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Eating Boston: Entering the Danger Zone at First Bite Café

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I love food, and I thoroughly appreciate that some good foods just aren’t healthy — I will never turn down a warm chocolate chip cookie or handful of fries.

As a Philadelphian, I am well versed in the ultimate grease-on-meat combination, the Philly cheesesteak. But I’ve never crossed the threshold into the unabashed, no-holds-barred consumption of greasy fried foods indulged in by some of my friends.

One recent weekend, my roommate confessed to consuming the “Fat Bull” from First Bite Café on Brighton Avenue. I was both intrigued and grossed out when she told me what it was: a cheesesteak stuffed with mozzarella sticks, fries, and melted cheese.

There are 15 varieties of this monstrous sub in a segment of First Bite’s massive menu marked “Sub Danger Zone,” which I immediately read aloud to my roommates from my laptop. We went down the list, enticed, disgusted, and curious. I couldn’t help but wonder, was there something to this world of unapologetic gluttony? Was I missing out?

I decided it was time to get off this gastronomic sideline, so I assembled a crew of fellow tasters, experienced Danger Zone denizens as well as two First Bite newbies.

Uttering the order over the phone required courage: “Give me a Fat Willard (grilled chicken, fries, mozzarella sticks, marinara, and melted cheese on garlic bread) a Fat Buffalo Chicken (boneless buffalo fingers, fries, mozzarella sticks, and melted cheese), a Fat Bull (see above) and a Fat Cat (hamburger, fries, mayo, ketchup), please!” First Bite is tiny, with only one table, so I went for takeout.

Sitting in a circle, we began, methodically, to eat. This was no easy feat, as each well-rounded bite requires the near unhinging of the jaw. Between bites, we discussed the merits and downfalls of each sub.

They all tasted pretty much the same, save for a bit of marinara here, and spicy buffalo sauce there; whenever you slather anything with that much melted cheese and fries, the flavor profiles get a bit lost beneath the grease. But the flavor of melted cheese and fries is usually pretty great on its own.

The moisture of the sandwich determined its success. While the Fat Bull’s steak was sufficiently peppery, the meat was quite dry; the Fat Willard’s garlic bread shell rendered the sub too soggy to get a satisfying bite. The Fat Cat, the burger offering, became my personal favorite — the absence of cheese left the meaty part more flavorful.

“Never wear jeans with a belt when eating a First Bite sandwich,” said Phil, one of the seasoned members of the tasting crew. “You’ll need room to stretch.” Truer words have never been spoken.

When it was all over, I looked down. My lap was covered in crumbs, and marinara-specked oil lay in puddles on my notebook. Grease had somehow infiltrated my pen to the point where it was difficult to take notes.

About 20 minutes later, that heavy feeling in my stomach began to kick in. For me, those first bites from First Bite were enough. But at least now I’ve been to the other side and appreciate the fortitude required to conquer the Danger Zone.

Sub Danger Zone: $6.49, small; $7.49, large.
First Bite Café, 76 Brighton Ave., Boston, 617-782-2228, www.firstbiteallston.com

What’s your favorite food indulgence? Let us know in the comments.

When not wiping grease on her jeans, Leah can be reached at lmennies@gmail.com.

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