Who says you can't have it all? Not the folks at Fat Belly's, an "Irish" pub with the attitude — and, more importantly, the kitchen commitment — of a capable cloth napkin restaurant. We remembered liking Fat Belly's in Warwick a couple of years ago, so when Johnnie suggested that we check out the one that opened a few weeks ago in Wakefield, we did.
Good decision. The place is already popular. When we walked in at 5:30, the joint was jumping, stools at the long bar were filled, and we snagged the last table. There was quite a din, which will be quieting down soon when acoustic baffles are installed on the ceiling. Five widescreen TVs, tuned to sports channels, bracket customers. In addition to beers on tap and bottled, there are a dozen-plus wines, by the glass only, sangria by the glass or pitcher ($8/$20), and a list of specialty cocktails.
Pubs make most of their money on alcohol, of course. Thus the flinch that usually accompanies the term "pub food." There is a Guinness barrel in the window, but this place wouldn't be buzzing with activity — there were more than a dozen customers waiting when we left — if word hadn't gotten around that the food is good. Children sat at a couple of tables, and we know how fussy they can be. (A $4.99 kids menu has a half-dozen items.) I liked it that there were no salt and pepper shakers on the tables. Kitchen confidence.
Appetizers include chicken wings, in your choice of five sauces, regular and boneless at the same price, starting at a buck a piece for eight. An interestingly unexpected starter was the eggplant and marinated portobello Napoleon ($5.99). Calamari ($6.99) comes sautéed or crispy, and both truffled and bacon and cheese fries are offered ($7.99). Prefer to start with a salad? They include pear and Gorgonzola ($7.99) and blackened chicken arugula ($9.99).
Fat Belly's Pub | 401.284.4540 | 333 Main St, Wakefield | Wed-Mon, 11:30 am-11 pm; Tues, 11:30 am-10 pm; Bar open daily, 11:30 am-1 am | Major Credit Cards | Full bar | Sidewalk-level Access
As well as a pub, this is a "grille," so grilled pizza is mandated. For our starter, we had the T.D. pizza ($10.99). First slathered with pesto, it was topped with both feta and mozzarella, grilled chicken, bits of red onion, and chunks of tomato. Nicely done. Other choices include a chicken with bacon and ranch dressing ($10.99). New York-style pizza, offered at their other locations, isn't available here. That's a shame, because proprietor and executive chef Scott Parker worked at a Long Island pizzeria for a while to get his take right.
Burgers and sandwiches are the main menu items, so I had the Milano panini ($7.99). The pan-fried breaded eggplant is topped with roasted red peppers, baby lettuce, and provolone, and finished with a pesto mayo. A tasty combination. For a buck more, I substituted truffled fries for plain for the earthy scent — sweet potato fries are also available.