Grand Lake / Restaurant: Fat Cat Cafe celebrates two year anniversary |

Grand Lake / Restaurant: Fat Cat Cafe celebrates two year anniversary

by Cyndi Palmer
Sky-Hi Daily News

This Mother’s Day marks the second-year anniversary for the Fat Cat Cafe in Grand Lake and owners Gary and “English Sally” Hoffman couldn’t be more pleased with how things are going.

“Our first two years have been good ” busier than we thought,” Sally said. “We opened the door and boom.”

Gary said it’s hard to believe it’s already been two years, and both agree they hope to continue to serve the public “until we can’t do it any more.”

The two met 16 years ago at a restaurant (Uncle Elmo’s) and compliment each other well. Gary is more of a meat and potatoes kind of guy, who admits he likes to fly under the radar most of the time. Sally tends to be more of a vegetable-and-fruit person, with an outgoing personality that is definitely part of the place’s charm.

She and Gary helped put out buffets at various eateries throughout Grand County for about 13 years and said they opened the cafe “really due to popular demand.” They started from small beginnings at the Stagecoach, with a pool table serving as the main table for their buffet (with a 4×8 sheet of plywood, some nice linens and chaffing dishes) ” all the while searching for a good place to start a business of their own.

They had always liked the Northern Exposure building on Grand Lake’s boardwalk and once they heard it was available, they jumped on the opportunity to lease it.

They did the normal sprucing up, made the kitchen more functional, and aimed for a comfortable atmosphere in their dining area that was family oriented. Their dining area also serves to support various works of art. “We just became collectors and we share it and sell it,” they said of the collection.

“It’s a very casual and I suppose eclectic dining room,” Sally said, her signature accent giving away her English roots (which also explains the tasty scones and incredibly extensive tea selection available).

“We’re really just foodies at heart and we wanted to specialize in fresh, homemade food, with a lot of things we can’t get up here,” she said. “We go by what the customers say they want.”

And Sally doesn’t skimp. Ahe’s been known to drive all the way to Denver for the best smoked salmon, and uses whole milk and real butter when she is cooking.

“We’ll search high and low,” she said. “We bake it how grandma used to make it.”

Their weekend buffet started with just a few items and grew into a locals’ delight.

More than half are repeat, loyal customers “and they’re so happy they’ve found us,” Sally said.

The concept began with a few items the Hoffmans liked themselves, and Gary said since then they’ve been just trying to keep up. Today their buffet tables overflow with everything from fresh fruit, corned-beef hash, scrambled and “Scotch” eggs, country potatoes, biscuits and gravy, quality (thick) bacon and sausage; to huevos rancheros casserole, quiches, homemade soup and green chili, and a multitude of fresh pastries and pies.

“We get ready like company’s coming,” Sally said.

The spread has also caught the attention of the American Automobile Association, which started to receive calls and e-mails about the place. The Hoffmans were pleased to find out the cafe was awarded the AAA Diamond rating in February. AAA sent out a secret shopper who awarded them four out of five “hoots,” the fifth held back mostly, the Hoffmans feel, because they don’t serve dinner or liquor.

“We’re very flattered that anyone had even noticed,” Sally said. “We’ve been working hard and we’ve been very fortunate.”

In response to their ever-growing fanbase, the Fat Cat Cafe is now open on Mondays and can cater to most any special dietary need. Hours are 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday through Monday with the normal menu, and 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays for the brunch buffet.

To celebrate the two-year anniversary, the Fat Cat is planning to have an extra-special Mother’s Day at the cafe to thank their customers, and “to spoil the moms as (Sally says) they should be.” Sally is hand-dipping strawberries in Giardelli semi-sweet chocolate for the ladies who come in for brunch Sunday, plus she and Gary are putting extra treats and goodies on the buffet for that day.

“You get the quality for not a lot of money and the fussin’ and lovin’ you deserve,” Sally said. “We want customers to feel casual and content, like a fat cat lying in the sunshine.”