By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes
If there’s such a thing as healthy barbecue, the owner of Phat Cat BBQ wants to serve it up.
Cody Eldridge, a lifelong Keizerite with more than two decades cooking at restaurants like McGrath’s Fish House, Outback Steakhouse and Roadhouse Grill, opened up the city’s newest dining option in Keizer Plaza at 4906 River Road N., next door to Keizer Academy of Music and Arts.
Barbecued chicken and beef brisket might not sound like the most nutritious meals, but to the extent that he can Eldridge wants to cook up healthy offerings. Both come in wraps with your choice of sauces and toppings.
While he likes to cook all kinds of fare, he saw an opportunity in Salem-Keizer’s lack of barbecue joints. The only one in Keizer closed earlier this year.
“And I like doing barbecue – it’s something I love doing with my family,” he said.
Primarily oriented towards takeout, he wants to provide an alternative to fast food for people on the go, saying the menu is “wrapped around wraps.”
He makes all his own sauces, and is particularly interested in fruit bases: So far he’s done apricot, apple, blackberry, orange and mango, and also has a sweet and spicy sauce with sauteed garlic.
“The reason I did apricot is it’s a northwest fruit,” Eldridge said. “Mango isn’t but it just sounded good.”
He plans on introducing his “fireball” sauce, with fresh habanero peppers. All start out with a vinegar and ketchup base.
Eldridge is even working on a barbecue sauce for diabetics so people suffering from the affliction – like his mom – can enjoy his food.
“It’s expensive to make,” Eldridge said while explaining why the market hasn’t offered one up. “I’m experimenting with other things to try to come up with that and still be as natural as possible.”
Meats are slow-cooked daily with a cinnamon-based rub. Eldridge arrives daily at 3 a.m. to start cooking. He’s going to have ribs and chicken quarters each Saturday, and wants to expand those to daily if customer demand allows.
Cole slaw is made with apricot juice, replacing the sugar. Baked beans start out as white beans and are cooked with traditional barbecue sauce and chicken.
Eldridge attended Keizer Elementary, Whiteaker Middle and McNary High schools, graduating from the latter in 1990.
Phat Cat BBQ
4906 River Road N., Keizer
Monday though Saturday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.