A refreshing way station in Westminster

April 13, 2000|By David Richardson, and Cameron Barry | David Richardson, and Cameron Barry,Special to the Sun

Our (day) jobs invariably take us near Westminster at least a couple of times a year, and we also drive through on explorations of the further reaches of the state. Fat Cat Cafe, located just a few blocks east of the center of town on the main drag (Main Street), is a welcome way station and revitalizing stop.

Tourists like us may be the exception, however. Judging from conversations at neighboring tables (eavesdropping is research, not spying), the cafe mostly draws a contingent of townspeople for breakfast and lunch six days a week, dinner on weekends and afternoon tea twice a month.

The cafe is easy to miss, even for modestly Westminster-savvy visitors like ourselves; it's located on the parlor level of a Victorian house on a block of historic brick homes. Inside, the dining rooms sprawl through the original living rooms and parlors, now cheerfully decorated in a garden motif. There's also a small bar that doubles as a luncheon counter on weekdays.

The genteel, Victorian tea-house setting belies the busy breakfast and lunch trade. The breakkfast crowd isn't any wonder; the Fat Cat Cafe has a fine selection of omelets, pancakes and waffles, as well as some good, locally made breads. For lunch, Fat Cat makes sandwiches, but with an inventive turn or two: catfish and Cheddar, portobello mushrooms and sprouts, grilled smoked turkey and Swiss, and the "American" -- turkey and white American cheese.

On a recent Friday evening, we enjoyed a quiet dinner at a secluded table in the pleasantly darkened room overlooking the front porch and Main Street.

Fat Cat offers a small but satisfactory selection of wine and beer and a dinner menu that changes from week to week. Our Greek shrimp and pasta dish, which we've seen listed several times on past visits, represents the drift of the menu well: lots of pasta and shellfish.

The shrimp were big and well-cooked (not soggy, not stringy, not raw), served in a lemony sauce with artichokes, tomatoes and feta cheese, and mixed with angel hair pasta. We also had a filet mignon, which was perfectly cooked for us -- medium rare -- and accompanied by crisp green beans and sturdy, flavorful mashed potatoes.

Fat Cat's owner, Cindy Ewing, does much of the baking for the cafe, so we were eager to get to dessert. The menu offers tiramisu, carrot cake, pies, tarts and tortes. The latter two generic-sounding items can be specials of the day, depending on Ewing's whimsy.

We had an apple torte, which had a fresh and appealing taste and texture, and was served with a scoop of ice cream, which didn't hurt the flavor any. Triple chocolate mousse though, was more cake than mousse, and lacked flavor. (It may have been one of the out-sourced baked goods.)

Fat Cat has enough quirks to give it personality, including some unusual menu combinations (e.g., a Texas BLT, which is a BLT with pesto and provolone. What makes it Texan and not, say, Genoan, is that it is on Texas-style white bread.)

Overall, Fat Cat is a well-run little spot with very agreeable service and well-prepared food. For us, a stop there with a stroll afterward down Westminster's Main Street feels like a small vacation.

Fat Cat Cafe

172 E. Main St.

410-876-9846

Hours: Open for breakfast and lunch Tuesdays to Sundays; dinner on Fridays and Saturdays

Credit cards: American Express, MasterCard, Visa

Prices: $4.95-$7.95 for lunch; $8.95-$21.95 for dinner

Food: ***

Service: ***

Atmosphere: **1/2

Ratings system: Outstanding: ****; Good ***; Fair or uneven **; Poor *

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