Months and months before Fat Maggie’s actually opened, my husband had read an article about a new restaurant serving burgers and craft beer in the Dixieland district. We drove down South Florida Avenue, peering down each and every side street in and around the Dixieland Mall, searching for this magical place. We didn’t see any construction, we didn’t see any signs. Ultimately, we just gave up. Too good to be true, I supposed.
Then, one morning on my way to daycare, when my eyes should have been on the speedometer in that section of town, they were caught, instead, by a reddish house-like building that rose up and disappeared almost instantly as I passed Hunter Street. That, I thought, was it. Finally.
Tucked away behind the Dixieland Mall, Fat Maggie’s sits inside the shade of a tall oak tree, draped in Spanish Moss. Outdoor seating consists of wooden picnic tables and a surrounding porch with a built-in bar and accompanying stools. Inside, the restaurant’s rusticity reminds me of Vermont, my second-favorite state in the nation. Americana stars adorn the walls and only six or seven tables rest on the dark wood floors, and each table is home to its own unique set of antique salt-and-pepper shakers. (On our last trip, right around Thanksgiving, ours were turkeys.) A rectangular serving window trimmed in white gives patrons a peek into the bustling kitchen. Bands like Mumford and Sons, the Civil Wars, and Bon Iver play quietly above the sound of clinking silverware and the hum of hushed discussion.
And the food. Oh, the food! There’s pulled pork and brisket, Build-a-Sammi options that offer a variety of meats and include toppings like fried jalapenos, candied bacon and beer cheese. (Beer and cheese as one item? Yes, please.) And, I’m sorry, did I mention candied bacon? If you’ve never had candied bacon, please take yourself to Fat Maggie’s. Right. Now.
For the kids, there’s a “Little Pups” menu that includes things like mac & cheese, mini corn dogs, pulled pork sandwiches, and chicken tenders, along with a generous list of sides. (My daughter said the asparagus was the best she’s ever eaten, and she knows her asparagus.)
For the craft beer lover (that’s me!), the selection at Fat Maggie’s includes breweries like Cigar City, Oskar Blues, and Sixpoint. There’s always something new to try — check the chalkboard when you get there so that you have plenty of time to make an informed decision.
Perhaps my favorite thing about Fat Maggie’s is that it lends itself to almost any occasion: early lunch with the kids, dinner on date night, or an afternoon of beer and appetizers with a former student before he takes a year-long trip to Australia. (And, isn’t it fun when your former students are old enough to order a Jai Alai with you? I think so.) Even the clientele varies wildly at each table, from the wise older ladies in the corner to the young tattooed couple beside the door. (If you’re really lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of the Brian Sutherland Trio stopping in for a bite before their evening engagements.) Because the truth is, everyone loves good food and an atmosphere that is quaint, quiet, and familiar.