Fette Sau is easier found by moonlight than by sunlight. In the evening, follow your ears; the gaggle of the forty-five-minute-queue will lead you to the darkened alley of an entrance. By day, it’s your nose that’ll show you the way. If you’re looking for the entrance, you’ll walk straight past it, twice, but the aroma of smoke and roast is a constant signpost that hangs thick in the air from a block away. You can’t miss it.
There’s a twinge of embarrassment as the big, bright sign reading “Fette Sau” clips you round the ear for being stupid. Embossed on the black night sky in electric-neon pink, it’s now more obvious than your overwhelming sense of excitement. Shuffling down that darkened, average looking alleyway, you wait for the big reveal. A right turn, a left turn, and then the restaurant shows its hand, full house, literally.
Inside, a single expansive room with an awkwardness about its shape is filled with beaten up wooden tables and benches. Every seat is taken. Ahead the serving counter stretches away from you to the back wall and then out to the left in a sort of drunken 'L' shape. It’s dark, there’s a fog of wood smoke in the air, the walls are stripped back to brick and the ceiling doesn’t really exist. It feels like an underground school canteen. The first in a series of stations is a blackboard that displays today’s menu, cuts of meat against prices per pound, a handful of sides and extra bread if you want it. Next a glass-fronted counter that keeps the food warm whilst you order, piles of blackened meat stacked on top of each other inside, enjoying a quick rest on their journey from the smoker in the background to your stomach. The man in control carves the last ribs from a rack and leans over to scrub out the option with the heel of his hand. A steel tray is placed in front of us before being lined with brown paper, our order is taken, the tray filled, and we’re ushered along the line for payment.
The bar is our final stop. Twenty microbrews on draught, dispensed through taps with handles fashioned from old butchery utensils. The bourbon list is vast, the biggest I’ve seen. The barman props himself up against the back bar, he’s wearing a proud look on his face, a look that says he knows I’ll enjoy what I eat and drink before I even order from him.
Stepping back outside to find some space, greedily scoffing down the first mouthful, my suspicions are confirmed. Fette Sau is perfect. The food is delicious, the beer and bourbon are fantastic enhancements, the environment is one you experience rather than use.
I’d go back and tell the staff, but they already know.
Picture from here. Fette Sau is a BBQ restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. If you ever find yourself in the area, drop everything and go.