Eat With Pace! Reggie Meets Liz and Jon of Fat Kid Sandwiches!


Hey what’s up everybody? It’s your boy Reggie Pace and the Pace Cast is back! Yes! Eat with Pace! series is sponsored by RVAMAG right now and this episode is with Liz and Jon from Fat Kids Sandwiches, I ask them the hard hitting questions like what’s your favourite bread? What’s your favourite childhood meal? Because Fat Kids Sandwiches is such a great name. It’s a pretty good episode. Thank you so much for checking it out. You can follow us on at Eat With Pace! on Instagram and everywhere else.

And I like to start the episode off with the same question every time. It’s a very hard hitting question. What is your zodiac sign?

Jon Martin: I’m John and I’m a Gemini. [laughs]

I wanted to put that out there everyone, you know, make all the judgments you’d like to make about this. All right, how long has Fat Kids Sandwiches been in Richmond?

Jon: I’d say coming on three years now.

Liz Clifford: We came down to Richmond in February of 2018. Originally when we got down to Richmond, we actually both worked for Jason Alley. I ran the kitchen at Comfort and John was at Pasture at that point.

So we had always kind of had the idea of wanting to like have a business of our own and certainly something that we could have really be in control of and do our own thing. But we’ve moved from DC and it was just kind of impossible to start a small business there. And you would have had to raise so much money, you’d be like working for the bank or working for some investor. And part of the reason why we moved to Richmond was like to have the opportunity to have our own thing.

Jon: Yeah, I mean in Washington like 3 million would have gotten me like yes, it would be turnkey but turnkey in an area that like if you went out after dark, you might have died.

Right. Just like the absolutely worst area.

Liz: Just tough neighbourhoods. And so we got a business that was technically ours. You spend your whole life working for someone else.

Yeah, absolutely and a restaurant is such a gamble. Anyway, it’s good to gamble from the beginning.

Jon: Absolutely.

Liz: I have to give Hatch Local some credit. They really helped us get this going without spending upteen of thousands of dollars.

When we first started, it was June 2020 during the pandemic and we convinced people to like show up to a warehouse in Manchester. And we were not thinking about it too much at the time we were just trying to make some money and keep going. But weirdly, the pandemic really helped us get a stamp.

Jon: Yeah, like that on top of other things, like really did help us get a get out there.

I mean, it reminds me of music a lot in which you have to put so much skin in the game to even be any good at all, let alone start a project or decide that 100% make some sort of money. You’d have to just jump off the cliff. I understand that.

Jon: And like, like, at the end of it all, you do need to either jump or get off the cliff, right?

eat with pace! fat kid sandwiches
Photo by Lauren Serpa

I mean you have to decide. Next question. What is your favourite bread especially for your sandwiches?

Liz: What we’re really doing right now is we’re making subs, whether it’s a cheesesteak or Italian, or a tofu by me. But previously in our business, we’ve probably used I don’t know, like 10 categories of bread over the life of our business.

Jon: I think the one that I personally always go back to that we’re not really using like all that often anymore is like our club bread that’s like white bread, right? I personally am a big believer that like a clubs sandwich requires us certain degree of trashy white bread. [laughs] Right? Because it like a Wonder, like a Sunbeam, or something a little bit above that. But like along those guidelines, because like, in the end, it has to be toasted in butter. So like, you’re not always gonna get like a good end product if you use like like artisanal bread. You know what I mean? If somebody breaks their ass trying to get this like artisanal sourdough done for us, it’s not going to be as good as like a commercial white bread or making it.

Liz: If you are trying to make an Italian sub, use an Italian sub roll!

Jon: Like, sourdough doesn’t always work everywhere. And for us, in particular, a whole grain bread does not work at all.

Liz: And we’ve had so many people ask for wheat and your are not gonna to like a the whole wheat sub roll so I’m not giving you that. [laughs] Part of the thing, we get into big problems with trying to get gluten free bread to work. We have tried at least 15-20 different gluten free breads and nothing tasted right.

