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Flashback to Fat Jack's
When Fat Jack's, the nostalgic 50's drive-in, first opened in 1985, it was just about 25 years removed from the decade of sock hops, poodle skirts and the start of rock 'n roll. The retro restaurant is now 26 years old and you can still "Shake, Rattle and Roll" with Bill Haley and the Comets, put on your "Blue Suede Shoes" with Elvis and enjoy burgers, malts and cherry Cokes served by carhops in the perpetually fun flashback that is Fat Jack's."When we were young we had Mars Drive-In," Marianne O'Day, who owns Fat Jack's with her husband, Jack, says of the long-gone classic Fresno hamburger stand. "We wanted to do something like that. We wanted to do something like when we were teenagers."After consulting with the owners of Visalia's historic, but now closed, Mearl's Drive-In and working out the menu, Fat Jack's opened on Blackstone Avenue at the site of another classic drive-in, a former A&W. Eight years later, Fat Jack's made the move to Clovis (making its home in the site of another long-lost drive-in, Ken's Korral) and things have been tutti frutti since then. Although shakes, burgers and fries may not be easy on the calories, the food is fresher and not as processed tasting as most fast food places. As a locally owned restaurant with only one location, O'Day says keeping it fresh was always a goal."We wanted to make a better burger," she says. "We wanted to make it like it was in the '50s. We use the leanest meat. All of our produce is fresh."The food has its fans. O'Day says she has customers who have been coming back since when the restaurant first opened and she has one couple that return almost daily. Fat Jack's is always winning over new fans as well. Trin Gibney recently visited for the first time and she enjoyed herself. "I had one of the best cheeseburgers of my life," she says. "I don't know what they did to the burger, but it was truly delicious and the vanilla Coke was the best I'd ever had." Albert Rubio also gave Fat Jack's a spin for the first time. He was equally impressed. He opted for the more calorie-conscious chicken wrap and strawberry lemonade."The food was good," he says simply.Fat Jack's menu truly does harken back to a bygone era. From rootbeer floats and chili fries to pastrami or Philly cheesesteak sandwiches, or even corn dogs, the food isn't just a blast from the past, it's comforting feel-good food that brings on happy memories. "I think we make the best banana split in town," O'Day says. "They're huge. We also started doing 32 oz. shakes, which I don't think anyone does. That's a big shake.""I liked the fries because they were lightly seasoned, not over done," Gibney says.Fat Jack's really has something for everyone on its menu. Grilled cheese sandwiches, Frito boats and old-fashioned malts are all favorites. Even its bacon burger won an award from a local magazine in a blind taste test.The 1950s ambience is almost as big a draw as the menu is. Whether it's the life-sized cutouts of Elvis Presley or Marilyn Monroe, vintage signage or retro gumball machine of the enclosed diner area or the exterior with its elongated carport, the carhops and the non-stop vintage rock and roll, a trip to Fat Jack's is one of pure nostalgia.
"It adds to your eating environment," Rubio says of the 1950s atmosphere."I like the feeling of being in a different era," Gibney says. "When you are parked, all you can see is the '50s-style dining room and all you can hear is music from the period. It's like going back in time." Fat Jack's comes as close to recreating the fun of the Eisenhour era as anything else in town. It does such a good job that many vintage car clubs, such as the T-Bird Club or the Pan Draggers, cruise Fat Jack's for their weekly or monthly meetings in their vintage vehicles. Many of them not only enjoy the nostalgia of the 50's era, but also lived through it and are reliving it while at Fat Jack's."Some of them are in their 80s," O'Day says of the club members. "They still come in." For those who want an authentic taste of mid-20th century Americana, Fat Jack's is about the closest thing you'll get to the experience."I've never experienced anything quite like Fat Jack's," Gibney says. "I think it's a local treasure."Check out this video of Fat Jacks.Fat Jack’s
625 W. Shaw Ave.