“We’re carnivorous at heart,” says Fat Bob Grill owner David Tate. “You gotta splurge once in awhile, and I think our burgers is the place. And these are just some of our specialty burgers; we can be healthy with the rest of the menu.”
Not for the faint of heart, the diabolical burger is dressed with bacon-wrapped tater tots, cheddar, sour cream and sweet chili sauce. The defibrillator is stacked with ribs, cheddar, onion straws and barbecue sauce.
Tate and his wife Melani, who live in Akron, started the Fat Bob, named after a Harley-Davidson model, about two years ago, and relocated the grill from Parma to Highland Square this past July.
Situated in the back of the American Legion Post 19 at 783 W. Market, customers may initially think they’re arriving at a speakeasy, having to knock or ring a bell on a windowless door. But that’s part of the charm, and it lets folks see Tate preparing the meals firsthand.
“It’s kind of weird,” says Tate of the arrangement. “But it’s no different than a custard stand where’d you go up to a window. And when one thinks of the quality and quantity of the food we serve, it kind of brushes all that weirdness away. And I have the philosophy you can build a rib shack at the top of of Mount Ararat, and if those are good ribs those sherpas are going to be packing ribs.”
Melani adds the location works well because of the heavy foot traffic. The Fat Bob offers call-in, walk-up and delivery. The American Legion is a private club for veterans, who can also dine downstairs at the bar/lounge.
But for a token annual fee of $20, non-veterans can become a “social member.” The post allows Tate to serve meals in the main floor dining room on Saturdays 8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m., and Tate hopes to make it a “weekend breakfast, brunch place” with plans to serve on Sundays.
On this Saturday, customer Brian Langley is enjoying pork chops and eggs over easy. When Melani serves him, he asks, his plate brimming with a generous take, “How many people do you think are going to eat this?”
“I promote this place because I’m of the generation who remembers Dodie’s Cafe,” says Langley, a contractor who grew up here and calls himself a Squarian. “Dave has a menu here that’s so ambitious. You can tell when somebody was born to do this. I’ve been pimping him all over town.”
Dodie’s was a popular local eatery known for its big Sunday breakfast crowd. The Fat Bob serves its extensive menu, including breakfast, all day, every day. Plates include burgers, wraps, subs, sandwiches, omelettes, soups, salads, pizza, wings, platters, home cooked and daily specials, and even a vegetarian menu.
“You have to appeal to a broad range of people, tastes,” says Tate, who received his culinary training at Johnson & Wales University in San Francisco. “The home cooking aspect has proved to be very beneficial, especially in this area. And since I am the only cook, it assures the consistency of things.”
It’s just Tate and Melani running the grill, which boasts 4 freezers and three refrigerators. Tate says he keeps a lot of stock, and has the freedom to make things that are not on the menu if requested by customers.
“I don’t have a busboy, dishwasher or cook, so I can afford more into the food itself,” Tate says. “You may pay $20 or more for a steak elsewhere, which I can do for $12.95. I can come up with specials that others can’t touch.”
Specials for October 20 included blueberry pancakes with a meat, two eggs and juice for $6.50 and a four-cheese Spanish omelette with hash browns and toast for $5.The bulk of customers comprise Highland Square, including a brisk late-night crowd from the local bars. But Tate does regular deliveries to the downtown and university area. Delivery costs $1.50 within three miles and $1 per additional mile.
“The Highland square area has been very supportive, complimentary and from such nice people,” Tate acknowledges. “It’s been strictly word-of-mouth, and I feel we’re doing exemplary.”
The couple, married for 2 1/2 years and who own five cats and two dogs, works seven days and “100 hours a week, and that ain’t no joke,” Tate says.
Melani, who works the front of the house and keeps the books, handles orders, delivery and customer service, smiles and says, “Find me a couple who can work and live together and not …” A grinning Tate adds: “We have our moments. But we have a very blessed marriage and relationship.”
Tate also provides pick-up or drop-off catering and with a deposit will rent the equipment.
Burgers sizzle in the kitchen, Langley bids goodbye and leaves with leftovers from his breakfast.
“I’m inspired to do the best,” Tate says. “This is what we’re supposed to be doing, and there’s more in store for us.”
Visit www.thefatbobgrill.com. or call (330) 926-7919/7966. Hours: Sunday: 9 a.m. – 9 p.m., Monday – Thursday: 8:30 a.m. – 11 p.m., Friday – Saturday: 8:30 a.m. – midnight.