Zak Pelaccio’s Pop-Up Ham Restaurant: Fatty Johnson’s
We're huge Zak Pelaccio fans, whether he's laying out the funky Malaysian flavors at the Fatty Crab Restaurant (either location; they're both great), or serving us plates of smoky delights at the excellent Fatty 'Cue in Brooklyn, or throwing a tongue-taco party (also: other Mexican dishes) every night at Cabrito. The sad news: Pelaccio closed Cabrito a few weeks ago. The amazing news: in its place Pelaccio opened the amazing Fatty Johnson's, a limited-time-only ham-centric restaurant that gets just about everything exactly right. As always with a Fatty establishment, this stuff is not for the timid of palate (or for those on a low-salt diet), but if you like fresh ingredients and big, bold flavors, Fatty Johnson's is well worth a visit before Zak Pelaccio shuts it down for renovation/re-creation in a month or so.
The heart of Zak Pelaccio's Fatty Johnson menu is all about ham, with nightly specials that are also often heavily hammed. We've tried five dishes, and loved every bite of everything. The Crusty Hot Loaf is a bit breakfast-for-dinner, but still, this is first-rate comfort food, a tower of crusty, buttery bread erupting with salty house ham, yolky eggs, and a nice sharp cheddar. A wonderful mess of a meal. Also a must is the Fatty Johnson's Chicken Soup, not at all like Grandma made, thick with just-made noodles, hacked chicken, leaves of Brussels sprouts, lots of crushed up sour pork sausage, all in a sinus-clearing chili, ginger, and schmaltz broth.
The specials have been equally terrific. One night we wolfed an intensely piggy Pork Pate Sandwich at Zak Pelaccio's Fatty Johnson, garnished with crunchy endive, creamy gribiche, and served, brilliantly, on a soft, salty pretzel roll. The bowl of Gnocchi maybe pushed the saltiness just a bit too far, but we'd order it again in a heartbeat, the pasta soft (but not gummy) and potato-y, generously tossed with chunks of smoked-up ham, topped with truffle and cheddar, everything shiny and sticky with Breton ham broth. Also superb was sweet side of Turnips, which came pureed and in bite-sized pieces, again glazed in that Breton broth.
Fatty Johnson's also features an innovative booze program, with a different guest mixologist popping in every night or so to stir (and shake) up his or her signature slate of cocktails. The room is loud and casual, and while there is, as always in a Zak Pelaccio place, a definite hipster edge to the proceedings, the staff is friendly and welcoming. It's unclear how much longer Fatty Johnson's will be open–there will be a Fatty-something there, but no one knows exactly what, yet–but one thing is certain: we'll be satisfying our ham cravings as often as we can while it lasts.
Fatty Johnson's Details:
Chef Zak Pelaccio's limited-time-only ham restaurant Fatty Johnson's is located on Carmine Street between Bleecker and Bedford, and is open for dinner every day from 5:00 p.m. until 12:00 midnight, and for drinks until 2:00 a.m. The Fatty Johnson website has limited information, but the Grub Street post has a PDF of a sample Fatty Johnson's menu.