Thursday, October 18, 2012

Fette Sau

1208 Frankford Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19125
(215) 391-4888

The long awaited Philadelphia transplant of the infamous Brooklyn BBQ joint Fette Sau (meaning fat pig in German) has finally arrived. This location happens to be next door to Frankford Hall, and also happens to be owned by the one-and-only Starr Restaurant Group.

Although I traditionally try not to review on opening night (not to mention I had already eaten a dinner full of $1 tacos hours earlier), I couldn’t help but wander down for a beer and some meat. And sides. And potato rolls.

The interior is incredibly spacious, with a mixture of industrial-meets-BBQ shack decor that suits the hipster capital in which it is located nicely.

Menu items are priced by the pound, and although not cheap, there are ways to eat well for a reasonable price. The more affordable sides are not to be missed.

When you walk up, you are greeted by a case filled with various meats. Be warned, the short rib is served at a minimum of a half pound, because you get a bone with every order, which puts it around $15. That being said, it’s probably the best fifteen bucks you have spent in a while.

Brisket and pork belly are sliced to order behind the counter.

As I was not that hungry, I went with a half pound of pulled pork, a quarter pound of pork belly (3 slices), two potato rolls ($.35 a piece), a small potato salad, and a small order of half sour pickles.

The pork was delicious. Slow-smoked with much of the fat rendered out, it had a nice smoky flavor. Pieces of bark were interlaced with the meat, which SHOULD be the norm at any self respecting BBQ joint.

Now truth be told, I am very demanding of my BBQ, as it is one of my specialties, and nothing in Philly REALLY sparks my interest. This place was doing the trick. I know there will be backlash of, "but it’s Starrr... bleh, blah, blah, its too expensive, its too fancy, bleh," etc. Well the thing is, really good BBQ isn’t cheap. It takes a LONG time to do it correctly, and these man hours add up. So shut up, and enjoy the food without coming in already prejudiced against it.

The pork belly was delicious as well, with a glistening vein of rich pork fat, a beautiful crust, and a perfect deep pink smoke ring. It literally melted when it hit my tongue. Let's just say I was a BIG fan of the pork products.

The potato salad was great, specked with whole mustard seed, and coated with a creamy, slightly tangy, light (enough) dressing.

I have an extreme liking of half sours, and these were no exception. Especially when sliced into coins and piled on top of a pulled pork sandwich of my own design. Three sauces were offered, one vinegar (good), one traditional (also good), and one chipotle
(terrible). Stick with the two originals and you can’t go wrong. Did I mention they serve Martin's potato rolls for $.35 a piece? Also a must have in this scenario.

Now, as can be expected, I went heavy on the pork, but a friend that accompanied me went heavy on the beef. Which was just fine with me. We were interested in trying a bit of everything.

The short ribs, while expensive, were absolutely delicious, a “must order” in my opinion. A little goes a long way with this over the top, smoke and fat rich meatstravaganza. Again, the bark was terrific, and the meat glistened with rendered deliciousness.

Just look at this tender pull-apart-ability.

The brisket was pretty damn good too, with a rich, velvety line of fat running throughout. Not the most tender rendition I have had.

The burnt ends baked beans were among the best I have ever had. If you order nothing else, you must get these. Smokey, rich, loaded with beef, the complexity is only matched by the richness. This is a meal unto itself.

Cold broccoli salad was a red pepper flecked, vinegar-based side that was a take it or leave proposition.

After you order your food at the counter, but before you retire to the seat-yourself picnic style arrangements around the restaurant, you can stop and grab a beer or bourbon at the bar, which is highly recommended, not required. Local microbrews are on tap, all at $6/pint and served in ball jars. < Hipster heaven.

The art/interior decor itself is interesting, and not overly contrived. It would obviously be better if it had been here for decades, but with any luck it will.

This is going to be the kind of place people love or hate. Or love to hate. Or hate to love. But for me, it’s probably my favorite BBQ I have experienced to date at a restaurant in the city, and I will continue to stuff my face with various meat products and over indulgent sides and love every minute of it.


Sherm said...

Wow, that all looks awesome. I agree 100% that people need to think of the time and care that goes into quality BBQ when looking at the prices. The processes involved are as-if not more-intensive and time-consuming than those employed in a fancy restaurant. Add to that the price of real estate, liquor license, etc. and it begins to look more like a good deal.

