If delicious, over the top offerings for breakfast and lunch are your thing, then welcome to the foodie paradise called Fat Cat. To truly appreciate a meal here, you need to have a huge appetite for home cooking. It’s less than an hour from the border, and located just south of Rosarito Beach on the free road. A parking attendant will greet you and watch over your car while you are away. Walking up a flight of stairs you enter into an open dining area and the fragrant aromas from the kitchen will be your first promise of something special awaiting. The staff is friendly and very attentive. It can be busy late morning and if it is your first visit, very soon you will understand why this is so.
Fat Cat owners, Robert Pickering and Laura Peralta love Baja California and so their vision to live full time had to include creating a business. Robert is the passion behind the enormous portions and Laura tests her creative ideas on Robert for a little adjustment this way or that, however, she is the magician behind all the recipes. Robert grins as he places in front of me a humongous cinnamon roll slathered with creamy icing and says, “This is a small one.” At the moment he isn’t busy and I ask how he ended up being a baker in Baja. While he talks, I cut into the gooey center of the roll and a warm sweet fragrance spills out. One bite and I am transported into a childhood memory as my mom pulls her award winning sweet rolls out of the oven. This is the first time I’ve experienced anything that could compare with this memory. Robert appreciates my groan of absolute pleasure and is happy to talk about Baja.
“I first came down to surf when I was 14. Friends and I would ride down to all of the best places to surf along the coast. Later I would go all the way to Cabo San Lucas to dive the ship wrecks there. I even entered the 2009 Baja 500 off-road race and won first place.” And while living and working in California, he had a 12 year career as a firefighter in San Bernardino. Like many people who have had a long relationship with Baja California, he carried his Baja dreams and Fat Cat is one that has been realized. Laura joins us and tells of her growing up in Tampico, Mexico and meeting Robert in Baja in 2006. Laura fell in love with the art of cooking at a when she was very young. “I grew up smelling the wonderful spicy aromas and my grandmother cooked very unique Mexican food. My mother loved to create delicious pastries and rich desserts.” After meeting Robert I began learning how to cook American food.” Laura continues to branch out creating new recipes for Fat Cat where she combines her knowledge of the right combination of flavors with very good ingredients for which Fat Cat is well known.
Robert urged me to try several of the other wonders of creation, even though I knew they would be taken home for my inability to finish each dish. He suggested the German pancake, which is quite a different concoction than we think of as a pancake. It is a thick egg base, baked and garnished with fresh strawberries. As is traditional in Germany, they do not use syrup, instead sprinkle it with lemon juice. This was accompanied with a side of thick smoky bacon and fat sausages that ran juicy when cut into. “We serve only the best ingredients including Mexican free range chicken eggs. I was really startled the first time I broke an egg open as the yoke was a vivid golden-orange. I learned this is what real eggs are supposed to look like when the hens are happy, foraging and eating insects, rather than sadly caged. We go through 1,300 eggs on a busy Sunday.”
Robert insisted I try a pumpkin pancake, “I thought it would be just a seasonal offering, but it is so popular we will be leaving it on the menu. We make our pancakes with real buttermilk just like grandma’s and we go through 4 cases of butter per week.” There was no way I would be able to tackle the triple chocolate pancakes! Just looking at them could ruin a diet! Already the Fat Cat breakfast is unforgettable and more was coming.
I watch a platter of the house special go by, a Fat Cat favorite, Apple pancakes, topped with ice cream. Now if the sugar meter is going off the charts, the traditional breakfast menu includes Eggs Benedict using those golden yoke eggs and cubed potatoes seasoned with Laura’s special touch. Oh, and everyone’s favorite from the heartland is the fluffy buttermilk biscuits smothered in rich creamy gravy with a touch of pepper and other seasonings. You don’t have to be a ranch hand to eat like one. Admittedly it is a little off the diet, but it promises to take you back to the good old days. Robert, along with Laura, came up with a special Fat Cat presentation of the well known Huevos Rancheros. This version of the old Mexican favorite is done deep-dish. It has all the authentic spicy Mexican aromas, covered in melted cheeses and slightly baked. Digging into it is like losing yourself in the act of eating, it is all about taste buds. There is no room for guilt, for this experience may never come again, unless of course you come back to Baja with a plan for a longer visit with the intention of trying the waffles and crepes.
The cute young waitress comes around again to fill the coffee cup, the cup is never to be empty. Fat Cat’s attention to detail creates happy clients. Robert stresses, “I want the food to the table in 15 minutes, but sometimes we are so busy it might take a little longer. I am very happy with the wait-staff because they really do like working here and the customers can tell that right away.” Robert gives his grandfather the full credit for his success in business, “Grandpa was very business minded and taught me how to develop a strong business plan. We are successful here because we cater to the Mexican nationals, so that the ups and downs of the tourist seasons do not affect us. We are already planning that Fat Cat will become a Baja franchise.” I say my goodbyes, gathering up all my bags full of goodies as family groups are streaming through the front door. I am so stuffed, I feel like a fat lazy cat ready to take a snooze in the morning sunshine.
Fat Cat Pancake House
American Restaurant in Rosarito, Mexico
Carr. Transpeninsular 235, Playa Encantada, 22713
Rosarito, B.C., Mexico
Martina's email: mteomaya(at)gmail.com