The Fat Sandwich, if you haven’t been lucky enough to have one yet, refers to a sub sandwich that’s excessively stuffed with fatty, fried ingredients like chicken strips, fries, mozzarella sticks, gyro meat and countless other East Coast griddle favorites. The famous “Grease Trucks” that serve Fat Sandwiches are located at central New Jersey’s Rutgers University, have already been featured on The Travel Channel’s Man vs. Food, and for good, artery-clogging reason. So, what’s not to love? And while fat sandwiches are typically best consumed in the wee hours of the morning—following some heavy campus party activities—over the years both Rutgers students and locals have come to embrace the Grease Trucks as unpretentious hangover brunch fare. For the everyday broke students roaming the colonial campus in a rush for a bite to eat, Fat Sandwiches are the unsung heros of collegiate food.
As a Rutgers alum and Jersey girl myself, I decided to take a stroll—or rather, bumpy NJ Transit train ride—to the Garden State in time for a back-to-school Fat Sandwich with my friend Emily, who’d never tried it before. When finally made it to campus on the first day of the fall semester, the air thick with newly-purchased school supplies and freshly-printed syllabi, I instantly felt old. Now a 26-year-old with my college days behind me, I tried my best to blend in with the student body by throwing a Rutgers filter over my selfie Snapchat.
When I glanced up from my phone, there it was: the crown jewel of College Ave: R U Hungry. The grease truck (which is, yes, really named R U Hungry) has become an umbrella term that typically refers to local food trucks selling diner-style fare to go.
“This is my first time trying a Fat Sandwich!” 18-year-old Reem G., a newly-arrived freshman, exclaimed as we approached the food on wheels. As fate might have it, there’s nothing like bonding with strangers while waiting for a big ‘ol greasy sandwich from the griddle.I later came to find out that Reem had been looking forward to ending her first day as a college student with a Fat Vastardi, a ginormous mess of gyro, chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks, french fries, lettuce, tomatoes and “white sauce.” The New Jersey native had been summoned to bring her brother home an extra sandwich, but not before we watched her taste test.
Her first impression? “It’s so good, oh my God,” she exclaimed through a mouthful. As Reem rushed off with her greasy brown bag, another student was ready to take on everyone’s favorite Rutgers meal.
“I need to carb up!” Sophomore Chemical Engineering student Sean Patrick told me with earnest, while ordering a Fat Filipino. The Filipino-American teen explained that his favorite sandwich—consisting of cheesesteak, gyro, chicken fingers, white sauce, french fries, lettuce and tomatoes—is what helps him keep his steady weight on, as opposed to skipping meals while class is in session. Plus, it’s a great hangover cure!
“A fun fact about the Fat Sandwich is that the sandwiches were actually invented at Princeton,” Sean told us this trivia bit while munching on his hero. “How did they end up here? It’s ‘cause Rutgers go harder at night than Princeton!”
If you want the “original” Fat Sandwich, you’ll have to go to Princeton’s Hoagie Haven. But as Sean points out, the infamous sandwiches ended up at Rutgers because “it has the Grease Trucks, which made it easier for... intoxicated students to order in the early hours of the morning.”
“None of this stuff goes together,” Emily pointed out, bewildered by the colorful, overflowing menu. Perhaps that’s what makes these heart attacks-on-heros so endearing, despite their rightfully unhealthy rep and name. Not to mention the sheer abundance of options you can get at this Rutgers establishment, given that the campus is one of the most diverse in the nation.
There’s the Original Fat Sandwich menu, which includes classics like Fat Beach, Fat Knight and Fat Cat. The Veggie Fat Sandwiches cater to vegetarians and the vast Indian student population. The Halal option is there to accommodate Muslim students. And these days, you can even get a Fat Salad, though I suggest you don’t waste precious calories on the “healthy” version and go all in for the best sellers.
Emily and I opted for Fat Darrells. The #1 Fat Sandwich in the country—named after the student who invented it—is a sub stuffed with chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks, marinara sauce, and french fries.
“So good,” I hear Emily murmur between sips of Coke and bites of meat and carbs. As a Southern girl used to Tex-Mex and chain food, I could sense her buds awakening to the unique taste of that famous East Coast bread. You can keep your kale smoothies. The Fat Sandwich is the true hangover breakfast holy grail.