It’s a Friday night, and you want to stay on Penn’s campus, but you don’t want to go to the same five restaurants you’ve been going to since freshman year. This is a common struggle amongst the foodies of University City, and until last week, I thought every time I wanted a great meal; I was going to have to trudge all the way downtown. Thankfully, one of my friends suggested we try The Fat Ham. I checked out the menu and immediately made a reservation.

The Basics

The Fat Ham, located on 32nd and Walnut, is by far the best restaurant in University City. The menu is rather pork-centric and garners inspiration from Southern country cooking by Top Chef Season 7 winner, Kevin Sbraga. The intimate restaurant provides a rustic ambiance with its extensive collection of chairs, tables, and artwork.

The Experience

Upon entering, the service was impeccable. We were seated instantly, and our waitress was friendly and informative from start to finish. She explained the sharing-style of the menu and described some of the most popular dishes. It was a tough decision, but we eventually narrowed down our meal to six of the tastiest dishes I’ve had in a while.

The Snacks

sauce, bread, cheese
Sarah Pilger

We began from the “Snacks” section of the menu and ordered the Pimento Cheese on grilled country bread. I had never tried this type of spread before, but it was delicious. The cheese was packed full of flavor and the country bread paired perfectly. The only thing I could have asked for was more.

The Chicken

bacon, meat, pork, beef
Sarah Pilger

Next, we had their signature “Hot Chicken”, which consists of a half chicken that is deep fried, then lathered in a spicy jalapeno sauce. It is served atop a brioche, ranch dressing, and dill pickles to counteract the spice from the chicken. I have never had a tastier piece of chicken in my entire life. My waitress warned me that it was going to be rather spicy, but I am so happy I ventured out and still ordered the dish. I recommend it to everyone, even those who have trouble with spice.

The Wings

bacon, cheese
Sarah Pilger

Just in case the hot chicken actually was too hot, I ordered the Lavender Honey Wings as well. Once again, I was blown away by the quality and flavor of the chicken. I am a huge fan of chicken wings, and these were some of the best wings I have tried. I was unsure of pairing wings with lavender honey, but this unusual combination worked strikingly well, and I finished both the hot chicken and the five mouthwatering wings.

The Sliders

pretzel, egg, cheese, bacon
Sarah Pilger

The Fat Ham has an entire section devoted to sliders, so we decided to try the pulled pork ones. Unfortunately, we did not realize it only comes with a single slider, so we had to split it in half. Definitely order multiple, as my half of a slider was absolutely insane. The sweet BBQ sauce and fried shallots added to the perfectly cooked pork. Thankfully we had more food to come.

The Sides

With such a heavy meat oriented dinner, we knew we needed to order a side dish. We kept going back and forth between the skillet cornbread and the baked macaroni and cheese, so naturally, we got both. Thank god, considering these side dishes were equally incredible. The cornbread was unlike any other cornbread I’ve ever had. It was both crispy and fluff, and it was lathered with a sweet and salty molasses butter. With every bite of the hot chicken, I had several bites of the cornbread. Furthermore, the macaroni and cheese was the perfect amount of cheesiness and subtleness. The smoked cracker crumb on top added a great amount of texture to the dish, and it is safe to say I was disappointed when I had finished the entire dish in less than five minutes.

Our meal was absolute perfection, and I do not say that often. I will be dining at The Fat Ham on a regular basis and am excited to try the dishes I did not order last time. For anyone living in University City, it would be a sin not to dine at this restaurant.