A and J said...

Loved the review! Didn't realize it was by the pound/counter ordering. Ribs, pickles, baked beans-- noted.

Pedro said...

Not an expert, but isn't most barbeque a *time*- but not labor-intensive proposition?

Because those prices do strike me as excessive.

Anonymous said...

Procuring the meat, making a rub, seasoning meat, resting it, stoking the fire, and achieving and then retaining the proper smoking temperature for an extended period of time (appx. 16hrs for pulled pork, 20hrs for brisket) after which you must again let it rest, and then pull or slice it. Ask anyone who has made real BBQ and they will laugh when asked if its labor intensive.

Pedro said...

I'm not saying there is no labor, but as far as intensity goes, that doesn't really sound as if it holds a patch on a standard restaurant kitchen. Beginning and end are standard prep, rest of it is what I have trouble judging - are you saying a highly skilled professional stands by the pit for the duration, either actively engaged in the process or poised to do so in a tenterhooked agony of intent? Because, if not, then I still feel the prices are out of line.

Philly Phoodie said...

I fail to see the lack of correlation between time and price. Are diamonds not time intensive? All it takes is some carbon and a hole in the ground (loose interpretation). As a BBQ veteran, I would have to agree with anonymous. I think all things considered, its worth the money. I haven't had one friend tell me otherwise (yet).

Pedro said...

Diamonds are expensive as a result of scarcity (well, that and, you know, *shiny*). That a foodstuff takes time to prepare only impacts cost if a) that limits supply, or b) preparation incurs labor or another non-fixed cost. Of course, perceived value doesn't have much to do with any of that - it's largely subjective, since most patrons have only the vaguest notion of restaurant economics.

Fette Sau's prices strike me as high compared to other high quality barbeque elsewhere. But that's Starr for you - usually pretty good, always a bit overpriced.

Jones said...

Is scarcity the thing where something is rare because it takes a trillion hours to make it. Could good barbecue exhibit such "scarcity"? Seems perhaps this argument should be forwarded to Starr; maybe they charge so much because no one has explained to them how their prices are based on improper use of basic economic theory...

Credit to the author who pointed out that people was gonna hate because it was Starr. Some kind of hatred to make you post multiple times even though it's that predictable.

Tom said...

Nice review! I look forward to trying their Q. I have been a competitive BBQer for many years and I can tell ya... it is labor intensive! But these prices are a bit steep. Hope the quality of food over shadows the $$$. Nice pics too.


Anonymous said...

If you check out the original Brooklyn restaurant's website, you'll see the prices are lower there.

Anonymous said...

Fette Sau is amazing and as for price, you get what you pay for. And yes, they procure only the highest quality meat from vendors across the US, make their own sausages, sides and beer, and smoke thier owon meats.

Philly Phoodie said...

If you check the most comparable BBQ spot in Philly, Percy Street, you will see the prices are nearly identical per pound. Haters gonna hate. . .

Scott from Mermaid said...

doing BBQ right is absolutely labor intensive... I can't exactly speak for a restaurant style electronically controlled pit (which I imagine makes things a little easier), but the difference in quality comes from actually paying attention to what you're doing. Its not exactly prep+time+heat=BBQ, or everybody would be doing it well... and they just aren't.

Meatball Valentine said...

heading over here on friday night. appreciate the photos, and the review, making me very hungry!

Pedro said...

"Hate"? Look, the post that points out that the prices are lower at the original location, if correct, says everything that needs to be said, given the cost of doing business in Philly vs. NY. It's good 'cue, I get it. But it's pricier than it needs to be - which may be true of Percy Street, though I suspect the rent on their location is much, much higher, which may account for some of it.

boleroid said...

if it makes you guys feel any better about paying more for the food, in the brooklyn location getting a table can be a very stressful ordeal (i'm waiting in line, will a seat be available when i finally get my food and pay? etc.). but the philly location is "incredibly spacious" and honestly i doubt the website gets updated daily with market prices on the meat anyway.
just chill and enjoy some good bbq.

Fat Head Carl said...

If you don't like the prices, go some place else, and get lesser food.

/Percy St for the same price is a terrible deal.

//justifying rent cost is beyond me
///saying that you don't have to pay an employee to come in to cook the product is also beyond me