Fat Cats dish up American cuisine

The Ninth Square district, home to a wide variety of recently-established restaurants, including Bentara’s Malaysian restaurant, Nini’s Bistro, and Miso’s Japanese restaurant, has added a classic American-style restaurant and bar to its list of fine dining. The Fat Cats Cafe opened in November 2003 at 4 Orange St. in the site formerly occupied by Tycoon’s restaurant.

Fat Cats Cafe serves a variety of New American cuisine, including Louisiana crab cakes and Oregonian grilled salmon with cilantro pesto. It offers both sophisticated and simple dishes, from Hudson Valley Duck liver pate to meatloaf. The executive chef of Fat Cats Cafe, Malcom Johnson, has worked at the River Cafe and Julian’s in New York. Restaurant owner Lupe Flores said everything served at Fat Cats is fresh, including the bread and the sauces.

The nearly 6,000 square foot restaurant contains several different spaces, including a long, elegant bar, a wide-screen TV, a dance floor, a separate dining room for private parties, and what Flores refers to as the “lipstick lounge,” an intimate space proportioned off to the side featuring an oversized, 3-D “Lite Brite.”

“It’s an incredible place to be, one of the most beautiful restaurants,” Flores said.

Other unique features of Fat Cats Cafe include a surprisingly comfortable granite park bench next to the bar, brightly colored couches and wildly-decorated bathrooms. The men’s bathroom features metallic silver-studded wallpaper, while the women’s wallpaper is painted in a hot pink that evokes a cosmopolitan urban feel.

Flores said he enjoyed the Ninth Square district for the diversity of restaurants and shops — including an art gallery and Italian jewelry shop.

“The Ninth Square district is really coming around. We wanted to give it a real blast of color,” Flores said of the restaurant. Coming from Key West, Florida, Flores added that with its bright colors, it has a kind of “South Beach feel.”

Flores said Fat Cats Cafe will begin to host more live music, mostly jazz and rock, within a few weeks. Currently, DJs play dance music on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, with UltraRadio sponsoring Friday night events.

Flores said he has been pleased with the success of the restaurant so far.

“Everyone who comes wants to come back,” Flores said.

Dawn and Robbin Seipold, sisters who are repeat customers at Fat Cats, said they love the ambiance and dining that the restaurant offers.

“We’d checked out most places in town, but this place was fabulous,” Robbin said of their first visit to Fat Cats for happy hour last week.

They said they enjoyed the crab cakes, authentic salsa and guacamole, and crème brulee, and appreciated the fact that everything was so fresh. They said they anticipated returning soon with a group of co-workers for another happy hour.

Flores, who has always been involved in the restaurant and real estate business in Key West, Florida, said he came to New Haven partly for the environment Yale offers.

“I love the energy of university towns,” Flores said.

He said the restaurant caters not just to adults, but to a mix of crowds.

“We have everybody from Yale students, grad students, people from the Knights of Columbus — we offer almost everybody something,” Flores said.

Fat Cats Cafe is open from 11:30 am until 1 am on weeknights, and until 1:30 am on Fridays and Saturdays. Dinner entrees range from $9.50 to $19.00.

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