By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Officially opened in May by married chefs CJ and Björn Holm in a space formerly occupied by a palm reader, new café Fat Cat Kitchen on East 14th Street is looking to become a neighborhood mainstay.
“Even after being open for only a month, we already got a lot of repeat customers,” CJ said of the recent opening. “People who are trying our food are coming back.”
CJ said that she and her husband, who previously ran a catering company together, were actively looking for a space to open their restaurant.
“It’s a lot of work in the food industry, working so hard for someone else,” she said. “When you’re working that hard, you want to work for yourself.”
They ultimately stumbled on the space, at 223 East 14th Street between Second and Third Avenues, when it was almost too late, just before almost signing a lease on a space uptown, but CJ said that as soon as she saw the spot on East 14th between First and Second Avenues, she knew she wanted to be in the neighborhood.
“This is a real neighborhood. There aren’t many of those left,” she said. “It’s still a lot of families who are here. There are older and younger folks and it’s so close to the greenmarket. I couldn’t have asked for a better area.”
Björn, who previously ran the catering for Dean and DeLuca, came to New York in 2001 and CJ said that he had plans to leave to work in South Africa but ended up staying in the city because they met.
“He missed out on that opportunity but he loves New York and he loves me so I think he’s pretty happy,” she said.
The menu started out small and CJ said they intend to keep it fairly limited, but mostly based on what customers want and need. She said that their classic breakfast sandwich started selling well and people were coming in looking for it later in the day, so they extended the availability.
“We’re trying to fill a need so if something is going well, we’ll do it more,” she said. “We didn’t want a huge menu, but wanted to offer a few things and do them really well.”
The café’s name doesn’t have any particular meaning, and that’s the way CJ intended it to be.
“I used to be in the music business so it’s kind of an homage to the ‘fat cats’ in the industry,” she said. “I just wanted something easy to remember and open to interpretation.”