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Friday, August 1, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 64.0° F  Light Rain
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Fat Sandwich Company is wacky and bland at the same time
Tastes like ketchup!
Credit:Linda Falkenstein

The sole decoration, really, is a wall mural consisting entirely of the large letters B-A-D-G-E-R-S, and of course the color scheme is red and white. The latest storefront in the three-outlet franchise called Fat Sandwich Company moved into the former Lovshack space on lower State Street right before the fall semester started. The other outlets are also near colleges - in Champaign, Ill. and Norman, Okla. - and the whole vibe is lowest-common-denominator, stuff-your-face, undergrad fun food, with a dash of frat boy thrown in to season the mix. Napkins consist of paper towel rolls sitting on the table.

Looking at the menu at Fat Sandwich in the same week that Michael Pollan was on campus to discuss his In Defense of Food, a book about better eating practices suggested for campus-wide reading, was ironic - maybe even surreal. If Pollan took one look at the FSC menu, I think his head would explode.

But I have to underline this: I went into Fat Sandwich Company with high hopes. I'm an American. I'm from Wisconsin. I like junk food as much as the next guy! I like jalapeño poppers, mozzarella sticks, cheese curds and macaroni and cheese - very much so. Maybe just not all piled together into a chewy sub bun and topped with ranch dressing, which is an option here. (Well, the "Fat Cheesehead" includes all of those ingredients except the jalapeño poppers, which could be added for $1.50.) So while this is obviously gross, there is a possibility that it might be tasty, the way Ian's mac 'n' cheese pizza is tasty, if not exactly health food.

Tasty, though, is not a word that springs to mind while chowing down on a Fat sub. And that's a problem. Sure, as a humorless feminist of course I find the naming of one sub "The Fat Sorostitute" and another "The Fat Milf" offensive. But I might be able to overlook that if the food was actually fun. Or, it would be easier to look the other way if the food was even acceptable.

First off, all subs come with a serving of french fries piled into the bun as the last ingredient. We started out sampling "The Fat Idiot," a chicken cheesesteak with bacon, jalapeño poppers, mayo and ketchup on an Amoroso roll, the heavy Philly bun that is the home to authentic Philly cheesesteaks. After we unpiled the fries so we could see what was going on under the hood, so to speak, the chicken cheesesteak was a thin tasteless layer, the jalapeño poppers not spicy - even the bacon seemed flavorless. The Idiot, to the extent that it tasted at all, tasted of the ketchup.

The Fat Falafel, with a spreading of fried chickpea material, tzatziki sauce (in name only), lettuce, tomato and onion, was also bland. The fries - soggy from being stuffed into the sub and also without taste (and cold) - didn't help this one out, either. A variant falafel sub (you can build your own sub from any of Fat's ingredients) with pickles and peppers tasted mostly of the pickles. The flavor of the Fat Tailgate (cheeseburger, mini-corndogs, ketchup and mustard) again defaulted to the ketchup.

It might be wisest to stick with plainer menu items. The Fat Brat, with just a brat, onion rings, sauerkraut and mustard, wasn't bad. Or choose a regular Philly cheesesteak. That's if you are committed to eating at Fat (and it's a popular spot in the early hours of the morning).

To cement its gonzo rep, Fat also serves burgers and chicken patty sandwiches on glazed doughnut buns. To please - I don't know, sorostitutes? - it has a handful of salads (garden, Caesar, chicken Caesar, chef). They're not likely to appeal to the demographic that would order the $25 "Big Fat Ugly," which comes on two rolls and piles on cheeseburger patties, cheesesteak, chicken cheesesteak, gyro meat, bacon, get the idea. Good times.

"This is food for people who are, or are about to be, drunk," one of my dining companions declared. I asked my fellow guinea pigs to come up with one positive thing to say about their meals. The consensus? "It's pretty terrible. I can't think of anything."

We didn't take home the leftovers.

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