The Southern road trip is an iconic experience. The potential for great discovery is just around the next bend in the road. And in the South one must always keep an eye out for good barbecue. Driving through Prattville, Alabama last week, a barbeque establishment called to me for exploration: Fat Boy’s Bar-b-que Ranch. With a name like that they had better be ready to bring it.
Fat Boy’s embraces their “ranch” theme with a fence and ranch gate. And while that sort of thing can be fun, one must be wary of too much focus on the gimmick and not enough on the meat. Thankfully, Fat Boy’s tends to business.
Sampler platters are handy when trying out a new place. Assured at the counter there was enough for two, my brother-in-law and I ordered the Fat Boy’s Favorite to split: a rib, pulled pork, brisket, sausage, chicken and turkey. For sides we chose beans (good), potato salad (fine), and Brunswick stew (excellent).
A highlight were the hushpuppies offered instead of the default white bread. Hush puppies are a Southern staple and fit well with barbecue. They ought to be offered more frequently. Fat Boy’s puppies came out hot and tasted just right. Order them.
But while attention to sides is important, if the meat’s not up to par nothing else matters. Fat Boy’s hits home runs with their pulled pork, which is flavorful and moist without being soggy, the brisket, and, for me, a surprise: the smoked sausage. The sausage was flavorful, worthy of your attention when you visit.
I’m not a particular fan of barbequed fowl, and while the chicken and turkey were fine, they didn’t overcome my barbeque prejudices. A traditional Alabama white sauce would be a welcome offering, though.
For me the crown jewel of barbeque is pork ribs. And at least for this visit, I was disappointed. The rib was meaty, but not quite as tender as I would have liked, not lively. Granted, we had only one rib to try; a wider sample might change my opinion, and perhaps a return visit is in order as the other meats were done well.
Fat Boy’s house sauce was a bit of a surprise. It was tomato based with a sweetness to it uncommon in Alabama sauces. The ingredients listed pineapple juice, which seems to be the secret. I tend to prefer a vinegar based sauce, but the Fat Boy’s sauce was flavorful. A hot version of the sauce might be worth considering. (there was Tabasco on the table).
If you find yourself in the neighborhood of Prattville Fat Boy’s Bar-b-que Ranch certainly is worth a stop. It’s a few minutes off I-65, but not far enough to deter you. Make sure you try the smoked sausage and the hushpuppies.