When Cy Oldham opened her restaurant, Fat Cat, at 4840 N. Broadway in the burgeoning Uptown Entertainment District, she expected to hit a single or a triple, but not a home run.
"I was looking to build and grow with the community as people moved into the area," Oldham said. "I thought I was taking a gamble. We became a destination and neighborhood place instantaneously because there wasn't much up here."
Serving American Contemporary cuisine, Oldham said that business has been phenomenal. Recruiting chef Sean Pharr, formerly of Tru, said Uptown residents are crazy for the corn dog appetizers, featuring bite-sized Vienna, Polish and spicy devil dog sausages, with three different types of sausages including "Spicy Chicago" that blends everything you can fit on a Chicago dog.
"It's one of our most inventive and creative dishes, served on a custom-made tray with a lollipop tree," Oldham said.
Since Fat Cat's opening in July, the restaurant and bar's Halloween and New Year's Eve events have been sell-outs.
"We get all ages. It's phenomenal. People are table hopping in here and everybody knows each other," Oldham said. "We just started swing dancing lessons and live acoustic guitar during the week and a DJ on the weekends."
Formerly from the Detroit-area, Oldham started out her Chicago days working a waitress, bartender and barback. She made the leap to restaurant owner and operator with her first restaurant, Silver Cloud, at 1700 N. Damen Ave. in Bucktown, whose motto is, "Food like mom would make if she was getting paid."
Oldham is continuing the theme of "comfort food" at the 4,400-square-foot, Art Deco-bedecked Fat Cat that recalls the era of 1920s and 1930s, when Uptown was swinging.
Fat Cat's prices are reasonable, with the most expensive entree priced at $12.95. The most popular entree is a Pork Belly Sammy at $9.95, featuring pork marinated in dark rum, Cuban spices and bananas, then slow-cooked for a minimum of 24 hours.
"Everything we do here is very labor intensive," Oldham said, adding that Fat Cat also hand-cuts about 100 pounds of potatoes per day for its own french fries.
Fat Cat will host a Fat Tuesday Mardi Gras bash from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., featuring all-you-can-eat buffet for $9.95 per person that includes a Crawfish Boil, Oyster Po' Boys, Jambalaya and Mardi Gras King Cage. Special Abita Beers will also be served. Partial proceeds will benefit Brad Pitt's "Make It Right" Foundation for the rebuilding of post-Katrina New Orleans. (Sorry, ladies, Brad won't be putting in an appearance.)
For more information, call (773) 506-3100.
photo by Mia Aigotti