In the early days of this blog (back when it was referred to as PittWich) I reviewed a sandwich at a little place called FatHead’s Saloon, located over in the South Side of Pittsburgh, a neighborhood whose eateries represent as many different countries as the upcoming Olympics will. While there are many styles and selections in the South Side, my favorite remains the homemade Pittsburgh cuisine found at FatHead’s, namely their spectacular (and spectacularly large) sandwiches, which they love to call “Headwiches” in reference to their size. Yes, these things are nearly as big as your head. But I doubt your head tastes this good.
This time around, I switched up my decision making process a little bit. The last time I came, I was looking for a lighter sandwich to show that while the sandwiches are massive, they can still be manageable in terms of fitting everything into a reasonable nook or cranny in your stomach. This time I wanted a man-sized, heavy, steamroller of a sandwich, and good lord did I find it in the “Mo Betta Beef And Chedda” sandwich, which is compiled of “smoked beef brisket, sharp cheddar, portobello mushrooms, bacon and chipotle mayo.”
No, I’m not kidding.
You might make the assumption from reading the ingredients and seeing the picture above this post that the Mo Betta is a little bit of a messy sandwich, packed with too much goodness to fit between two buns. Surprisingly, you’d be wrong. The fatheads at FatHead’s have found a way to squeeze every ounce of the deliciousness into an astonishingly compact and easily-handled ‘wich without detracting from the sheer force of the ingredients. While you shouldn’t take the Mo Betta lightly, don’t worry about bringing extra bibs; the first dozen or so that the staff gives you should be fine.
Now, on to the sandwich’s flavors: this thing is stacked. There isn’t an ounce of wasted space in between the buns; every inch is filled with savory, salty, toasty decadence. The first facet of this fantastic feast is the base of the filler: the smoked beef brisket, bacon and portobello mushrooms. I love this trio because it appeals to my favorite school of the sandwich, the Department of Texture: you end up with a similarly grilled, smoky, meaty flavor across the board on the three parts, but each has its own texture. The brisket provides the classic meaty texture that’s in the middle of chewy and tough with just enough resistance and tenderness, and the meat has clearly been smoked by somebody who knows what they’re doing. Then you have the bacon which brings you an even taller spice profile than the brisket, and has a great, crispy texture that just adds another layer to the complexity of the textures. And then the third, non-meat part of the trio, the portobello, was quite possibly my favorite of the three. It brought a refreshing pop to every bite that was fortunate enough to have a mushroom in it, which was a pleasant break from the chewiness of the brisket and the crunch of the bacon.
The only qualm with a sandwich comprised solely of the meaty trio would be that there isn’t anything to contrast such savory ingredients. Thankfully we have the second aspect of the filler: the combination of the melted sharp cheddar cheese and FatHead’s chipotle mayo. The chipotle mayo makes for the ultimate two-in-one contrast: for one, since the mayo is applied cold, the temperature difference adds variety in a sandwich that would otherwise be a sea of warmth. And both the mayo and the cheddar bring a creamy texture to the already busy department of texture, which mix with the savory trio to create one large mix-up of flavor while still maintaining a number of separate texture levels. And (not be lost in the architecture of the sandwich) the chipotle mayo also brings an exciting kick of spice, one that adds to the culminating heat while still being distinctly different from the smoky spice in the trio.
FatHead’s Saloon makes a mighty fine sandwich, but it’s not all about the sheer size of these ‘wiches. They craft the ingredients perfectly and then combine them with some kind of mastery, concocting sandwiches that taste like works of art. Get thee to the South Side; you shan’t regret it.