When you ask a student at the New Brunswick campus of Rutgers University where to go for late night grub – students, after all, are the harbinger of after-hour eats — chances are they’ll tell you to go to R U Hungry, which for years was open until 4 a.m. (COVID-19 has it now closing at 10 p.m.).
They’ll also no doubt recommend the fat sandwich, a hefty meal of various meats, cheeses, sauces, French fries, mayo and ketchup stuffed into a long plush roll.
Over the years, many small businesses have replicated these sandwiches, but R U Hungry is the originator. The phenomenon started in 1997 when a student named Darrel Butler came to the then food truck (it was part of a series of three that had been on campus since 1979) super hungry one night and asked for a sub stuffed with chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks, marinara sauce, and French fries. The staff said sure and the legend was born.
Since then, the menu has exploded into more than 40 fat sandwich variations, with names like the Fat Moon (chicken fingers, bacon, egg, lettuce, tomato, French fries, mayo and ketchup), Fat Mom (cheesesteak, turkey bacon, egg, lettuce, tomato, French fries, mayo and ketchup), Fat Cat MacLean (burger, chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks, French fries, cheese sauce, honey mustard), Fat Elvis (gyro, mozzarella sticks, lettuce, tomato, French fries, tzatziki sauce) and Fat Beach (cheesesteak, chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks, French fries, lettuce, ketchup), which, according to Manager, Abdo Elfeiki, is the most popular.
There’s such fierce loyalty to the sandwiches that when the university started building dorms and a courtyard in 1979, essentially edging out the space where R U Hungry’s food trucks had operated up until 2015, there was a huge student uprising.
After petitioning the administration, a compromise was reached and R U Hungry was given a brick and mortar location.
Elfeiki said the students literally saved them as they had no idea what would happen when they were moved from the original on the corner of Hamilton and College Ave. to the library and then to College Avenue.
That was in 2015. In 2019, they also opened a location at Rutgers Newark.
Now the New Brunswick restaurant, under COVID-19 restrictions, is facing another challenge with business slower than usual. There’s no indoor dining, but takeout and delivery are available.
“More customers are using Doordash to place their orders,” said Elfeiki, which has helped bring in revenue.
For those who’ve had the sandwiches, there’s both nostalgia and devotion at play when ordering one.
“My favorite is the Fat Beach,” said Dennis Dragun, an alumni from the class of 2014. “The trucks were an experience and definitely a hangout spot.”
Want to try one?
95 Hamilton Street, New Brunswick, 732-246-2177
164 University Avenue, Newark, 973-577-1980
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