Jon: There was one alternative that we could have done but we would have had to charge double the price that we’re charging right now. So I mean, it just wasn’t worth it in the long run because like nobody wants to pay like $25 for like a sandwich. They just don’t.

Liz: A lettuce wrap can be a delicious, awesome thing. It does limit us because you can only put cool things in the lettuce wrap.

Oh, yeah, totally.

Liz: But for example, our Italian or fried chicken salad. Like they’re cool and that works — you can make a delicious lettuce wrap.

eat with pace! fat kid sandwiches
Photo by Lauren Serpa

All right. You brought up your Half Pound Italian Sub, but your Roast Pork & Broccoli Rabe — is that so more Philadelphia influenced or an Italian thing?

Jon: Oh, no. 100% Philadelphia without question.

Liz: So I have a tonne of moms and uncles and cousins and stuff like that, that live in the Philly area. And so I’ve spent a ton of my life visiting that place. My mom grew up in Cherry Hill, which is basically a suburb of Philadelphia. So like, going to the Nick’s and Reading Terminal Market was something that I did a ton of times when I was a kid. So like that is definitely the OGs. [laughs]

We’re not trying to copy it but like Nick’s uses pork shoulder and we are using pork loin. We sort of specifically made the choice to use broccoli rabe. And then we it’s not like it’s that different, but like what we use to sort of season our broccoli rabe with the same garlic base that we use for our pork and for our turkey.

I like the garlic on that!

Liz: So this is like a ton of garlic with extra virgin olive oil, a ton of herbs, salt and pepper and like that’s gonna make anything taste delicious but especially like turkey, pork, broccoli rabe!

Especially when you get the funny cheese on there — woo!

Liz: Yes! The sharp provolone so we I like fought like 10 rounds to get the right cheese.

Jon: It was ugly. I watched it. [laughs]

Liz: Everybody was trying to fob me off with this like BS provolone. And I’m like no, like this is just melty cheese…

Need that funky stuff!

Liz: You need that smell as soon as you open the package.

Jon: I kind of like to tell people yes, it’s provolone, but like I don’t think it’s the provolone you’re expecting.

Liz: I said every single time that is on our menu anywhere, whether it’s like mine or in the kiosk at Hatch Local wherever you can find it. Every time it says provolone, it says sharp provolone. Cuz if people don’t know what they’re getting, it’s not fair to surprise them with some funky cheese.

Like we didn’t even know provolone came in sharpness.

Liz: Right, I’ve had that conversation with people where they’re like, what does sharper provolone mean?

Jon: Its aged. It tastes a little different.

Liz: I worked as a cheesemonger for a year and oh my gosh, I loved doing that. I was in charge of the charcuterie counter, and I was doing prepared foods for like a fancy wine store in DC. It was a great job for me and then I got to help people build their fancy cheese and charcuterie plates.

You get to play with those knives.

Liz: Yes, you got great knives!

Jon: Oh, yeah, those are awesome. [laughs] I’ve always been kind of jealous about those. Like, I’ve always kind of wanted one, but I’ve got no reason to own one.

Liz: Don’t let your dreams go! [laughs]

You all make a delicious hot dog sandwich. What do you think makes a great hot dog sandwich in? Do you believe a hot dog is a sandwich?

Jon: We’ve kind of built our hot dogs originally out of necessity. Like, and I say that because we originally introduced that a year or two ago at a pop up?

Liz: Well, before Hatch Local.

Jon: And like we were getting scheduled at all these pop ups. But all these pop ups were like in May, June, July, some time in August, right? The most miserable parts of Richmond, Virginia. We kind of came to a decision like really? Do we really want to be carrying sandwiches to these people in this 100 degree weather? No, why don’t we just like lean into the pop up that we’re going to right? So for instance, we would be going to The Veil and we were like so this time we’re gonna bring hot dogs and we’re gonna cook the hot dogs in in the beer from The Veil. So like that got much more attention than than us just kind of bringing sandwiches willy nilly. Yeah, hotdogs plus beer, people really love it.

