Happy Mother's Day. Restaurants around the nation will be filled with families celebrating Mom and all her hard work and devotion.
But sometimes Mom just wants a quiet day at home free of kitchen cleanup. If she's like the Discreet Diner, her family will get her take-out.
I recently happened upon a new place in the Acme Shopping Center on Egg Harbor Road in Washington Township - Fat Jack's BBQ. This franchise opened on Feb. 10 There's another one on Blackwood-Clementon Road in Clementon, one in Vineland, and one in Berlin. I couldn't wait to visit.
Eating ribs is fun. One of my closest friends has been a little down-in-the-mouth, so I asked her to accompany me. Who can be down while holding a rib?
I had confused Fat Jack's with the other rib chain that came to South Jersey in recent years. They're not the same. This is more a rib place than a family restaurant. You order first, pay, then sit down and wait for your food to eat there or take out.
There's a big board that lists the offerings. Thankfully, there are also printed menus.
We ordered everything - at least it seemed that way. A half-slab of dry ribs with sides of collard greens and It Ain't Your Momma's Potato Salad ($13.99); Texas beef ribs with sides of Kentucky slaw and cinnamon spice apples ($13.99); Fat Jack's Jammin' Jambalaya ($6.59); Chicken Thumbz n' Fries ($5.99), although we substituted mac-and-cheese for the fries; Buffalo Thumbz n' Fries ($6.99), with the same substitution; banana cream pie ($2.99); bread pudding ($3.99); and our drinks ($1.65).
While we waited, we checked out the mounted boar's head on the wall by the counter and the memorabilia of Washington Township groups on the wall by the kitchen. The staff was friendly and accommodating, and we chatted with the owners, Walter Shaffer and Karen Delfing.
Then came our order, which filled the table. The dry ribs were tender and smoky and the rub was spicy enough and not salty. Quite nice. The collards had a good taste, slightly sweet, and they were cooked to tenderness with smoked turkey and bacon. I admit that I am a potato salad snob, and this is a really good dish. It has all the right ingredients, including boiled egg and pickles, but I would have preferred more of them. It was a little too potato-y for me. That said, I would order it again.
The beef ribs had BBQ sauce, which often is tangy or too sweet. This blend, however, complemented the big bones. It was a nice glaze, slightly spicy and just a little sweet. The meat was tender and quite tasty. The Kentucky slaw was chopped cabbage with a very vinegary dressing. It was too much for my taste, although my friend really liked it.
We could have saved the apples for dessert. They were just like my mom used to make, sweet and lots of cinnamon, and would have been really good with vanilla ice cream.
And then there were the thumbz. Forget fingers, these pieces of fried white meat chicken were big and full of flavor. The plain ones were perfect for dipping - try the BBQ sauce. And the buffalo thumbz had the added attraction of a nicely spicy sauce. All they needed was some blue cheese.
The jambalaya? Definitely jammin'. This mix of spicy rice, sausage, shrimp, chicken, ham and okra - and all the requisite Cajun spices - was a down-home treat. Eat it with the cornbread and butter. Admire it from the menu, though, if you don't like spicy food.
After all that, we needed a little break.
So, we sat back and continued our lively conversation. There's something about good food and good friends that makes people smile. We joked and laughed and caught up with all the news of family and friends.
And we packed up our leftovers. The place is smart to serve the sides in plastic containers, ready for lids. We got Styrofoam for the meats.
Then it was time for dessert. The homemade bread pudding is served warm with a rum raisin sauce. The pudding itself was good, soft and had lots of nuts, but next time I'll get the sauce on the side. It was way too sweet for my taste. The banana cream pie, though, was the perfect end to this meal. It was very light and creamy, the crust was flaky, and crunched nuts were dusted on top.
Too bad my daughter is too young to have a job. She could have taken me there today.
Discreet Diner | Fat Jack's BBQ
415 Egg Harbor Rd., Acme Shopping Center, Washington Township.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday.
Handicapped accessible: Yes.
Children's menu: No.