MUSKEGON, Mich. — There is no shortage of incredible restaurants in West Michigan. But with so many options, how do you choose where to indulge? We — 13 ON YOUR SIDE digital producers Riley and Amy — have set out to find the tastiest spots in the area and are documenting our journey with a series called 13 Eats.
13 Eats is all about highlighting the best restaurants in the West Michigan area. This week, we’re traveling all the way to the lakeshore to try out a Muskegon fan favorite: Fatty Lumpkins Sandwich Shack.
Muskegon is known for its stunning beaches and historic lighthouses. But tucked further into the city suburbs, away from the raging waves of Lake Michigan, is an unsuspecting eatery well-loved for its sandwiches and service.
Fatty Lumpkins Sandwich Shack is anything but flashy. It’s a tiny yellow shop, located smack in the middle of a small Muskegon neighborhood. In fact, the storefront itself looks like it could be a home. But one thing that Fatty Lumpkins has truly proven is that looks can be deceiving. For ten years now, husband-and-wife duo Brett and Jera Gilbert have been running Fatty Lumpkins in the very area they grew up.
Being from Muskegon, the couple is using their sandwich creations to give back right to the community that raised them. And let us tell you, Fatty Lumpkins is truly a gift that keeps on giving.
A true testament to the community that gathers at Fatty Lumpkins, we were given multiple suggestions of favorite dishes when we announced ourselves as first-time visitors. We decided to take their word for it, ordering the How Now Brown Cow and the daily special, the Mary Jane (we realized much later than we’re willing to admit that this name came from the date, 4/20), with sides of Pesto Pasta Salad and Apple Pecan Chicken Salad.
The Mary Jane ($7.99) is filled with ham, turkey, bacon, pepperjack, lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickles, hot peppers, mayo and hot and sweet mustard, all loaded on a toasted roll. Upon our first bites, we knew – small but mighty, Fatty Lumpkins knows what they’re doing. The slices of meat were cold and fresh, while the bread was warm with a buttery, crisp crust on the outside. The toppings blended together happily while the mustard cut through with a slightly spicy flare.
The Pesto Pasta Salad ($2.99) is a little cup of heaven. Its creamy pesto sauce and fresh tomato chunks pair perfectly with any sandwich choice. As pesto fanatics, we wholeheartedly give two thumbs up. Same goes for the Apple Pecan Chicken Salad ($2.99), with chicken chunks, fresh green apple slices and salty pecans. It's an amazing blend of textures; the creamy chicken and acidic apple flavor mixes with a slight crunch from the pecans. It was like a summer treat that transported us out of our unseasonably freezing West Michigan spring.
To top off our meal, we munched on the How Now Brown Cow ($8.29), which is filled to the brim with roast beef, horseradish sauce, horseradish cheddar, tomato, onion and arugula. The meat was hearty but soft, pairing wonderfully with the fresh vegetables sandwiched between the bread. The horseradish sauce and cheese added a spicy zing to it all, making it perfect for alternating bites with the refreshing pasta and chicken salads.
It’s kind of perfect that Fatty Lumpkins is located in the middle of a neighborhood because the ambiance of the place is so very homey. From the outside, the sandwich shop looks humble. That same vision follows visitors through the front door and into the restaurant. It’s small, but in a way that is perfectly cozy. For lack of better words, the size of the space feels just right. It’s intimate and well-loved—just as a community sub shop should be.
Beyond the size of the space, the décor and ambiance is a perfect balance of classic meets new. The walls are blanketed in a gold and velvet patterned wallpaper, originally put up in the hair salon that used to call the building home before Fatty Lumpkins took over. We love that they let that little piece of history live on, and the uniqueness of the style really adds some flare to the inside.
But the best thing about the inside of Fatty Lumpkins is, seriously, all the delicious smells. We wish we were there again right now just to breathe in that spice-filled air. If you aren’t hungry before you walk into the shop, we guarantee you will be once you walk through the door and into that aroma-filled room. I mean, what’s not to love about the smell of warm bread and sizzling bacon?
Fatty Lumpkins may be tiny, but its food surely does pack a punch. From its delectable, curated sides to its classic sandwiches and daily specials (I STILL haven’t stopped thinking about the Mary Jane sandwich. - Amy), the tiny shop is a true hidden gem of West Michigan. The hype? We definitely get it.
Any sandwich shop can be good, but this one is decidedly great. We loved the food — from the creamy side salads to the perfectly curated sandwiches — but even more than that, we loved the story behind the shop and the history it continues to make. Fatty Lumpkins is not only family owned and operated, but done so by people who are kind, passionate and an extension of the tight-knit Muskegon community.
When you walk into Fatty Lumpkins, you walk into a space filled with great food and even greater people. That’s why, among the many other reasons (just take your pick), we love this place so much.
► Fatty Lumpkins Sandwich Shack is located at 971 Washington Ave, Muskegon, MI 49441.
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