Restaurant featuring ‘New Jersey-style’ sandwiches coming to downtown

photo by: Courtesy: Fat Shack

The Fat Shack will feature a Lawrence-themed specialty sandwich when it opens on Massachusetts Street in late September or early October. Pictured is the Fat Hawk, which includes macaroni and cheese, french fries, chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks and buffalo ranch sauce.

They call New Jersey the Garden State, and I now have reason to believe the produce comes out of the ground already battered and deep fried. At least I’m hopeful of it after learning more about a New Jersey-style sandwich shop that is coming to downtown Lawrence.

Fat Shack is scheduled to open in late September or early October at 1008 Massachusetts St., which is the spot that formerly housed the Ondori Noodle Shop. Fat Shack specializes in “New Jersey-style sandwiches,” Bryson Harris, a recent KU business school graduate who has bought the Lawrence franchise rights for the restaurant, told me.

But what is a New Jersey-style sandwich?

“It is a bunch of fried food all mixed together in one sandwich,” Harris said. “You combine a bunch of flavors to make it perfect.”

Take, for instance, the Fat Jersey sandwich. It includes cheesesteak, chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks, french fries and honey mustard all crammed into a bun. The restaurant has about 15 of the “Fat Sandwiches” on its menu. Some combine items such as fried eggs, french fries and onion rings. Other popular ingredients include jalapeño poppers, buffalo ranch wing sauce, macaroni and cheese and many more.

Many of the sandwiches also come with names that aim to be a bit on the crispy side too. The menu lists its most popular offering as the “Fat Doobie.” It combines chicken fingers, french fries, onion rings, mozzarella sticks and honey mustard.

All sandwiches come in a small, regular or large size. The large comes with a side of defibrillator. (That’s a joke. So, bring your own.)

The chain got its start in New Jersey in 2010 when a recent college graduate there opened a late-night restaurant in a bagel shop. But the business quickly moved to Ft. Collins, Colo., and then had success in Boulder, Colo., before deciding to start franchising. It now has about 20 locations, and the Lawrence store will be its second in Kansas. One currently is operating in Manhattan.

Harris lived in Colorado before coming to KU, and he said he got hooked on the unique sandwiches. He said the mashup of ingredients added something to the dining experience.

“It definitely adds a very large calorie-filled meal, but it also is a bit of sensory overload,” he said. “You taste a little bit of everything but don’t know exactly what it tastes like, but it is great.”

The restaurant believes it is especially great late at night. Serving late-night patrons is a big part of the business. The Lawrence location plans to be open until 1 a.m. Sundays through Wednesdays and until 3 a.m. Thursdays through Saturdays.

Harris thinks the late-night crowd is a market that hasn’t been fully tapped in Lawrence.

“I didn’t see a lot of choices throughout the night,” Harris said. “A majority of restaurants close pretty early in the evening, but Lawrence has a lot of late-night people.”

Harris understands the college scene in Lawrence. He graduated from KU just months ago and jumped right into owning the franchise. That’s similar to how the founder of the Fat Shack company started, and the company’s website said its franchise program is geared toward young entrepreneurs.

“It has been pretty stressful, though,” Harris said of planning for the restaurant’s opening amid a pandemic. But he said the fact the pandemic has slowed so many other parts of life “has given me an opportunity to just focus on the business.”

The restaurant isn’t putting all of its eggs in the New Jersey-style sandwich basket. The menu does include more standard fare, such as traditional cheeseburgers, buffalo wings and Philly cheesesteaks.

The dessert menu, though, doubles down on the New Jersey style. The menu proudly proclaims “all desserts are battered, deep-fried and covered in powered sugar.” Offerings include Oreos, Rice Krispies, Twinkies, chocolate chip cookies and more.

The restaurant also will have a full bar, which is not the standard setup at most other Fat Shack locations.

The opening of Fat Shack, though, does bring an end to Ondori Noodle Shop. The Asian-inspired restaurant opened in the space in late 2018. It had closed as part of the pandemic, and apparently is part of the sizable number of restaurants that have decided not to reopen. Its sister restaurant, Encore Cafe, continues to be open across the street from the location. I’ll let you know if I hear word that Ondori plans to make a comeback elsewhere.


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