Any University of Illinois student who graduated in the last four years is probably well aware of Fat Sandwich, a popular late-night spot for drunkenly gorging on sandwiches piled high with fried goodies ranging from chicken fingers to jalapeno poppers.
Now, the Champaign-based restaurant has opened its doors to DePaul students and Lincoln Park residents, giving Chicago a taste of its mile-high creations.
Doug Graham, general manager of the Chicago location, opened up the eatery with Anthony Donato, former owner of Papa D’s, the restaurant that previously occupied 2273 N. Lincoln Ave. Donato originally opened Champaign restaurant Geovanti’s and made friends with the team behind Fat Sandwich, situated just a few blocks away.
“They actually talked about opening up a concept up here,” Graham said. “They decided to go ahead and try it. We opened this up as sort of a franchise, and we’re running independently of the one in Champaign. It’s a more unique concept, and there’s not many places that do what we do.”
The sandwiches mirror the same recipes used at the Champaign location, but names have been changed from collegiate terms to Chicago-themed versions, such as the Fat Obama, the Fat Capone and the Fat Cubby. A popular item is the Fat Demon, named for DePaul's mascot, featuring buffalo chicken bites, mozzarella sticks and jalapeno poppers, topped with fries (as is every sandwich on the menu) and ranch dressing, all nestled on French bread. The Fat Magnum (pictured) has also gotten a lot of early attention from customers; it's made with two cheeseburgers, chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks, bacon, egg, mayonnaise and ketchup, plus the signature topping of fries.
Every sandwich costs $8.50, and while Fat Sandwich fans may not see every menu item from the Champaign shop available due to the smaller size of the restaurant, those who enjoyed the chicken strips from Papa D’s and Geovanti’s can rest assured that they’ll remain on the menu, in addition to regular burgers, gyros and Philly cheesesteaks.
“Fat Sandwich had a lot of success at U of I,” Graham said. “A lot of kids [from U of I] move back up here, and they have that brand recognition. We see a bit of younger people, but also families and repeat customers that work in the area. Some people are skeptical at first.”
The counter-service shop features about 20 dine-in seats, and delivery and pick-up options are available. Fat Sandwich is open from 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Tuesday and 11 a.m.-3 or 4 a.m. Wednesday-Saturday.
Renee Mailhiot is a RedEye special contributor.