Chicago Cubs fans know that pang of disappointment that comes from dashed hopes of glorious victory. These loyal swarms are all too familiar with the agony of defeat (the Cubs are currently sub-500 for the seaon). But Indy-area Cubs fans, take heart and point yourself toward Fat Dan’s Chicago-style Deli in South Broad Ripple.
On Facebook, Fat Dan’s calls itself a “hot dog joint–fast food restaurant–burger restaurant.” On that account, its selling itself short. I would not call Fat Dan’s fast food in the same way that McDonald’s is fast food. It’s good food served relatively quickly. We recently had a mid-afternoon lunch at Fat Dan’s in honor of my husband’s birthday. He’s a big Cubs fan and the restaurant was his choice.
It was a beautiful Friday afternoon. Sunny and warm without being hot, thanks in part to a nice breeze. The couple of sidewalk tables that sit outside the restaurant were full, so we took our seats at a round table near the open garage door turned front window. A picture of who I presumed to be Fat Dan himself looked down from the wall, though I’m not sure he actually deserves his nickname. The decor is casual and definitely pays homage to Chicago, not just the Cubs, but the Blackhawks and Bears as well. There are even a few nods to local Indy favorites, namely the Butler University Bulldogs and the Indiana University Hoosiers.
Fat Dan’s does not stand on ceremony. We ordered burgers, fries, a Chicago dog and chicken wings, none of which was served on an actual plate. Nor were they delivered to the table on trays. Instead, our server deftly carried much of our order on a large piece of butcher paper hammocked between her hands. The fries — two orders served together — came the same way. For some reason this delivery method fascinated me, so much so that I asked the server if she minded if I took her picture while she was carrying another order. She didn’t mind. I didn’t really expect her to. She was easy going and likable.
Also likable were the chicken wings I ordered. I was a little unsure because the wings are made dry-rubbed, not dripping in messy sauce (that comes on the side). I’d never had dry-rubbed wings before. They were delicious. Though one or two pieces were a little too fried on the ends, most of them were perfectly crispy with just the right amount of seasoning on the outside. And the inside? I’ve never had chicken wings where the meat fell away from the bone so easily. They were definitely a home run.
My youngest son ordered a side of macaroni and cheese, which was not some lame scoop of Kraft blue box pasta. It was hearty, cheesy, real mac-n-cheese. My husband and the other two kids had cheeseburgers — FatBurgers, officially — that came wrapped in paper to catch any falling condiments. As for the fries, the next time I’ll use the 5 Guys rule of thumb…one order is enough. Not knowing how generous the portions would be, we ordered two sides of fries, which served all five us and still left enough to take home.
Whether or not the Cubs stand up to the collective wishes of its fans, Fat Dan’s Deli does.