fantastical kielbasa sausage sandwich with fried onions and horseradish sauce and cheese and then on top of all that it was stuffed with PIEROGIES! STUFFED WITH PIEROGIES! Like, IN the sandwich! It was a fantasy I never knew I had come true! I could not believe my eyes! I had to have it! Now, my eyes are not typically bigger than my tummy, but when this sandwich arrived it threw me for a loop. It was positively gargantuan — like Shaggy and Scooby-Doo sized. I looked everywhere for a string to tie it smaller with, but to no avail. Instead, I just had to open wide and stick it all in there. With all these smart people all around me! And also somehow I had the biggest sandwich, so all of a sudden it became “watch Erika put this whole thing in her mouth” time (stop thinking that dirty joke, neither he nor she said anything). Now, most of y’all don’t know me all that well, but this sort of situation tends to happen to me a lot and as a result I can switch from tentative to balls to the wall in less than one second. “Roll up those sleeves and just take a bite!” I said to myself. And as I geared up to do so, by, you know, unhinging my jaw and whatnot, somebody whipped out their camera and, unbeknownst to me, snapped an action shot just as I was taking my first gluttonous bite. This pic was of course blown up and printed and put on the hallway wall for all the world to see. Perhaps this was just meant as a demonstration of all the extracurricular merriment that ensues among neuroscientists, but it served double duty as a constant reminder that, boy, do I really know how to pack it away! But, suffice it to say, I have no regrets as everything worked out awesomely for me AND I got to eat this rad sandwich. In fact, I work with a lot of these people still and I doubt any of them remembers that sandwich nearly as much as I do. But, I DO remember that sandwich. And every other sandwich I’ve ever had there. Because they are all really pretty good! I’ve never had something I did not like here, beer or food, and though the dishes are monstrous in size, they are not in price, so actually this is a great place to eat overall. Of course, you need 6000 calories in your budget, but if you are up for an indulgent, delicious, mouth-watering, original and unusual sandwich concoction that follows through with its promise of delectability, then Fat Head’s is definitely your place for dinner. And, unless you are going with a bunch of neuroscientists who apparently like to document such things, get sloppy and eat the bejeezus out of whatever you get, cuz that is the only way to do it!
Now, like I said, the most noticeable thing about the menu is for sure the debaucherous attitude with which the sandwiches are formulated. Their names are perhaps evocative enough: Beer Camp, Bay of Pigs, Beauty & the Beasty, King Bob Burger, Cool Colossal Club, McMinn’s Chicken Dance, Fat Capp, and of course the blatently straightforward ‘Artery Clogger’. I guess the names aren’t very good at evoking what might be IN the sandwiches, but they certainly evoke a particular mental state, one that represents the thrill of knowingly eating something so goddamned bad for you. A reverie in the naughty. I mean, reading the menu is like rolling around in a kiddie pool filled with mayonnaise. You just look at everything with wonderment and disbelief and when you finally pick something and order, you get so excited for it to arrive that when it does you just pause to think, “I’m gonna eat the FUCK out of you!!” and give it a little wink before chomping down hard. Or.. maybe that’s just me.
But, I can’t imagine not being excited about what you are ordering here, unless you are trying to eat healthy, in which case you may be filled with a sense of longing and regret as you stealthily peer over your salad towards everyone else’s sandwiches piled high with meats and cheeses and eggs and pierogies and sausages and fried onions and 3 different kinds of mayo, hot sauces, and all manner of other delicious fatty things. Like that one scene in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure after he loses his precious red bicycle and then immediately his world is filled with all kinds of people joyously partaking in riding two-wheeled pedaled vehicles of all kinds, tricycles and unicycles, giant bikes and tiny ones, tandem riders, kids and old people, lovers and loners — rebels — and they are everywhere all around, just inadvertently rubbing it in so hard. Just remember, you are doing the right thing! That little wet and wilted leaf is DELICIOUS! That fat free dressing doesn’t feel vacant — that’s just a void where the flavor of fresh, raw vegetables can seep in and fill you with a pure joy unlike any other!
OK – I’m trying my best here, but really if you go to Fat Head’s while you are on a diet, you are pretty much playing that game on expert mode. Can you handle it? It’ll take down the best of ‘em. The temptation is just too great! This is the final boss level, is all I am sayin’. If you aren’t equipped with three jars of fairies, just don’t bother. Either don’t go, OR, my recommendation — go and eat the FUCK out of it! (sensing a pattern?) Enjoy it to completion, and try not to make a habit of it.
Now, I think I may be unintentionally bashing the salads, which I do not mean to do. They are actually pretty great, but as is the trend with restaurant salads, they can be as bad for you as anything else on the menu, with all their cheeses and fries and the dressings are just LOADED with fat, and then throw in grilled meats and vegetables. It’s just a leaf-coated heart attack waiting to happen. Not Fat Head’s specifically, just all restaurant salads, particularly in Pittsburgh. If you ARE trying to eat healthfully, maybe your best bet is the Grilled Shrimp Salad, or something with grilled chicken, hold the condiments. Sorry Fat Head’s… but you know this is true! It is just not your specialty!
