Chef Kevin Sbraga’s new restaurant, The Fat Ham, is slated to open this Friday, December 6th in University City. Last night, my husband Vincent and I were fortunate enough to attend Friends and Family Night where we experienced the real deal in contemporary Southern food at an unlikely location on Philadelphia’s Left Bank.
Located at 3131 Walnut Street, The Fat Ham is Kevin Sbraga’s second restaurant; his top rated, flagship restaurant, Sbraga, located on Broad Street opened in 2011. Ben Fileccia, the general manager of Sbraga, has brought his leadership talents to the other side of the Schuylkill.
The Fat Ham is a relaxed and cozy, 44 – seat space that boasts wood topped tables, eclectic seating and subway tiles that form unique wall art – the fat ham. Other distinctive touches are the whiskey barrels for aging cocktails in the bar area and the servers’ plaid shirts, which add to the homey feel.
The bottle of The Fat Ham hot sauce on each table – made in house, of course – is a sign of the pleasant spiciness to the fare. The bread, a corn biscuit in true Southern style, had just the right touch of sugar, allowing the natural sweetness of the corn to take center stage. As there are no main courses, the more than helpful (and able to navigate a small space with agility) waitstaff recommends that each guest order three dishes, which are served family style and intended for sharing.
We started with a salad of mustard greens with benne (sesame) seeds, peanuts and hot vinegar dressing. This refreshing, light salad packed a subtle heat in its vinegar dressing. We then enjoyed the “Fat Ham Board” of bacon, ham, chicken liver and terrine paired with pickled vegetables and toasted bread points. The chicken liver was among the best I have had; according to my husband, it was as creamy as an iced cream.
Then came the star, the “Hot Chicken” on white bread with ranch dressing and dill pickles. We chose the dark meat option and were pleased with the juiciness of the meat and the crunchiness of the breading. The heat from this dish was tempered by the white bread and ranch dressing. The collard greens with ham hocks and pot liquor were next. The ham was shredded after it was cooked down, and the whole combination was melt in your mouth comfort food.
Then came the crispy fried green tomatoes with buttermilk horseradish and the smoked lamb belly with cola sauce, green beans and tomatoes. The lamb was sinful…the rendered lamb fat and cola sauce made for a decadent finale. Finale to the savory dishes, that is. For dessert, we ordered the banana pudding doughnut with spiced sugar. The experience of having the doughnut dissolve on your tongue, leaving the banana pudding behind, is one that I highly recommend.
There is no doubt that the warm feel and tasty menu items, not to mention the very reasonable prices, will appeal to students and university employees as well as Philadelphians and visitors looking for a flair of the South in the City of Brotherly Love.