If you happen to be in the Brooklyn Park vicinity and in need of a quick meal, skip the strip mall Subway and Jimmy John’s. But don’t skip the strip mall entirely; instead, find the one with Fat Chance Sandwich Shop.
It doesn’t look like much from the outside, and the interior is fairly bare-bones, but on our visit, there was a steady flow of people lining up at the counter, waiting patiently for sandwiches made to order with ingredients either house-made (or, in the case of many of the meats, house-smoked) or sourced locally.
What’s more, Fat Chance is treating sandwiches with a great deal of care and respect, and as a result, they’re turning out something far better than their strip-mall neighbors. Most sandwiches are available as a half or whole; everything we tried was a half, and that was sizable enough to share. All come on a choice of white or wheat rolls from Denny’s Bakery. The bread was sturdy enough to hold the fillings but still maintain a tenderness and lightness that didn’t weigh the sandwiches down. The fillings include several choices of cheese as well as mayo, pickles, cucumbers, lettuce, onions, and tomatoes.
There’s also a house-made giardiniera that diners can add on their own, a worthwhile garnish of spicy pickled vegetables with olives and olive oil.
The Tractor ($8, half size only) was a mix of mild pulled pork, a zippy andouille sausage, and crunchy coleslaw. Our tasters were somewhat divided on this one; some felt that a more assertive barbecue flavor accompanying the pork would have been welcome, while others liked the simplicity of the meat. But all agreed that the pork was beautifully cooked, tender, and succulent.
The Mother Clucker ($6 half, $10 whole) was a solid hit. The chicken was crispy on the outside and nicely seasoned, but juicy on the inside. That combo, along with the soft bread and crunchy vegetables, was a world of textures in a bite that brought the lowly sandwich into a more sublime category.
The real winner was the Haystack ($7.50 half, $12.50 whole), made of layers of tender, thin-sliced pastrami and pepper jack cheese, along with a spicy mustard. The pastrami was leaner than usual and not as heavily peppered, but it had a good smoky, beefy flavor that held its own against the spicier additions. With the aforementioned giardiniera it was pretty much perfect.
The sandwiches came with a big mess of French fries that were delightful. Fries are so easy to get wrong, and Fat Chance deftly avoids the multitude of possible errors by making crispy-on-the-outside, soft-and-pillowy inside fries that are served with a house-made dipping sauce that has mayo, sriracha, and a secret house seasoning. You could make a meal out of those alone.
We weren’t planning on trying dessert — expectations were fairly low for the “dessert in a sandwich shop” offerings — but when we saw the “Have some life-changing cake” item on the menu for only $3, of course we had to try it. Said life-changing cake turned out to be a simple yellow cake with a brown sugar icing, not overly sweet, but fresh and light. Was it life-changing? Not in the “Won the lottery, quit my job, bought homes all across the world and a private plane to get to them” way. But in an “Oh, this brings me back to the cakes my grandma used to make from scratch as a treat for me that made me feel loved” way? Yes indeed, for a few brief moments, that piece of cake made life a little better.
It’s worth noting that Fat Chance offers a soul-food menu on Friday nights and all day Saturdays that includes fried chicken and catfish and a number of sides, such as collard greens. Given the stellar fried chicken in the sandwich, we suspect that a trip there on the weekend could be worth the drive.
Fat Chance, 8419 W Broadway Ave, Brooklyn Park, 763.283.5100; Mon-Sat 11 a.m.-9 p.m.