Barbeque is so deeply rooted in southern food culture that it is impossible to separate the two. The best of this doesn’t come from large flashy restaurants, but from small shacks on the outskirts of town. Fat Daddy’s BBQ in downtown Conway, which opened last fall, may appear from the outside to have the glitz of a modern restaurant, but the heart of the space is still rooted in a small town shack barbeque joint.
A step inside the Conway location and you see a massive restaurant space, with windows on three sides of the space looking out of the entrance of downtown Conway. The main dining area is lined with televisions showing various sports, and the other side is a huge bar. The space itself offers no reminder of the humble beginnings of Fat Daddy’s original location in Blackwell, in a small shack on the corner of a parking lot.
In 2006 Gordon Shirron was looking to bring food into the Darrell’s Hillside gas station in London. Shirron was introduced to the original Fat Daddy’s and had them provide recipes and train staff on how to replicate much of the original flavor. Even the gas station was a humble beginning with plastic chairs and a no frills approach. It quickly became a local hot spot, and Shirron added a location in a historic building in downtown Russellville to bring the concept closer to the population center of the area.
The menu and offerings evolved as the popularity grew larger. Then ten years after opening the London location Shirron knew it was time to spread beyond the Russellville area to Conway.
“There are a lot of similarities on the surface between Russellville and Conway, we thought we had a lot to offer the area,” Shirron says.
The basic BBQ plates reflect the classic nature of the southern staple, they do all the traditional dishes and do them well. The ribs are perfectly cooked, something I came to appreciate after a couple of years of rib competition judging, using their own house made rub. The pulled pork is flavorful and good quality. Everything is fresh daily and they do not reserve meat from previous days, unlike products found in certain other local bbq spots with multiple locations that will remain nameless. If you are just after good bbq it is something that is easy to appreciate, especially as they have moved beyond one location.
Consistency is key for Fat Daddy’s. They even brought over a large portion of the staff from the Russellville location, some of which have been with Shirron from the very beginning, to help run the Conway store.
“We had issues like any other place does to start. After some adjustment we are starting to find a real place in the Conway food community,” Shirron says. “There are even some things that have worked well in the Conway store that we are starting to bring back to Russellville.”
The real place Fat Daddy’s sines is when you step away from the traditional bbq offerings, into some of the non-traditional items that Fat Daddy’s has added since buying the original recipes. On the simple side, they have moved to loin-backed ribs, giving their ribs a much more meaty and flavorful offering over traditional cut ribs. “Our rib sales quickly shifted toward the loin backed cut over the traditional as soon as we introduced it,” Shirron says.
On the other end of the spectrum is their TexMex – bbq fusion style dishes. Their quesadillas and barbeque burritos are some of the best, and most unexpected items on the menu. Each can be filled with any of the available meats.
The burrito in particular is interested, it is filled with the normal bbq plate items such as slaw, beans, and their cheesy potatoes, then wrapped into a burrito. It is not something you would think of in a burrito form, but it works really well, and is one of the more interesting bbq joint dishes I have come across.
Aside from the main dining room, Fat Daddy’s also has a large private dining area available. They also are available for catering around Conway.