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Fat Matt's Rib Shack

1811 Piedmont Avenue NE, Atlanta, GA - (404) 607-1622
Posted By Mike Stroud on 6/1/2011 9:20:00 AM
Atlanta is chock-full of restaurants of every conceivable cuisine and price range. But when it comes to Southern classics like barbecue, visitors might need to do a little roadwork, getting off the beaten paths of Buckhead and Downtown. One such place is located at the upper edge of Midtown, near Piedmont Park. The name alone is luscious: Fat Matt's Rib Shack. Housed in a flat, tiny old Krispy Kreme donuts building, the Rib Shack seeks to bring a bit of the old Mississippi Delta and Southside Chicago to the "New South's" undisputed capital.

The meat of choice is charcoal ribs, and the music of the house is strictly blues. Some purists are likely to carp that the place does not technically serve barbecue since, in their minds, hard hickory or oak burned over the course of hours is the only way to cook pork. If one can get over that nicety, he or she will be in for a treat. But first, patrons have to stand in a long line that goes well out the door, especially on weekend nights. Except for impatient types (who need to stick to fast food in the first place), that is itself a good sign of good things to come.

Inside, tables are jammed close in; expect to sit close with strangers and maybe get friendly with them (during the warm months, some outside tables are available for al fresco 'cue). The menu is limited but to the point: slabs of ribs, rib "sandwiches" (three ribs and two slices of white bread), rum-spiked baked beans (specialty of the house), chopped pork sandwiches, Georgia-style Brunswick Stew, barbecued chicken, sweet potato or pecan pie, lemonade, sweet tea, and, of course, beer. Trust this reviewer, one doesn't need anything else.

This reviewer likes the rib sandwich, with three fibrous but delectable hunks of pure porky goodness. Much like at the legendary Rendezvous and some people's backyards, the charcoal lends a more intense carbon sense to the palate than does hickory. The tomato-based sauce is on the hot side and rather sharp, perfect for dipping, rather than dumping on the meat.

The beans won't set an alcoholic off, but one can taste the rum, especially since the sauce is so thin (lower on the ketchup than the beans at most barbecue places generally). Sides like collard greens (cooked with a touch of sugar, believe it or not) and macaroni and cheese seal the meal as a true comfort-food winner.

Fat Matt's doubles as a hangout for area blues music fanciers. The acts are all local and the only "cover" is a tip jar passed around during the set. Music lovers who don't have the stamina to stay up all night like college kids will appreciate the fact that the shows generally start early, around 8 or so.

If one wants "authenticity," Fat Matt's is probably not for him or her. But if one simply wants good, unpretentious Southern-style fare in a fun setting, the Rib Shack will surely please.

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Scorecard

4 - Overall: One of the Best - Worth a Trip
Overall: One of the Best - Worth a Trip
rib slab
brunswick stew
Rib Slab (1/2)
rum baked beans
Rib sandwich
pork sandwich
barbecued chicken
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Reviewers Photos [Upload Your Photos]

A half-slab of Fat Matt's ribs.  They sure did look good, but lacked smoky flavor.
"A half-slab of Fat Matt's ribs. They sure did look good, but lacked smoky flavor."
Cliff Strutz





Fat Matt's Brunswick stew is thick and contains thin shreds of pork, corn, and plenty of Matt's BBQ sauce.
"Fat Matt's Brunswick stew is thick and contains thin shreds of pork, corn, and plenty of Matt's BBQ sauce."
Cliff Strutz


We thought the pork itself was ordinary, but the sandwich was greatly elevated by the excellent sweet and hot BBQ sauce.  The rum-laced baked beans were the best of the sides we tried.
"We thought the pork itself was ordinary, but the sandwich was greatly elevated by the excellent sweet and hot BBQ sauce. The rum-laced baked beans were the best of the sides we tried."
Cliff Strutz


Fat Matt's calling cards are several here: thick but tender (and well-marbled) ribs, Southern collard greens, baked beans with a shot of rum, and the sharp and hot in-house barbecue sauce.  Sweet tea, lemonade, or an ice-cold brew are the beverages of choice for this good-tasting and filling plate.
"Fat Matt's calling cards are several here: thick but tender (and well-marbled) ribs, Southern collard greens, baked beans with a shot of rum, and the sharp and hot in-house barbecue sauce. Sweet tea, lemonade, or an ice-cold brew are the beverages of choice for this good-tasting and filling plate."
Mike Stroud


Not for the claustrophobic, Fatt Matt's interior is a shrine to blues music, which blares from the small stage (concealed) in the back every night.  That
"Not for the claustrophobic, Fatt Matt's interior is a shrine to blues music, which blares from the small stage (concealed) in the back every night. That "Mount Rushmore" mural on the back wall has famous blues musicians rather than dead presidents on it. As can be seen here, seating is at a premium, so come out early."
Mike Stroud


The nondescript, 60s-style building of Fat Matt's Rib Shack in northeast Atlanta once housed, believe it or not, Krispy Kreme Donuts ages ago.  Look closely and one can see the line going out the door on this early Saturday evening.
"The nondescript, 60s-style building of Fat Matt's Rib Shack in northeast Atlanta once housed, believe it or not, Krispy Kreme Donuts ages ago. Look closely and one can see the line going out the door on this early Saturday evening."
Mike Stroud



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