Fat Katz Sports Bistro opened in August in a former Starbucks drive-thru off of Daniels Parkway in south Fort Myers. / news-press.com file photo
Fat Katz Sports Bistro
10080 Daniels Interstate Court, south Fort Myers
Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Noise level: Almost deafening on NFL Sundays, loud but conversational other times.
Etc.: Beer and wine only; 19 craft beers on tap with more by the bottle; daily happy hour from 3-6 p.m.; ample outdoor seating on the awning-covered patio; two desserts: homemade Key lime pie and homemade cheesecake, both recommended.
SAMPLE OF THE MENU
• Short rib quesadilla, $9.99
• Stuffed grape leaves (5), $7.99
• Hummus, $6.99
• Wings (10), $8.99
• Fat Katz house salad, $6.99
• Grilled Bistro Turkey, $7.99
• Shrimp BLT, $9.99
• Mushroom Swiss burger, $8.99
• Hawaiian-ish Flatbread Za, $10.99
• Meatball sub, $8.99
Note: Jean Le Boeuf’s weekly restaurant review will be published on news-press.com every Thursday at 6 p.m. as an "early bird special," before it can be seen in Friday’s print edition. This will give our online readers an opportunity to make reservations or get there before the crowd does.
When I saw traffic snaking west along Daniels Parkway last week, I thought word had gotten out. I figured Southwest Floridians had learned of Fat Katz Sports Bistro. I was certain the rush was on.
Turns out a truck had crashed into the Interstate 75 overpass. My Fat Katz secret was still safe – until today.
Fat Katz opened in August in what was, very briefly, a Starbucks drive-thru, next door to the Cracker Barrel just east of 75 off Daniels. The restaurant’s philosophy is simple: If they can make it themselves, they do. That means baking breads, roasting meats, pureeing hummus by hand.
The tiny dining room seats about 50 at simple tables and along a granite-lined bar. There is more seating in a covered patio out front.
Most hints of the building’s coffee-chain past have been erased. Where baristas once frothed macchiatos, a bartender now pours foamy pints from Southern Tier, Terrapin, Delirium and a dozen or so other craft breweries. Each can be sampled before purchase – a nice touch.
There is sangria chock full of apples and citrus. And there is a much-better-than-average wine list, especially for a place that calls itself a sports bar – excuse me: sports bistro.
Fat Katz has earned its bistro moniker. This isn’t your average burgers and quesadillas place – even if both are on the menu.
Here burgers are made from a secret blend of beef cuts that are ground in-house, formed into thick patties and then seared as you desire. They go onto brioche rolls owner Gregg Buell bakes in the mornings. The Classic burger is speared through with a green-olive-topped toothpick, the way burgers are served in cartoons, and in your private burger fantasies.
For the quesadilla, a crisply seared flour tortilla tries its best to hold together shreds of braised short rib and strips of sweetly caramelized onions, with cheddar and jack cheeses as gooey glue.
There are pierogies like your Polish grandmother used to make them, the outer shell slightly crisp, the interior almost melting. And there are grape leaves – stuffed with beef, lamb and rice – that could convert even the most grape-leaf-wary of eaters into faithful evangelists.
The kitchen veers to Louisiana with Buell’s take on gumbo, a spicy, brothy affair strewn with andouille and chicken, and served atop rice. The gumbo’s not always on the menu, so order it if it’s available – the large bowl is good for splitting; even better warmed up the next day.
Flatbread pizzas come with homemade sauce, fresh vegetables or thick bits of bacon. And the Gordo Gato Cubano (roughly translated: Fat Katz’s amazing Cuban sandwich) is layered with house-roasted pork, ham and all the traditional fixings.
The Grilled Bistro Turkey is equally amazing. It starts with hunks of turkey breast – Buell’s roasting them daily, of course – slathered in cranberry relish, melted Swiss and a touch of mayonnaise on thick slices of toast. It’s the kind of sandwich you aspire to make the day after Thanksgiving, before giving up and settling for cold turkey dipped in congealed gravy.
Sides include hand-cut french fries, Cuban beans and rice, or salty, addictive onion straws. Like everything I tried, the shrimp BLT is also delicious, the grilled Caprese sandwich too.
All this great food can take a little extra time. The waitress warned us when the kitchen was running slow one day. On another visit the same waitress remembered me, “You know how it goes here, right?,” she said.
I do. And I don’t mind one bit.
Jean Le Boeuf is the nom de plume of a local food lover who dines at The News-Press’ expense. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org; facebook.com/JeanLeBoeufSWFL or @jeanleboeuf (Twitter).