Can it be that Fat Cat Deli has been in business for a whole year already? Opening stealthily in the midst of the pandemic, the popular new breakfast-and-lunch café on the northeast corner of Broadway and Cornell Street in Kingston celebrates its first anniversary this week. Neither plagues nor supply-chain issues nor ice storms nor disruptive road construction are going to keep this Cat from making its mark as a Midtown destination for delicatessen delights.
There are good reasons why Fat Cat Deli gets regularly lavished with praise by locals posting on the Ulster Eateries pages on Facebook. Its sandwiches are overstuffed with the best Boar’s Head cold cuts (15 types of meat and 10 cheeses); the bread and rolls come from Deising’s, which still owns the building that was once its Midtown bakery outpost. All the salads are prepared fresh on-premises, and many of the baked goods and desserts — including killer fruit and cheesecake parfaits — are made by Jenna Farrell, daughter of Fat Cat founder/manager Sherri Farrell. They also mix their own strawberry lemonade that, in Sherri’s words, “tastes like the fair.”
Want a hot drink instead? Fat Cat has a pour-your-own coffee bar equipped with an impressive selection of syrups, including some exotic flavors. The Farrell family has spawned quite a few tea-drinkers, so they cater to the coffee-averse as well, offering two dozen different types of tea, with and without caffeine. Oat and almond milk are available for the vegans and lactose-intolerant.
If you’ve come in for coffee, don’t leave without trying their breakfast offerings. Fat Cat caters to the morning crowd, opening at 6 a.m. and closing at 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 7 to 2 on Saturday. But wonder of wonders, breakfast is served the entire time; the grill doesn’t get shut down at 11 like so many competing businesses. If you’ve slept in but still want your eggs, this is the place to be. They even make their own corned beef hash from scratch.
On our recent visit, your HV1 correspondent ordered a BLT on a hard roll, bursting with crunchy Boar’s Head bacon. My companion went for one of the house specials, the Fat Cat breakfast sandwich. Picture a bacon, egg and cheese combo of generous proportions, and then add another layer of well-crisped hashbrown potato patty. It lived up to its name. The melted cheese was abundant and gooey. It was all we could do to leave room for a couple of those cheesecake parfait cups.
The name of the business, says Jenna, simply reflects their desire to see people “well-fed,” and the ample portions they serve bear this out. Prices are reasonable, too, with deli sandwiches going for $7 to $8 for regular bread, a roll, wrap or bagel and $9 to $10 for a hero. Besides the wide selection of cold cuts, you can get classics like a Reuben or Italian combo, chicken, tuna or seafood salad. Chicken cutlets hot from the deep-fryer are popular items, and Jenna has invented several house special sandwiches, including a bacon/chicken/ranch combo inspired by a pizza topping.
Born in Massachusetts to a Coast Guard father and living all over the map, from Alabama to Alaska, Sherri eventually landed in Ulster County, where the family had roots. She “worked in the food industry all her life,” according to Jenna, spending 25 years as a bartender at Chic’s Sports Bar in the Kingston Plaza, followed by a long stint of working for the caterer at the Wiltwyck Country Club. But all those years, Sherri dreamed of starting her own food business eventually.
“I was looking into it a while ago, talking about opening something. I was thinking of a tavern or restaurant originally — but then COVID happened.” Undeterred by the distancing restrictions, Sherri took the plunge and leased the bright, cheerful corner space at 584 Broadway and began serving freshly prepared foods that were geared for quick takeout. “It was really hard opening in the pandemic,” she says. But her local peers in the business helped her make a go of it — ordering extra ingredients that she couldn’t locate as an unknown quantity to distributors, for example.
Fat Cat proved a godsend to many who weathered several days without electric power during last winter’s big ice storm. “We were the only one open, at first,” she recalls. Customers were invited to hang out in the warmth, charge their cellphones and even store a few perishables in the refrigerator. That community-minded spirit is one way to build a loyal customer base quickly, and by now the Farrells know enough about their “regulars” to ask them about their families when they come in. The food is fresh and good, the portions hearty and the chitchat free, so it’s no wonder that this place already has a following.
Sherri’s future plans for the Deli include retail sale of some local produce for sandwich-making at home; rolling fresh-cut chicken cutlets in housemade bread crumbs instead of using frozen cutlets; making homemade ice teas with puréed fruit; and a return to offering hot soups and turkey chili as of September 1. Adding some Sunday and evening hours is also a possibility; they opened for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, for example, and have considered opening during some special events at UPAC.
“Midtown is definitely growing a lot,” says Sherri thoughtfully, gazing out her big plate-glass windows at the row of new parking spaces lining Broadway in the wake of the big construction project now completed. The word is out, and Fat Cat Deli has become a destination that is already evolving with the challenges of our time.
For updates on what’s new at Fat Cat, including specials, visit www.facebook.com/Fat-Cat-Deli-100394655385610/?ref=page_internal.