Liz: It really hepled that people can smell it happening. Yeah, he’s really cooking the hot dog!

Jon: And now when we brought it to Hatch, I can tell you my personal headspace was was like let’s take the 7-11 hot dog and elevate that bitch. [laughs] So we take the gloves off and yeah I believe we have what the 7-11 hotdog should be. Our product is much better and is like 100% Black Angus beef. Our chilli is handmade. I mean, I mean like

Liz: And really good cheese sauce that actually has like some spicy jalapeño in it. And our buns are the top split like New England style hot dog buns.

Jon: The ones you get like on like a lobster roll kind of thing.

Liz: Its a good vehicle for a chilli cheese dog because it like has more structure to support the chilli in the cheese.

Photo by Lauren Serpa

I think y’all have the greats chilli cheese dog, like one of the best ones I’ve had. Its so good.

Jon: Well, I appreciate that.

Liz: We are making a really good product but it’s hard. Like when somebody just walks up and sees a hotdog roller. They’re like what is this? To get that across exactly what’s going on, right? Especially because and I’ll be honest — I don’t want to wade into this debate of like hot dog versus a sandwich. Like a hot dog is delicious. A sandwich is delicious. [laughs]

Jon: But to answer your question is a hot dog a sandwich? I will say if it’s a singular hotdog, no. If it is like multiple hotdogs cut in half and strewn upon bread with like black beans, sour cream, jalapeno — yeah, like that’s like a torta. And torta directly translates to “sandwich.” So I like one hot dog is a hot dog but multiple hot dogs is a sandwich.

You heard it here first! So I saw that you have Capri Suns on the menu. That reminds me of childhood. So what would you say is your favourite childhood meal?

Liz: Oh, we really kind of leaned into that childhood nostalgia thing. We have the Capri Sun with a bunch of vintage lunchboxes that are sort of part of our decor. And

I noticed and you definitely leaned into the name too.

Liz: We’ve done things in the past and I keep trying to convince Jon to make this again. It was so good. He made from scratch pudding, and he made these sort of Jello pudding style like swirls, it was so delicious.

eat with pace! fat kid sandwiches
Photo by Lauren Serpa

That sounds amazing.

Liz: I realize it was a lot of work for John, but it was really good. Please do it again!

Jon: I personally love, love, love anything nostalgic. If I see like a Capri Sun Pacific Cooler I’ll go ahead and get like 4 boxes of it and we’ll just sell it right there. And I guarantee like nine out of ten people will see Capri Sun and ask us what flavour Do you have? And oh yeah, I’ve seen 40 year olds, 50 year olds jump up and down like a little like a three year old. [laughs]

Liz: The number of dudes in their 40s who have come to a stop in front of me and been like, you have a lunchbox from The Mask? [laughs]

Jon: Yeah, because nobody really realises that was a cartoon in the eighties but it was a cartoon.

Liz: But one of the most fun things that I did before we started the food hall phase of this business, which is the most public facing expansion for us, was trolling around eBay and Etsy and trying to find these lunchboxes.

It is a great idea.

Liz: Well, we have got the lunchbox special which is a side, drink and your sandwich. And it’s the kind of thing you would have at lunch.

Jon: And if you can believe it, it was actually very cost-effective.

Liz: In terms of how much money we spent on decor compared to a restaurant, absolutely! Like, I don’t think it’s too inside baseball, but if you want to get an expensive lunchbox, it will cost you $500 or $600 but that’s because it has the original thermos. And I’m like, give me your dents and scratches for $25. I just wanted it to be cool. This looks cool. And it makes me think of when I was 12. This is great.

Jon: When I wish for the old days, I just opened one up and like I click the thermos a couple of times. I’m like, wow. right back into my elementary school. [laughs]

Tell me about A Secret Forest vegetarian sub. I’m not a vegetarian, but I thought it was awesome. So, tell me about that.

Liz: Our recent neighbor Vanessa runs a business called A Secret Forest. She makes custom beautiful flowers, skeletons, and other interesting items. You should check out her Instagram, @asecretforestrva.