OK OK – you get it – it’s bad for you, blah blah blah, now I’m starting to make you feel bad for eating any food at all, let alone here, so let me reassert that the food here is DE-LISH-US! So good. SO good. There’s some common themes running throughout the menu, food items that pop up again and again, like fried eggs, interesting mayos (rosemary, hot cherry pepper), a myriad of sauces (barbecue, dark mustards, jalepeno cheddar cheese, ranch, thousand island, italian), toasted buns and buttered bread, hot pepper kraut, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Add to that all of their wing sauces, and you’ve got Fat Head’s’ sandwich palette ready to paint you almost any sandwich you want. Your only job is to read through the menu to see if they’ve got the combo you so desire.
My current favorite is the Meatless Millie, in which pierogies are the primary substance, topped with roasted red peppers, hot pepper kraut (can be delivered as plain kraut too), swiss cheese and thousand island dressing!!! You don’t understand how perfect this sandwich is made for me. I love all those things individually — a LOT. Especially the pierogies and thousand island dressing, but also the kraut and the roasted red peppers, and also the swiss cheese. So, pretty much this is a match made in heaven for me. I love it. Can’t get enough. Having problems ordering anything else. It will be the death of me.
But there’s all sorts of other good things here too. Everyone seems to have the one sandwich they are obsessed with at the moment, so I am not really sure how to go about recommending things other than to say you have to reach deep down to what toppings make you happiest and hope that they’ve got something on the menu as perfect for you as the Meatless Millie is for me. I have friends who swear by the Steak & Hot Sausage Sub, the Mojo Chicken Sub, and the Carribean Killer sauce, either on the sandwich or the wings (supa-hot!). BTW, the wings are also pretty darn good, and can be chargrilled, which I highly recommend. Different, tasty, worth a try. As I recall the wings have a grilled component even when fried as normal, so give them a go if you are into wings at all. They have a pretty good deal on Mondays, 40-cent wings. I think their Salt & Vinegar ones are cool, mostly because that isn’t really commonly offered. They also have buffalo shrimp, which is what you think it is, and is one of those dishes that is newly showing up everywhere and is one brilliant freakin idea. I actually haven’t had it at Fatheads, but based on everything else I know, it is probably worth trying (I’ll do some homework and get back to you).
As much as the sandwiches shine, their sides are more risky. In particular, their potato chips, which they make on their own, have a wide amount of variability in their awesomeness. When they are good, they are sooooo soooo sooo soo so good, but they are thick cut and sometimes aren’t quite as cooked as they ought to be. I really don’t like when I get a homemade chip that’s bendy and chewy and that requires ripping action from my teeth to get a piece off. Chips should always be snapping at the bite, or if they have a heft to them, be cooked through rather than maintaining their waxiness such that a simple bite will do. I dunno – I have mixed feelings about recommending them because I get burned more often than not, but it doesn’t really matter because they make absolutely no substitutions on the chips vs. fries dimension, so if you get a sandwich that comes with chips, just hope that where they may lay is in the category of perfected.
OH MY GOD I ALMOST DIDN’T TALK ABOUT BEER! They’ve got it. A grrrrrreat selection. Great selection of IPAs, tons of stuff on tap, microbrews, and some made by their own brewery just for them. It’s awesome. Definitely, this is a great place to get a beer. And watch a game. Or, one time me and my friend were airbrushed to look like a giraffe and a tiger and we went there for a beer, and even though no one else was in a costume, no body seemed to care. Everyone was just united by the awesomeness of their beer! Oh, by the way it was Halloween. That is relevant.
Also, remember that sandwich I first ever had that I was talking about in the intro with the sausage and the pierogies n@? It is called The Southside Slopes Headwich, and according to the menu it was apparently voted the 5th best sandwich in America, by Maxim no less. No wonder I felt like I needed a cigarette after that meal!
So bottom line: Fat Head’s cuts the mustard, not the cheese, and I think you should definitely go there. I don’t care what kind of age or socioeconomic status you are, I’m pretty sure you’ll find something satisfactory about your experience at Fat Head’s. You should especially make an effort to go if you like spicy things, love beer, or just lost 10 pounds and want a reward meal. Just know that this place is no secret, so you may have to wait for a table. Almost all the time. But it is worth it, so go go go! And if you are planning on running for president someday, don’t let anyone take any pics of you eating the FUCK out of that sandwich!
Anything that tickles your taste buds
Try the wings if you are into that sort of thing
I am concerned about their chips
At the Pittsburgh location (they’ve got another in Cleaveland), you can get 6-packs and growlers, so if you love good beer like I do, and you live closer to Fatheads than you are to D’s or Sharp Edge, that is awesome news.