Last week a friend and I decided to check out NYC’s newest pop-up restaurant, Fatty Johnson’s – a temporary spot in the West Village. Being my first time eating out this year, I was really excited to eat food I didn’t prepare. Especially if it was prepared by the Fatty Crew, the geniuses behind Fatty Crab and Fatty ‘Cue – one of my favorite restaurants in the city.
As a bonus I’d get to say hello to Maverick who was guest bartending for the evening. That’s the deal with this Fatty Crew pop-up – the menu and the bartenders change daily, making every night a little surprise.
Surprise! I hated it.
As a cook, I don’t get to eat out more than once (maybe twice) a week. So I feel like I’ve been robbed when the experience goes south. And this experience started to go south within the first sip.
Since I was paying over a 30% mark-up on cocktails I enjoy regularly at my favorite local bar, I decided to go for something new and bold – the “Fig Ur It Out” a whiskey drink with fig jam, ginger syrup, lemon juice, and egg white. And guess what? I hated it.
It tasted like whiskey and ginger with an extra shot of ginger. I felt like a total asshole sending it back since one of my best friends was behind the bar and probably made it. But I did it anyway because it cost $14. With a new drink in hand, it was time to pay attention to the menu.
New problem. Nothing, I mean not one dish on the menu appealed to me. It’s not the chef’s fault that most of the dishes just happened to be things I’d been testing/cooking/tasting for the past month – fried chicken, burgers, pasta, and a variety of egg dishes or dishes topped with eggs. I was so sick of all of these things even the thought of them made my stomach turn. There was only one thing in which I was even remotely interested – the Fatty “Cue Ham and Cheese Hot Sammy with JJ’s hot mustard and melted Scharfe Maxx.
Another problem. I loathe Scharfe Maxx cheese. I think it smells and tastes like dirty feet and, in my mind, would totally overpower the deliciousness of the Fatty ‘Cue Ham. So I kindly asked if the chef could substitute it for the Montgomery Cheddar on the Crusty Hot Loaf sandwich.
The server asked. The chef said no.
He claimed “the team takes a lot of time creating these dishes and doesn’t want to compromise the dish.”
My response was, “I’ll just have the potatoes.”
What I wanted to say was, “Really?!?!?! Get over yourself. You’re not Eric Ripert and this isn’t the octopus dish. It’s a freaking ham sandwich. I’m the customer. And you’re a total ass hat.”
Anyway, at Maverick’s request I ended up ordering the burger. It was good but came about 10 minutes before my friend’s sandwich which I thought was weird and just a one-off because we ordered at different times (though I added my burger after her order). But the couple next to us complained about it too. By the time one of them got their pasta (which they had to send back because it was too salty) the other had already finished her main course.
There are no small plates. It’s just elevated bar food. So what’s the deal with not bringing everyone’s food out at once or within a reasonable amount of time for that matter? Maybe I was just hung up on the cheese thing but it totally bugged me.
Obviously, I’m still hung up on the cheese thing.
As someone who spends at least 50% of my day dreaming about various food/flavor/texture combinations and trying to create perfect dishes, I understand how much time and energy goes into it. It’s personal. But it’s personal to ME.
At the end of the day, I’m in the service business and even though it hurts my feelings when someone doesn’t like my food, it’s my job to make people happy. I could serve what I think is the best dish I’ve ever created. But at the end of the day, if my customer doesn’t leave happy, I have failed.
When it was all said and done, I paid $50 for a drink I had to return, a good cheeseburger, some really fattening fries, and a half-scoop of decent chocolate ice cream.
I left unhappy. Fatty Johnson’s failed.