By Becky Billingsley
Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012, Surfside Beach – A longtime Surfside Beach restaurant owner is ready to sell her business and retire.
Maria Kovacs isn’t sure exactly when Fat Jack’s Wings & Things opened – it was in the early 1970s she knows, in North Myrtle Beach. It was sold and reopened off Lake Arrowhead Road in Myrtle Beach, and then moved again near the back gate of the former U.S. Air Force Base.
Eighteen years ago, following the closure of the air base, Fat Jack’s moved to its present location at 353 US. 17 North in Surfside Beach, and that’s where Maria Kovacs became the owner.
Kovacs kept serving the Buffalo wings for which Fat Jack’s was known and added several new flavors that became hits with locals and faithfully returning visitors, like Ragin’ Cajun and Texas Gold. The House Wings – sweet with a hint of sass – are a perpetual favorite along with Kovac’s special blue cheese dipping sauce loaded with chunks of real cheese and with its own little kick of heat.
Kovacs is a native of Germany, and she introduced German dishes during off-seasons that became part of the regular menu, like creamy Potato Soup with leeks, smoked kielbasa and sauerkraut sub, fresh bratwurst, Bitburger beer on draft and several German wines.
Entering Fat Jack’s is a bit like coming home for a generation who grew up playing with the toys Kovacs kept in a corner, enjoyed free Popscicles if their parents told Kovacs the kids did good jobs eating their dinners and may have painted one of the famous Fat Jack’s ceiling tiles.
Yes, ceiling tiles. Kovacs came up with the unique decorating element more than a dozen years ago, and now almost the entire ceiling is a colorful conglomeration of Surfside Beach history. Under those tiles there have been barbershop quartets break into spontaneous song, families have celebrated generations of milestones and politicians have discussed the town’s future.
But Maria Kovacs is in her 70s now, and she wants to spend more time with her daughter and grandchildren and travel with friends and pursue the hobbies she loves, like kayaking and hiking.
So Fat Jack’s - with its big roomy booths, the large tables in the middle shoved together for many birthday parties and post-sports celebrations, the bar where bartender/manager Kurt Christiansen starts pouring your beer when you walk in the door, and the spotless kitchen where each year tens of thousands of wings are fried with no batter to steaming crispiness and slathered in sauce – is either being sold or is closing.
Because that’s it, Kovacs said. After this season, she is finished. If Fat Jack’s doesn’t sell soon, she will sell the fixtures and equipment and close the doors.
Kovacs will entertain reasonable offers, and she can be contacted at (843) 455-6275. Learn more about Fat Jack's HERE.