Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Fat Cat's Food Makes Customers Purr

By Lorraine Swanson/Pioneer Press News-Star

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


  1. I guess the hood is so hurting for places you can have lousy service and doppy bartenders and still make it.

  2. Two words....Reuben Balls....

  3. We were talking about Fat Cat's.

  4. Chicken fried steak!!

  5. Food and service are very inconsistent-

  6. Lorraine's last 'fluffy piece' for Pioneer News Star.

  7. I personally like this place, although I wish the menu was not so limited, but overall it is a great addition to the neighborhood. We need more places like this--if only so they can be driven by the competition.

  8. This article just reminded me that I need to get over there to try this place. It may not be the best food on earth, but it's a good price point for a casual evening. I'm sure their service will get better over time. I never had a problem at Silver Cloud.

  9. I dig the place. The chili's good, the beer selection is sweet. During NFL games, the staff is pretty darned accommodating.

    Pool table!

    And, it's within stumbling distance.

    Thumbs up to Fat Cat.

  10. Lorraine's last 'fluffy piece' for Pioneer News Star.

    Craig, do you know if Lorraine Swanson will remain part of the News Star with the new owners? She's a gem; I'd hate to see them lose her.

  11. I asked Lorraine about her status yesterday. Wednesday Journal hasn't offered to pick her up.

    I would request UU readers send these guys a note on behalf of Lorraine. That's if you feel she served your community well by delivering northside news (and fluff piece) coverage.

    Dan Haley,

    VP/Operations Director
    Andrew Johnston,

  12. Any place that offers New Holland Mat Hatter IPA on tap is awesome! Kudos Fat Cat

  13. I enjoy the place. Service can be slow at times, but the food is great and it's got a fun, laid back atmosphere. Wish I could find some photos from their New Year's party. Bet that was a great time.

    PS. If you haven't tried the Fried Chicken, you are seriously missing out.

  14. This place rocks. Their $1 buffalo chicken burgers are tasty.

  15. Does anyone know where Fat Cat came across the historical Uptown photos used on the collage on their wall? The photos are amazing and are vantagepoints not seen elsewhere. Would be great to get copies.

  16. Check out the links on this site and find the Uptown History site.

    That may help you in your quest to find some old photos.

  17. A friend and I attempted to eat at Fat Cat. We got there and found that the seating was a free for all seating. When we finally found a seat no one came to wait on us. I finally had to get up and find someone. Once a person finally did come, they had no menu's and were searching for some to bring us. After 10 minutes of waiting and no one returning we left. When I ask for a manager I acutally go to talk to the owners sister. She informed me that they were not a restaurant just a bar that served food and that seating would be festival type seating. Hmmm then why do they have "Good Food" on the side of the establishment if they are not going to run the place like a combination bar/restaurant. Drink prices are also very high here. I had high hopes for this place but they have been dashed with the "lets through something in the ghetto and they will come for bad service because there are few other options" attitude.

  18. All the historic images hanging at Fat Cat are available here.

  19. First off, I am currently under the influence of about 8 New Belgium 2 Below's (New Holland "Mad" Hatter IPA = Donkey Puke for yuppies), wait, I'm a condo owner and my car is paid off...OMG I AM A YUPPIE TOO!


    Since my blood right now is thinner than a crack whore on Racine and Leland I am going to be honest. Who cares about the particulars of Fat Cats? Fact is places like this are what will bring Uptown back from the deeps of poverty/gang hell. Even if they ripped off THRASHERS FRIES in Ocean City MD.

    Uptown has so much potential it is mind boggling.

  20. Anonymous 1:31pm-
    Thanks but the photos on the mural in Fat Cat show views of the Arcadia Ballroom, Lawrence and Broadway with streetcars, and so on. Compass Rose has great photos but Fat Cat still has photos I've not seen elsewhere. Wonder how they got them?

  21. I don't know why people are bashing Fat Cat for service or food - we have been there four times now and each time the food has been great and the service prompt and friendly. Just go, eat and enjoy!! I wish we had a dozen more places like this in Uptown.

  22. The historic images in the collages at Fat Cat (in the back near the restrooms) are from Compass Rose; many of the images in the larger mural came from Uptown United, Chicago History Museum, and can also be found with the Theatre Historical Society in Elmhurst, which has a number of vintage photos of The Riv, Aragon, and Uptown Theatre, both inside and out (including many that have never been published). Check with THSA first; images like the ones seen here (scroll to bottom) can be purchased from them directly for $25.00 for an 8x10. THSA Web site:

    Good luck finding the ones you're looking for!

  23. Thanks, Green Fairy, for the links. I had been to that site before but I don't think I had seen all of those beautiful old post cards. It is so sad to think of how much of that history is either gone or hidden now.