Last Updated on August 3, 2023 by Angie
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Fat Cat Lounge in the North Side is a new concept from the owners of fine dining spot Fig & Ash next door. With a retro vibe, casual food and drinks, and a second floor music venue, Fat Cat adds to the growing list of destination eating and drinking spots on East Ohio Street.
Fig & Ash is one of our favorite restaurants in the city, so when we heard the owners were opening up the Fat Cat concept we were thrilled. On our recent visit shortly after their opening, we were instantly amazed at the transformation of the space.
The front door opens into the bar space with a retro vibe including 70s-style couches and old cartoons playing on the TVs. To the left of the bar is a separate dining area that continues the retro theme, and upstairs is an open space that serves as a music venue, complete with another bar.
Yes, this space will do just nicely, and thankfully the experience got even better from there!
Retro Vibes at Fat Cat in the North Side
On our first visit, we grabbed a table in the dining area and ordered a few cocktails. The drinks are at an approachable price point and include familiar, crowd pleasing flavors – take Too Pure to Be Pink, for example, which includes Aperol, rum, grapefruit, and soda. The drink had hints of bitterness from the Aperol and grapefruit but was still fruity and easy drinking.
We also tried My Bitch Cat Gala with sloe gin, gin, St. Germain, hibiscus syrup, and lemon; and the Wally, Wally, Blood and Dolly with orange vodka, Campari, triple sec, orange juice, lemon and Pernod. All of the drinks were served on the rocks which isn't the type of drink we normally prefer, but they were all still balanced and quaffable.
Other than cocktails, the drink menu includes a few mocktails, several craft beer cans (including local offerings from Bonafide and Aslin), and six or so draft beers that aim to please the masses (like Bud Light, IC Light, Modelo, and a few craft options).
When reading the food menu you might think Fat Cat is just another bar, but with the owners of Fig & Ash behind the menu, we knew to expect more than just basic bites. Sure, there are wings on the menu, but these are pork wings elevated with a miso mustard glaze, slaw, cilantro, and jalapeno. And the waffle fries are more than your basic fried potato – they're piled up with smoked chicken, bacon-onion jam, and house made cheese wiz.
We tried the onion rings, which were beer battered with lots of crispy cragginess to soak up the amazing and creamy truffled gorgonzola dip. We never would have thought to pair a truffle flavor with onion rings, but it's oddly addicting.
The rest of the menu is devoted to all manner of sandwiches from a crispy bologna to a turkey wrap to a vegetarian buffalo seitan nugz wrap. The birria crunch wrap was a no-brainer: meltingly tender braised short rib, Oaxacan cheese, smoked cheddar, pickled onions, and oven roasted tomato were all stuffed inside a tortilla that was topped with crumbled hot Cheetos.
A savory tomato jus was served on the side for dipping. It was all rich, savory, and delicious – we even got some amazing cheese pull action, too, from the super stringy Oaxacan cheese; however, we have to admit we would've preferred a bit more acidity along with this one- it was indeed quite rich!
The patty melt was perhaps even more delicious with toasted marble rye, a juicy patty, bacon onion jam, and pimento cheese spread. The cheese spread kept the sandwich saucy and rich while the jam brought a nice contrasting sweetness. This one was so satisfying that we'll definitely be back for more!
Return to Fat Cat for Live Music Upstairs
Our second visit to Fat Cat was for live music, which is slowly ramping up in the second-floor space. For now, Wednesday nights are for live bluegrass with local band Shelf Life String Band playing during our visit, and subsequent music acts and genres will be scheduled throughout the week.
As we visited for the very first bluegrass night, we have to admit that the upstairs space was a bit sparse. The room itself was quite large and open for standing-room-only concerts, with some rather good sound in the space (and for neighbors, doesn't seem too loud when outside, too!), but the rest of the area left a bit more to be desired in terms of decor.
The second level features a modest outdoor patio and a bar space to serve drinks slightly away from the stage. This bar itself felt the most lacking as there were no tap systems installed and drinks were limited to a very modest mix of beers and a few basic cocktails made with well spirits.
Although we hope the bar will expand in the future to be its own standalone space, the biggest issue we had here was simply the price. A 16-ounce can of beer ran about $12 during our first visit upstairs, whereas we could get an (objectively better) can of regional craft beer from the downstairs bar for a far more reasonable $8. So for our second round, we made our way downstairs, bought another round, and came back upstairs to enjoy the music.
Whether or not this workaround will stay remains to be seen, as music venue pricing seems to be the point of the upstairs bar, we'll take this one while we can- the downstairs menu is really where it is at.
Overall, Fat Cat hits on a number of key points that we love to see for a North Side bar and restaurant- namely approachable food, a decent price point (upstairs bar excluded), and a unique ambiance that is the perfect complement to Fig & Ash next door.
Just don't sleep on the onion rings if they are on the menu when you visit. We still think of them many weeks later!
Fat Cat is located at 520 E. Ohio Street in the North Side.
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