And . . . Rutgers gets stuffed again

This week's USF opponent fills the gaps (and horrifies dietitians) with its legendary Fat Sandwiches.

Published November 4, 2005

Ask Ken Branson about the Grease Trucks at Rutgers University, and he has a small confession to make.

"I ate at the Grease Trucks today," said Branson, who works in public relations for the New Brunswick, N.J., school. "It was a good steak sandwich. But I've never had a Fat Sandwich. I'm 55, and I want to be 56 someday."

Rutgers can boast its role in the birth of college football, celebrating Sunday the 136th anniversary of the first-ever collegiate game, between Rutgers and Princeton in 1869. But as USF travels to New Jersey for Saturday's key Big East game, Bulls fans can encounter a newer, more frightening tradition: the Fat Sandwiches, legendary concoctions that are everything fun about college life, with a few mozzarella sticks for good measure.

The Grease Trucks, the name affectionately given to the five trailer trucks that set up shop in a parking lot at College Avenue and Hamilton Street at Rutgers, are an unofficial campus landmark. They serve everything from coffee to falafel, but the highlight of the menu is the Fat Sandwiches, a wildly popular fried mishmash of all things unhealthy.

As late as 2:30 a.m., you can walk up and literally order a Fat Cat, Fat Buddha, or perhaps a Fat Darrell, which stuffs chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks, french fries and marinara sauce onto an 8-inch soft roll. And at $4.50, it's a college student's dream.

The sandwich is named for Rutgers grad Darrell Butler, who started it all in 1997 when he convinced a cook at the "R.U. Hungry" truck to pack a bunch of his favorite menu selections into one sandwich.

"He's really very skinny," says Abdo Elfeiki, manager at "R.U. Hungry." "Last year, the sandwich was in the media every day. He was a busy man."

Maxim magazine ranked the Fat Darrell atop its list of "America's Top 10 Meat Hogs" last year, and the Food Network sent a crew to Rutgers, ranking the sandwich third on its national menu of "Monster Meals."

The Fat Darrell is said to be 1,718 calories - that's 85 percent of your recommended daily allowance - and 78 fat grams, but it's tame compared to other Fats. The Fat Philly, once known as the Fat Phillipino (sic) before a recent name change for political correctness, has chicken fingers, cheesesteak, gyro meat, mozzarella sticks, white and red sauces and, if you have room, lettuce and tomato.

At a time when national obesity is a concern, the sandwiches remain a hit with people who know they can't possibly be good for them. Last year, the Home News Tribune, a newspaper serving central New Jersey, interviewed Marcus Garand, a dietitian at a local hospital who had "weighed and analyzed" the sandwiches with predictable disapproval.

"This sandwich is like a nutritionist's worst nightmare," he told the newspaper. "I couldn't figure out a way to make it any unhealthier. ... This is probably the unhealthiest sandwich you could ever devise."

Garand estimated that the Fat Darrell contained 143 grams of carbohydrates, or roughly a full week's allowance under the Atkins Diet. Working off such a meal, he said, would require one to "walk briskly for six to seven hours."

Rutgers is a historic campus that dates to 1766, America's eighth oldest institute of higher learning. But when the university announced last week that 15 renowned architecture firms were submitting designs for a signature academic building to be built on campus, the concern wasn't just for the colonial surroundings that predate our nation's existence.

The building will be built at College and Hamilton, meaning the Grease Trucks will have to find a new home. Rest easy, hungry students. The Fat Elvis sandwiches won't be far from the building.

"They will continue," Branson said. "There will be a place for them."


Want to make your own "Fat Sandwiches" like the Grease Trucks serve at Rutgers? There are numerous variations, but the general recipe is to pack three or four ingredients onto an 8-inch sub roll. Here are the ingredients for some of the most popular sandwiches; have a cardiologist on standby.

FAT DARRELL: Two chicken fingers, two mozzarella sticks, french fries and marinara sauce.

FAT PHILLY: Two chicken fingers, cheesesteak, gyro meat, two mozzarella sticks, white and red sauces, lettuce and tomato.

FAT CAT (the original): Two cheeseburgers, fries, lettuce, tomato, ketchup, mayo.