Fat Dan’s Deli Has Been a SoBro Favorite for Nearly 10 years
Writer / Jon Shoulders
Photographer / Ron Wise
It might be hard to believe Fat Dan’s Deli in South Broad Ripple was originally intended to be a small-scale, carry-out-only deli.
After all, the Chicago-style eatery has become a favorite destination for Indy food and beer enthusiasts and Chi-town sports fans alike since its humble beginnings nine years ago.
After growing up in the Chicago area and having developed a love for deli-style, counter-service food culture, Dan Jarman opened up Fat Dan’s next to Old Pro’s Table on Broad Ripple Avenue in 2009 and soon found himself nearly overwhelmed with a constant flow of patrons. By 2013 he’d relocated to a slightly bigger spot at 54th Street and College Avenue and discovered that Indy was eating up his modestly-scaled concept – literally.
“Initially Dan never expected to have servers, bartenders and tables – it was only supposed to be a small deli where you took your Chicago dog or Italian beef away with you,” says Mara Segerson, director of operations. “It was a natural growth since the demand became so much bigger, particularly after the relocation.”
Segerson says the menu, which stays true to Jarman’s Chicago-style deli roots, is to blame for Fat Dan’s success and continued popularity. The wings, brisket, Italian beef, Chicago dogs and dirty tots (the latter is a shareable Fat Dan’s original that features tater tots with smoked pork, scallions, cheese and house hot sauce) have brought many a customer back for multiple visits.
“Anything out of the smoker tends to be a menu favorite,” she says. “We smoke everything in-house. People love our smoked brisket and smoked pork, and we do smoked ribs on Fridays and Saturdays. We also do a smoked meatloaf on Wednesdays that sells out at every location every week.”
The beverage menu features a rotating selection of local craft beers and wines, and Fat Dan’s also offers catering for private events, holidays, weddings and birthday parties.
Segerson says die-hard Chicago sports fans bring the interior atmosphere to rousing life during game days, particularly in summer months when the Cubs baseball season is in full swing.
“When the Cubs won the World Series in 2016, that whole week was absolutely upside down,” she recalls with a laugh. “There are so many Cubs fans here in Indianapolis, and it was an outpouring of love at Fat Dan’s. There’s nothing better than to be there during Cubs season.”
A few years ago the yogurt shop next door to the establishment closed permanently, and Jarman knew the time was right for an expansion to accommodate a still-increasing customer base. The Fat Dan’s concept has steadily grown to also include a location on East Michigan Street, and Jarman recently acquired a space in Carmel formerly taken by Crust Pizzeria for a third store, which opened last month.
Jarman and company are also currently working toward a mid-June opening of Geraldine’s, a supper club-style steakhouse at the former Ironworks Corner Bar space in the Fletcher Place district of Indy, which Segerson says will be a nod to steakhouses from the 1940s and 1950s.
“We’re trying to kick it back to what a steakhouse used to be, with a Dean Martin, Rat Pack vibe,” she says. “Just a relaxed, chill kind of restaurant with a classic look and feel.”
Segerson adds that each step of the Fat Dan’s journey, from humble beginnings on Broad Ripple Avenue to multiple locations and a devoted following from folks all over the city, has been a result of simply giving the people what they want.
“Every time something happens it’s unexpected, and we just roll with it,” she says. “We’re just following the customer demand and what’s being thrown at us and things are going very well.”
Fat Dan’s Deli is located at 5410 North College Avenue in Indianapolis. For more info, call 317-600-3333 and visit fatdansdeli.com.