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Dining out

In downtown Quincy, Fat Cat satisfies

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February 17, 2008

The Fat Cat
24 Chestnut St., Quincy
617-471-4363, www.fatcatrestaurant.com
Open daily, 11 a.m.-1 a.m.
All major credit cards accepted
Handicapped accessible
Reservations accepted for parties of six or more

There's an expression, "Never trust a skinny chef." Well, I have my own expression: "Never trust a skinny cat." Unlike their chubby counterparts, skinny cats are sly, quick, and slightly sinister. Fat cats, to me, are warm, easygoing, and friendly.

No surprise, then, that the newly opened Fat Cat restaurant in Quincy appealed to me immediately. Like the 32-pound feline it's named after, the Fat Cat appreciates good food and a comfy atmosphere.

Quincy native and Fat Cat owner Neil Kiley opened the place in December after having worked in restaurants throughout the South Shore and Boston. He took over the site of the Shuttle Stop Deli on Chestnut Street, hired his longtime friend and colleague Tom Coleman (former chef at 53 South), and got to work building his dream restaurant.

"I love this city," said Kiley. "It's amazing how many restaurants have opened here recently. It's like we're climbing the dining ladder."

Kiley envisions his "eclectic American dining" place as a necessary rung on the ladder. I couldn't agree more. There aren't many places in Quincy - or anywhere for that matter - that could pull off a menu like this. From fried pickle slices to lobster and crab nachos to a bone-in veal chop, there seems to be something for everyone without having a Bible-sized menu plunked on the table.

And don't get me started on the beer. I wish I still collected labels, because I would have been peeling away during my visit. Selections from Rogue Brewery (Dead Guy Ale) and Smuttynose (IPA) not only looked great, but also represented one of the better beer inventories I've seen lately.

The Fat Cat has a full liquor license and an impressive wine list, with a decent selection of house offerings at $7 a glass or $26 per bottle.

After we were seated, our server brought a small plate of black bean hummus with a dollop of honey butter on top. Normally, tables get a basket of cornbread for dipping, but unfortunately, they had run out during our visit and we got white dinner rolls, which didn't quite do the trick.

For appetizers, we tried a cup of the daily soup, which was white bean with chunks of Italian sausage and chorizo ($4.) This hearty soup was flavorful and would make a great lunch with a chunk of bread. Next, we sampled the shuttle salad ($7), a mesculin/goat cheese/cranberry/pecan salad that seems to be popping up on every menu. This version got it right, drizzled with a light, tomato balsamic vinaigrette. Our final appetizer was the spicy mussels ($9), which, though tasty, weren't exactly spicy. They were steamed with wine, garlic, plum tomatoes, and perhaps not enough crushed pepper.

For entrees, we tried to hit all the categories on the menu. Under sandwiches, we chose the Fat Cat burger, ($7), a 10-ounce patty with lettuce, tomato, and onion. There were plenty of toppings to choose from for 50 cents apiece, including avocado, caramelized onion, and blue cheese. The medium burger was slightly overcooked, but we loved the crispy, hand-cut fries and the tasty ciabatta roll, so we forgave the medium-well error.

Under the pasta options, we couldn't pass up the chance to try lobster mac & cheese ($16). Who thought of this one? In a more upscale restaurant, this would be called lobster a la fromage or something snootier, but at Fat Cat, it is what it is. And it sure is good. Shredded lobster pieces, along with some sizable chunks, are tossed with cavatappi, a corkscrew-shaped pasta, and bathed in a creamy blend of many cheeses: manchego, Parmesan, blue, and cheddar. The whole thing is sprinkled with a light breadcrumb for texture and the combination is divine. This is one of those dishes you start daydreaming about in the days and weeks after your visit. My sister decided against licking the plate ("it might be rude,") but I'm sure a true Fat Cat would have done so.

There are several choices in meats & fishes, but I'm glad I went with the baby back ribs ($10 for half-rack.) This dish came with more of the tasty fries and some nondescript coleslaw. But there was nothing boring about the ribs, especially the sweet, smoky sauce. The ribs were just lean enough, cooked perfectly, and completely wiped out in minutes.

We all saved room for the desserts, made in-house and $6 each. The German chocolate cake got high marks for the dense cake and the sweet coconut frosting, and we all loved the apple crisp with a scoop of top-notch vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce. We applauded the flavor of the pumpkin crème brulee, but the texture was a bit too soupy. Kiley said this dessert has already been switched out for a vanilla bean crème brulee with a better texture.

We're looking forward to sampling more of Coleman's creations. If there happen to be leftovers, my fat cat has first dibs.

MOIRA DOWNES

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