Fat Willy’s Rib Shack, one of the city’s best barbecue restaurants, is closing in Logan Square. Restaurant owner and chef Bo Fowler, who also runs Owen & Engine on the same street, made the announcement on Thursday via Facebook. Sunday, September 27 will be the restaurant’s final day of service at near Western and Schubert avenues, in the shadow of the Regal City North movie theater.
Of course, movie theaters have been shut down in March during the pandemic. Though barbecue travels well for carryout, that left Fat Willy’s without a source of customers. The restaurant is tucked in a quiet intersection that’s bordered by the Kennedy Expressway. It’s bookended by Owen & Engine and Maplewood Tap around the corner.
Fowler has pondered the rib shack’s future more than two years. She told Eater Chicago that at one point she considered opening a pizzeria in the space. In recent months, successful pizzeria openings, like Pizza Friendly Pizza and Pizza Fried Chicken Ice Cream, have showed the power of pizza during the pandemic. Fowler wasn’t immediately reached to talk about the future of the space.
While traditional Chicago barbecue excels on the city’s South Side, with legends like Lem’s Bar-B-Q and Uncle J’s performing wonders with their aquarium smokers. Fat Willy’s highlighted Fowler’s passion of sourcing quality ingredients. The barbecue wasn’t region specific. The jalapeño corn fritters begged to be dunked in sauce. Baby back ribs had a nice bite without being fall-off-the-bone mush. Surrounded by quirky posters of pigs and cows, diners sampled elite North Side barbecue.
This story will be updated if Fowler shares her plans for the future of the space. Over the summer, the chef recovered from a heart attack that left her hospitalized. She’s been busy in Logan Square with a pandemic street food operation in front of Bixi Beer for takeout. The brewpub’s second-floor patio is also open for business.
After nearly 20 years in Logan Square, barbecue fans have until a little more than a week to grab a rack at Fat Willy’s Rib Shack.