Fat Bob’s Smokehouse has become a beloved Allentown destination.
For those old enough to remember, it was once the short-lived Babalu. Look closely and you’ll see a few relics in FB’s décor, like the tiki hut/bridge above the main bar, metal shack ceiling and bamboo slats on bathroom doors. The rest is a fun episode of American Pickers (old signs, license plates, pictures, et al.), dressed up with gingham checks.
Located on the one-way Virginia Place (not Virginia Street), the “slightly-bigger-than-an-alleyway” has parking on both sides. Grab the first available spot, otherwise take another spin around the block, or park on another street.
Friend Joe readily accepted my Friday happy hour invite with, “I love Fat Bob’s.”
Who doesn’t when the lure is drinks and fat food?
Stepping inside we let the sweet, smoky smell envelope us and headed to the bar, plopping onto stools with a relaxing sigh. (To my delight I located hooks under the bar for purses.)
What goes best with barbecue? Beer. And FB’s has lots of it, including a huge variety of craft bottles. There are too many to list, and they change because there was a “3/29” date at the top of our menu. Drafts are readily available, too: Blue Point Spring Fling, Magic Hat, Southern Tier Brewery, Sam Adams, Troegs Nugget Nektar, Pyramid Weiss Cream, Dogfish Head, Guinness, Flying Bison … you get the idea. And yes, there are good old American beers too as well as limited release fruit beers, ciders and lemonades. Wine and mixed drinks round out the menu.
Joe went with a basic draft. A sucker for margaritas, I ordered a BobArita (a tequila and Grand Marnier concoction) from the specialty cocktail menu. Normally $8, it was $4 during happy hour. Unfortunately our bartender charged us regular prices. Once we pointed it out, he apologized and rectified by giving us the next round.
FB’s is a great hangout. The sundry music (did I hear Katy Perry and Blondie?) keeps a hum but isn’t overpowering. The crowd was mixed, too, and mostly low-key except for one guy randomly yelling “whooo” like a TV commercial! Perhaps pork smoke has that effect.
There are flat-screen TVs for sports enthusiasts, dartboards for the fidgety and a giant fish tank (another Babalu relic) for marine biologists. Above the bar, John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe, Sam Adams and The Most Interesting Man in the World cutouts keep tabs on patrons.
I enjoyed the show next to me – a big guy with tats, Mohawk and piercings in a Detroit Red Wings shirt devouring a BBQ sandwich with the biggest sweet potato fries (wedges) I’ve ever seen. He offered one, but I declined as we planned to order, too.
The special bar menu offers fabulous selections half off during happy hour (except wings). It was a tough call. In the end it was sliders (pulled pork and beef brisket), barbecue smoked chicken wings and poutine (fries drowned in Cajun gravy, bacon, onion and melted cheese). Fat, fatter and fattest, served with a six-pack of Fat Bob’s barbecue sauces and a napkin dispenser. Is there really anything better when imbibing a few?
It was then I noticed the neon “Porky’s” sign above the bar. Homage to the pulled pork palace we were in? The 1980s cult classic flick? The name of the giant pig statue at the door? How we’d feel after polishing off the poutine?
Who cares? The weekend had begun and Fat Bob’s was phat.
Fat Bob’s Smokehouse
Where: 41 Virginia Place (887-2971, wwww.fatbobs.com)
The Scene: Low and slow. Shabby chic Texas décor with a smoky Southern BBQ aroma.
Attire: After work, after hours, after a visit to Goodwill. It’s all good.
Happy hour: 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday with $2.50 domestic beer bottles; $2 domestic drafts; $2.50 bar drinks, half-price specialty cocktail menu; $2.50 house wine. Half-price bar menu (except wings).
Hours: Kitchen opens at 11:30 a.m. and serves until 10 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, to 11 p.m. Thursday and to midnight Friday; 2 p.m. to midnight Saturdays and 3:30 to 10 p.m. Sunday. Bar stays open later.
Wheelchair access: Yes