Fat Cat Bar & Grill is bar food elevated
Even in a pandemic, restaurants are opening so fast in Reno it seems impossible to keep up. That’s the only excuse I have for why it has taken me so long to finally sit down for a meal at Fat Cat Bar & Grill, a Tahoe City staple that put down roots in Midtown in May 2019. Surviving both the South Virginia Street construction project and a global pandemic that temporarily shuttered the eatery’s doors, Fat Cat is still turning out mouth-watering food that can pull in a crowd (but not too big of a crowd—safety first after all).
From mid-week lunches to safe weekend socializing, Fat Cat feels like a Midtown staple. Right there on South Virginia Street, the eatery offers up indoor seating with a garage door opening onto the expansive, enclosed patio outfitted with umbrellas for when it’s sunny and heaters for when it gets cold. Every inch of the place looks immaculate. The full bar is the centerpiece, accessible through a long front entrance.
The menu here mimics the original. With sandwiches, appetizers and some seafood specials, it reads a little like a hipster BBQ joint with meal options that cater to every diet, but the real draw is the burgers. These aren’t just any burgers.
It took some debating before I settled on the Newport Burger, a BentlyRanch Meatsall-naturalgrass-fed beef patty served with arugula, tomato, onions, smoked gouda and caramelized honeycrisp apples that offer a sweet bite. At the end, the burger is doused in a balsamic glaze. The result is a surprisingly light burger packed with complex flavors that simultaneously offers up smoky and saccharine tastes. It’s served with regular fries, sweet potato fries or Fat Cat Fries (featuring your choice of garlic parmesan, gorgonzola mushroom or chili cheese).
The balsamic glaze on this burger makes it a little messy, so I recommend grabbing a napkin and leaving the white jeans at home. But, it truly is surprisingly fresh tasting—no grease dripping from your fingertips here. And, it’s big enough to share if you didn’t bring a hearty appetite, which helps explain the larger price tag (burgers hit around the $15-$25 range). These burgers are HUGE, towering creations made with only the best, most local ingredients. And they come cooked three ways—red, pink or no pink.
If you’re looking for an appetizer to accompany your meal, consider the Buffalo Mac ‘n Cheese Balls. The mac and cheese balls are huge—nearly the size of a baseball each—breaded and deep fried and served with sriracha ranch. Inside they are packed with mac ‘n cheese and buffalo chicken. The menu states these bad boys are spicy, but as someone who can’t handle much heat, I have to disagree. The only spice I tasted was on the dipping sauce (which can be substituted for regular ranch if preferred).
The family-friendly eatery may come with an impressive list of craft cocktails, featuring drinks with clever cat-themed monikers (and $5 Frisky Kittys all-day on Fridays), but it also offers a kid’s menu filled with American staples, a small dessert menu and hearty meals for full appetites including N.Y. Strip and a keto-approved Garlic Parmesan Salmon, which means you can bring just about anyone for a meal here.
I mean it when I say this is elevated bar food. That’s because it’s all the classic comfort food you crave with gourmet touches that offer a more robust flavor profile. And the touches inside the restaurant mimic that same appeal, with cloth napkins and steak knives on every table and somewhat upscale décor.
Other specialties include Crawfish Mac ‘n Cheese, Blackened Ahi, a Kale Caesar and Paleo Bowl.
Visit: 1401 S. Virginia Street, Reno
Hours: Sunday – Thursday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday & Saturday 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Nora Heston Tarte is a long-time Reno resident living on the southside of town. In addition to food, her hobbies include wine, hiking, yoga and travel. She is also the managing editor of a regional, lifestyle publication and freelances for other publications most frequently in the travel space. She graduated from California State University Sacramento with a bachelor’s in English and is pursuing her master’s in Professional Journalism as we speak. You can follow her travel adventures, and local exploits, on her Instagram account @wanderlust_n_wine.