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Restaurant Happenings  June 2003

Livin’ in Fat City

by Annabelle Numaguchi

Everything about Fat City Smoke House creates an expectation for finger-lickin’ good barbeque—the chili pepper decor, the rolls of paper towels on each table, the down-home atmosphere...even Roger Travis, who co-owns and operates the restaurant with Lyn, his wife of 28 years. Roger’s height and burliness combined with his shiny pate, Fu Manchu and baritone voice beg the question, “Does he ride Harleys?” What probably really gave it away on the day I met him was his shirt, across which was emblazoned the single word, “Biker.” Nothing about Roger is disappointing—He knows all there is to know about Hogs; how to ride them and how to rub ’em down, smoke and baste them so you get the best damn barbeque in town.

Roger and Lyn have been in the restaurant business since 1970, primarily in Wyoming where they originally came from. Thirteen years ago, tired of the northern winters, they arrived in Moab and opened Fat City Smoke House specializing in dry rub Texas-style barbeque. This type of barbeque consists of rubbing down the meat and smoking it over real wood. All the cooking at Fat City is done over an open fire of oak or apple wood, and the proof is in the pork which just melts in your mouth imparting the smoky flavor of the meat and sauce.

Fat City Smoke House is located on 100 West
at the end of Center Street.

The sauces are so popular that Roger and Lyn have started bottling them. Mouthwatering names like Garlic Chipotle Hot Sauce and Honey Mustard Barbeque adorn the bottles and promise bursts of intense flavor. Fortunately for out-of-towners, these sauces will soon be available on their future website. Unfortunately, the slow cooking over apple wood is not, so stopping by to enjoy BBQ Beef, Baby Back Ribs or Flame Grilled Steaks is still worth the trip.

Roger and Lyn decided to open a no-frills barbeque eatery reminiscent of the old juke joints of the ’30s and ’40s where a customer is assured of good food in good portions. Roger explains, “We want to be sure people feel like they’re getting their money’s worth.” And judging by the word-of-mouth popularity of the place, people must be walking away more than satisfied, or as one Depression-era saying would describe it, “They’re in Fat City now.” The Travises wanted to evoke that feeling of satisfaction when they named their restaurant and thought the expression tied in neatly with the Fat Tire aspect of biking in Moab.

They also realized that small-town living meant that attracting repeat business would be easier with a down-to-earth type of eatery. Roger had experience in all sorts of restaurants from managing the North Park Country Club and Golf Course to owning Poor Roger’s Beer and Bones, both in Wyoming. They decided to stick to a grass-roots restaurant, which Roger describes with a smile and a wink as “funner” and let the barbeque bring in the customers.

Bars and Barbeque go hand in hand like Bonnie and Clyde. Each is enticing enough on its own, but together they’re dynamite. So it made sense that Fat City decided to move into the same building as The Cantina Rio Sports Bar. The better location, which can be seen from Main Street, and the larger building persuaded Roger and Lyn to move from their previous place two doors down. Now diners at the restaurant can enjoy full-bar service. A glass partition between the two establishments keeps smoke from seeping into the restaurant and keeps Fat City feeling like an eatery. The food and drink, however, can permeate the wall and be enjoyed in either establishment. Another lure to the Cantina/Smoke House is live rock-n-roll and blues on the weekends.
Fat City also has two outdoor terraces. The lattice-enclosed terrace can accommodate large groups of up to forty people while the upstairs patio features tables with umbrellas and a remarkable view of the red rocks in relative tranquility since the restaurant is a block over from Main Street and its hubbub.

Fans of Fat City range far and wide since another mainstay of their business is catering, particularly for film shoots in the area. The restaurant is fully equipped to cater functions, including weddings, family reunions and golf tournaments, of up to 1200 people. Since the success of Fat City rests primarily on the powerful taste of the food and not on excess frills, it’s no wonder people enjoy the smoke pit barbeque in any venue.

Certainly, Roger and Lyn have great reason to feel like they’re “livin’ in Fat City” now: a fun, successful family owned and operated restaurant, an almost three-decade marriage, two beautiful daughters who have inherited their mother’s love of horses, and an impressive collection of Harley Davidsons. One might almost be tempted to say that they’re living in “hog heaven” or, at least, living “high on the hog.” But as Oscar Wilde said, “I can resist everything, except temptation.”

Fat City Smoke House is located on 100 West (at the end of Center Street) and can be reached at (435) 259-4302. Meals average $11-$12.


Recipe of the Month

Voodoo Chicken Salsa
Fat City Smokehouse
makes about 1 quart

1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 Tbsp onion, chopped

8oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 Tbsp. oil
8oz. can corn kernels
1/4 cup frozen OJ concentrate

1 jalapeno, chopped
2 Tbsp. lime juice
1 Tbsp. cilantro, chopped
1 tsp. red pepper flakes

1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 bananas, chopped
8oz. can pineapple chunks

Mix all ingredients together. Place salsa over grilled chicken or fish.

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