At its brightest, Los Angeles can feel extravagant. The lights of the Sunset Strip, the pulse of Hollywood Boulevard, the revelry of downtown: added together, the city is a lot, all the time.
In some ways, that makes Fat Sal’s a perfect fit. According to Sal Capek, the restaurant’s co-founder and namesake: “We work hard to come up with unique and exciting combinations and flavor profiles that result in mouthwatering, over-the-top culinary creations.”
What does “over-the-top” mean in the sandwich world? How about mozzarella sticks and onion rings as toppings, rather than sides, on the Fat Sal sandwich? Or the barbecue-themed Fat Texas, with a three-animal combination of pastrami brisket, chicken fingers, and mozzarella sticks? Even one of the menu’s salads contains fries.
We caught up with Capek to hear about the restaurant’s humble beginnings, what (if anything) would be off-limits for a sandwich, and, in a slowly-more-normal world, what it means to be able to sit down and share a meal with friends again. If the conversation makes you hungry, head to DoorDash (the only delivery service for Fat Sal’s food, including a new Fat DoorDash sandwich) and pick up a few creations for your next over-the-top meal.
Fat Sal’s has been serving LA for nearly 10 years. How has the bond between the restaurant and the city developed over time?
It all started off in Westwood with the UCLA student body and faculty. They were our customer base. We loved them, and they soon fell in love with us. Since then, word of our creative combinations spread throughout Los Angeles like wildfire. Each restaurant has its own core group of diehard regulars.
Fat Sal’s has three locations: Westwood, Hollywood, and Encino. How does each neighborhood inspire you?
Each neighborhood has its own distinct character. Westwood, our first store, is more of a food stand with all outdoor dining, which makes it a unique social experience. Hollywood is a very busy restaurant in a busy part of town. At night, Hollywood can turn into a party with fun music, open windows, a big parking lot, and a great crowd that comes with that. Our Encino store is located in more of a suburban setting, and we see a good deal of families, local residents, and area workers visiting us. [Note: Fat Sal’s now also serves food out of the DoorDash Kitchen in Lincoln Heights.]
Your sandwiches subvert some of the health-conscious “L.A. food” stereotypes. How does Fat Sal’s fit into the L.A. food scene?
We try to have a menu that appeals to everybody. While some of our food can definitely be classified as “guilty pleasures” or “indulgent,” we always have a good selection of healthy menu items — salads, wraps, plant-based items, etc.
Chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks, macaroni and cheese…is there anything that can’t go on a sandwich?
Because we strive to be creative with our food, we strongly believe that nothing is off-limits. We love ingredients that work well together (soft, crunchy, sweet, sour, savory, etc.), and in an effort to find great combinations, we don’t rule anything out until we try it.
Restaurants have always acted as communal “third places” for many. As we start to re-enter dining rooms, how important is that in-person experience beyond the food?
Our restaurants have always been fun, social spaces with great vibes. We create an environment that we enjoy ourselves, with hip-hop coming through the speakers, sports on the TVs, and windows that are open to maintain a relationship to the city.
Has the return to in-person dining affected you personally?
Eating out with others is my favorite form of entertainment. Nothing makes me happier than sharing a food adventure with friends or family. Going out now has much more significance to me, and I really appreciate each time out more than I ever have.
What’s next at Fat Sal’s? What else can you add to some of these creations?
There are always new sandwich innovations in the works. That’s what keeps the whole thing exciting for us. We definitely have plans to expand our reach, and a new partnership with DoorDash will be a big part of this.