Anyways, she would come into our shop all the time and the thing she kept ordering that we eventually put on the menu was her mystery vegetable sub, A Secret Forest. It’s basically every vegetable we have on hand plus cheddar cheese and whatever sauce you like. That was what she wanted to eat and it turned out that it also translated into what people wanted to order on our menu. Adding roasted garlic broccoli made the whole thing even better. It made a big difference and that makes it a good veggie sub.

eat with pace! fat kid sandwiches
Photo by Lauren Serpa

It really does. Okay, I got one more question for you. Why should people come eat at Fat Kids Sandwiches?

Jon: I mean, we’re never going to force anyone to do anything, but I would say we’re going to feed you the feelings that you want to eat. Whether you’re willing to own that or not. These last few years have been rocky, not just for our business, but for the country as well. But coincidentally, they’ve been very good for us. So, what I’ve taken from all that is come and eat what you want. We’re not going to judge. Come let yourself go.

Liz: You want extra cheese? Yes, please!

Jon: I really love about our business that we have been able to aid people in helping them eat their feelings without them actually having to voice it.

Liz: So I would put it differently, but you’re right. What you’ve said is right. I’m not trying to compete with you. What I would say is there is joy in food. We want to try to give people that joy as much as we can.

Jon: And in a perfect world, if that joy brings them to their elementary school lunch table, even if only for 30 seconds, and they realize what it is to be a kid again and have no worries. Why can’t we do that? What is the real harm there?

Liz: It’s not just kids either. I’ve had adults come in and order the lunchbox special and pick out their chips or dessert and ask for a Capri Sun. It’s like, this is amazing, I remember as a kid, just randomly, like, I went to private school and it was a Quaker school. We weren’t allowed to bring our own lunch, so the idea of a Capri Sun was so exciting because it was a forbidden thing. And it’s like, I’m gonna give that stuff to kids, but by kids, I mean, like, 35 year olds, that’ll work too.

Jon: That experience, right? Yeah. I mean, because ultimately, dining is, whether it’s fast casual, whether it’s McDonald’s, or whether it’s a Michelin restaurant, it’s all about the experience. So if we can uplift you, and place you down in an easier time, in a time where things were actually fun and cool. And you look forward to the next day. And there’s not a care in the world. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, and we’d kind of strive to go back to that every chance we can possibly take.

Liz: We want to make great food of course, absolutely. We also put on enjoy the point to get people happy literally.

Jon: Yeah. And I’m like, kind of like remind people, like, like, pardon the language. Remind people just who the fuck they are.

I know that’s right! Big shout outs to John and Liz from Fat Kid Sandwiches. Go check them out at Hatch Local. Check them out on Instagram. I’m your host Reggie Pace. There’ll be more of these, follow us at @eatwithpace is everywhere that you can see that kind of thing.

Follow Fat Kid Sandwiches @fatkidsandwiches
Follow Hatch Local @hatchlocalfoodhall 
Follow Eat With Pace @eatwithpace
Photos by Lauren Serpa

Reggie Pace

Reggie Pace

Reggie Pace host of the PACECAST and co-Founder of Richmond’s own NO BS! Brass, a high-octane Brass explosion that's played festivals all over The United States, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Canada, Italy, Croatia, Hungary, and Belgium. Pace is a member of the Hustle Season Podcast, and you can catch him in town playing with Piranha Rama, Night Idea, The Big Payback, Mikrowaves and Brunswick. He has toured the world with Bon Iver, during which they won a Grammy for "Best New Artist." He has also played music in beautiful venues such as Lincoln Center, The Kennedy Center, The Sydney Opera House, O2 Arena in Dublin, Wembley in London, Coachella, Bonnaroo, and the New Orleans Jazz Festival. His television appearances include Saturday Night Live, Ellen, Jimmy Fallon, David Letterman, Stephen Colbert, Austin City Limits, Jools Holland and Seth Meyers.

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