The Black Cat (Le Chat Noir): Fall in love again

The Aarons enjoy Nana Tino’s Pot Roast and the  French Dip. PHOTO BY RYAN RUSSELL

by AARON KAYSER and AARON APPLE

After being closed for about six months and reopening at the beginning of this year, it was obvious the Black Cat in downtown Fairhaven went through significant renovations to both the kitchen and the dining room. The new owners, who also own Mambo Italiano in the downstairs of the same building, made a smart move because The Black Cat was more lively and delicious than ever during our visit.

Arriving on a Monday just before the end of Happy Hour (3 to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, plus all day Sunday), we quickly put in an order of Olive and Nuts ($5), a Petite Caesar Salad ($3), and a Petite Fondue ($9). While the seasoned cashews and Kalamata olives teased the palate, the fondue tantalized the tongue. The silky smooth gruyere cheese was melted by candlelight (this alone is a great reason to bring your date here) and kept it warm as we took turns dipping our substance of choice. Along with the cheese came a plate of steamed broccoli, green apple slices, and chunks of French baguette. Apple and Kayser really liked the broccoli and cheese combination the best, but it was all tasty. Since Apple wouldn’t share, he ate all of the petit Ceasar salad and particularly enjoyed the large homemade croutons.

The overcast, dreary weather lent itself to a good home cooked meal, so Kayser decided to order Nana Tino’s Pot Roast ($14). The oven roasted round came served on a piping hot plate, next to a giant mound of creamy garlic mashed potatoes. A savory broth with braised carrots, onions, and celery surrounded the roast. If overcooked, pot roast can be very dry and leathery, with little flavor. This roast was the exact opposite; it was tender and flavorful, and melted like butter. Kayser was quite satisfied with his choice and would gladly give Nana Tino a hug… Maybe even a smooch on the cheek.

Apple had the French Dip ($13), which was topped with a generous serving of shaved ribeye, grilled onions, gruyere, au jus and fries. French Dip isn’t something Apple tends to find very exciting, but after our server recommended it and hearing from a friend that it was delicious, he was set on the sandwich. Turns out it was a great decision; this was even tastier than the French Dip he grew up with (to be fair, his Mom is Italian, not French). The bread soaked up the warm au jus, adding a savory saltiness to compliment the sweetness from the cheese.

If you haven’t been to The Black Cat before, now is a better time than any to pay a visit. The “Cat’s Alley” whiskey bar in the back has TVs for the sports aficionados, and the entire room can be reserved for groups of 20-plus. The full bar has an intriguing cocktail menu, as well as eight beers on tap, including some local brewers. Every table in the dining area has spectacular views of Fairhaven, and even with recent renovations The Black Cat retains its charm and atmosphere that made folks fall in love with it in the first place.

The Black Cat is located in Fairhaven at 1200 Harris Ave. in Suite 310 (on the third floor). Hours are daily from 3 p.m. to closing and all ages are welcome. Call (360) 733-6136 or visit online at www.blackcatbellingham.com.

Published in the April 2015 issue of What’s Up! Magazine