They say the neon lights are bright on Broadway, and outside the newly opened Fat Cat in Uptown, boy, are they ever. The bar and grill moves into a spacious corner spot on a stretch of the street that houses historic jazz club The Green Mill, gay sports spot Crew Bar + Grill and its soon-to-open neighbor Wilde Pug, and Indian restaurant Marigold. With the arrival of Fat Cat, a partnership between Cy Oldham of Silver Cloud Bar & Grill and Howard Natinsky of Five Star Bar & Grill, Uptown locals can now find creative cocktails and comfort food with a twist close to home.
Inside: Decorative influences from the '30s and '40s--check out the 40-foot Art Deco bar that curves around the room's center--give this spot old-school flair. So do the large, neon, diner-like signs out front. Settle into plush, gangster-style booths or round up your group for a game of pool in the back room. The 4,400 square-foot corner space boasts large windows opening onto the street, plenty of seating, and several flat-screen TVs. Historic photos of Uptown neighborhood haunts and musicians come together in a back-lit montage on a wall near the restrooms.
Drinks: We can't get enough of Silver Cloud's Smore-tinis; sadly, they're not on the menu here. Fat Cat's answer? The Chocolate Peanut Butter Martini ($7), made with homemade peanut butter foam. We were looking for something lighter on a recent summer night, and the Hi-Hat ($6)--vodka with muddled basil and grapes and a splash of ginger ale and simple syrup--hit the spot. And since we were soaking up the retro ambience, we couldn't help but quaff the gangster-inspired St. Valentine's Day Massacre ($7): brandy, black raspberry liqueur, cranberry and lime juice served up.
In addition to a full bar and a small selection of wines by the glass and the bottle, Fat Cat steps up with a, uh, fat selection of beers. PBR, Unibroue Maudite, and a handful of Belgian beers like Delirium Tremens and De Koninck are on tap; you'll also find cans and bottles, from Schlitz to Shiner Bock.
Food: When we've got the munchies at a bar, all we want is some good ol' comfort food. Fat Cat doesn't disappoint, with modern appetizer takes on classics like the corn dog and the Reuben.
We filled up with items from the late-night menu, served from 10 p.m. until midnight: toasted chili, black bean and taco dip with tortilla chips ($6.95); fried mac 'n' cheese bites (choose original or chorizo mac 'n' cheese) with bacon-pepper remoulade and spicy ketchup ($6.95); and the sloppy joe with fries ($8.95). Though Fat Cat's menu claims it's "Light on the Joe, heavy on the sloppy!" we think the meat could have been saucier. The flavor, though, was spot on.
Service: Our waiter was personable and upbeat, and the good vibes didn't end there. Our table near the door afforded us a view of the greaser-chic doorman, who checked IDs while chatting with bargoers--all with a smile on his face!
Crowd: The crowd here reflects the Uptown neighborhood, so expect people mostly in their 30s. That said, we're sure that on some nights, the lineups at the nearby Riviera Theatre and Aragon Ballroom will dictate who pops in for a post-concert cocktail.
Bottom line: It's unlikely you'd trek to Fat Cat if Silver Cloud or Five Star is closer to home, since both spots offer similar comforts. But this new addition to Uptown's growing Broadway strip will likely be a big hit with locals and concert-going crowds checking out acts at the Riv and Aragon.
[ Karen Budell is the metromix nightlife producer. ] Originally published August 9, 2007.