It’s a feat for any restaurant to withstand even a couple years in an industry that is shaped by fads, trends, competition, and notoriously tight margins. But for a neighborhood bistro like Fat Cats, longevity isn’t really that surprising, considering its consistently delicious fare and hip vibe.
This year, Fat Cats is celebrating its 20th anniversary. What’s truly remarkable about this milestone is that while many chef-owners transition out of the kitchen and away from day-today tasks as a restaurant gains popularity, chef-owner Ricardo Sandoval still cooks in his small neighborhood eatery most nights. Using one of the restaurant’s dining room tables as his makeshift desk, he’s also intimately involved in the restaurant’s operations and the broader Tremont community.
When Fat Cats first opened, Tremont was not the booming culinary hub it is today. After opening a string of successful Italian restaurants in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ricardo says he was attracted to the artistic, urban feel of the neighborhood and wanted to try something new. These days, he continues to adore Tremont for its ability to maintain a spirited, decidedly non-suburban vibe, in part marked by a rejuvenation powered by the fifth migration of millennials into the city.
These days, Tremont is packed full of outstanding restaurants with big-name chefs such as Rocco Whalen, Zack Bruell, and Dante Boccuzzi. Ricardo says each new restaurant has been a welcome addition. “It’ll never be about me and the almighty dollar,” he says. “It’s about the neighborhood, and all of these great restaurants bring people here. When you have many talented chefs in one area, it just raises your game. If you’re going to share that customer base, you have to bring your A-game all the time.”
Over time, Fat Cats has added its own urban garden and developed relationships with local farmers at the Tremont Farmers Market and beyond. The menu has shown an increased emphasis on farm-to-table fare, featuring goods from Tyler’s Farm in Oberlin, Red Basket Farm in Trumbull County, and others. Dishes featuring local ingredients include vegetable risotto with Valley City Fungi mushrooms and French toast topped with Krzys Family Maple Syrup. Ricardo also shares the restaurant’s wealth with the community by donating time and funds to the Animal Protective League and other local causes.
Ricardo credits a tremendous staff of artists, students, and professionals for making the restaurant what it is today. “At the end of the day, it’s about the people. I love my employees, and I love my customers,” he says. “We strive to take care of every kind of customer, whether you’re working on a house down the street or getting dressed up and going out on a date. These past two decades have been incredible because of the people and neighborhood surrounding us.”
Fat Cats is located at 2061 W. 10th St. in Tremont and is open Monday–Thursday, 11am–10pm, Friday and Saturday, 11am–12am, and Sundays, 11am–4pm. For more details, visit CoolPlacesToEat.com or call 216.579.0200.