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Fat City Brew & BBQ

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Fat City Brew & BBQ is a hidden gem and a BBQ lover’s dream. Don and Nadja King opened their restaurant in 2018 at 1740 Pacific Avenue on Stockton’s Miracle Mile, and it has been going strong ever since. From the street, one might never guess the feast that awaits within, a feast built around Don’s specialty smoked meats, all made from scratch in house, reflecting the years of practice Don has invested as a self-taught grilling and smoking expert.

Specialties include brisket, tri tip, St. Louis ribs, pulled pork, turkey, smoked chicken and pulled chicken. Each meat is offered in gourmet sandwiches and a variety of combos plates such as The Pit, which includes “all meats from the smoker,” Don affirmed. Wood fired pizzas will soon be added to the menu, a perfect way to showcase creative combinations and flavors.

Growth Is Coming!
Don shared that early on, people sometimes confused the restaurant with somewhat similarly named establishments, but it’s no longer a problem as the other places have since closed. Fat City Brew & BBQ has been so well received that they plan to open more restaurants in nearby communities in addition to the catering they do for groups and offsite events. Although they cook all their own meats, they do not brew their own beer. “We just serve a lot of really good ones!” he clarified.

An accomplished pit master, Don calls his cooking California BBQ to differentiate it from other BBQ styles. His California version is lighter and cleaner flavored, dry rubbed with carefully selected spices, then smoked over cherry wood, which yields a milder, less overwhelming flavor than mesquite or hickory, he explained. He provides a variety of BBQ sauces so that customers can try different ones or select a favorite in the quantity they desire.

In his youth, Don and his best friend, Noah, participated in many BBQ competitions. Often, these were all-night events for the cooks to prepare four meats, brisket, pork, ribs and chicken, to see who would emerge the winner. Eventually Don began hosting his own competitions as he continued to hone his skills, something he confesses he sorely needed. “I was a terrible cook back then,” he said, laughing. “People would bring their own food to my cookouts!” Apparently, great BBQ may happen overnight but great skills take much longer.

Pandemic Pivot
Since then, with years of practice on his side, Don has won many competitions, proof of his dedication and outstanding ability. Because of their passion for the hobby, he and Noah originally opened a brewing and grilling supply store, which Nadja ran in Marengo Center before moving to Lincoln Center. Don never imagined having his own restaurant until the opportunity presented itself four years later. As soon as it opened, Fat City Brew & BBQ was extremely popular and, to their surprise, business held steady even when pandemic restrictions intervened.

When restaurants were not allowed to have patrons dine inside during lockdown, Don realized he could still cook the same great meals and deliver them via a drive-through tent out back. They expanded their online presence so people could place orders; the restaurant stayed as busy as ever doling out hot comfort food to a steady stream of grateful customers. In place of indoor dining, they provided indoor shopping, offering milk, eggs, gloves, sanitizer, toilet paper, cases of beer and more. “We just wanted to help everyone and it worked out really well,” Don explained.

Let’s Flip!
To this day, Don loves a good gamble and, in that spirit, he recently instituted the Let’s Flip For It promotion in which customers can say those very words to the cashier when placing their order. If the customer wins the coin toss, then the cashier will remove the cost of the most expensive item from the tab, even The Pit, which runs $45.97. Don gives away these free orders to three people per day and loves seeing customers get excited about winning.

Don, who once owned a machine shop, shared that since opening the restaurant, his greatest surprise is simply the passion and excitement he feels every single day to get into the kitchen and make it all happen. “I don’t even set an alarm clock,” he smiled. “I just wake up at 4:00 a.m., maybe 4:30 a.m., and I’m ready to go!” Behind the scenes, one of his favorite things to do is experiment with new foods and recipes. “I try out all sorts of new recipes and give it away free to my customers the next day. I include it along with whatever they’ve ordered so they can try it out and let me know what they think. If it’s something they would like to have again, I might add it to the menu, or make it a special.”

To order online or for information about upcoming events, visit or call 209-323-4920.