Keith Kitts Loves The Restaurant Business

Phat Cat Cafe is designed to make you feel right at home.

"We want our customers to feel special, have delicious, tasty food and dine in a comfortable, homey atmosphere," said owner Keith Kitts.

The cafe is located at 227 West Bernard Ave.

The dark wood tables and chairs ("like you might see at grandmother's house") are set off by the soft lighting, and the walls are mauve. There are local paintings on the wall and even a large-screen TV.

"I love having the restaurant," said Keith, "and enjoy seeing customers who come in for business meetings, friends who come in to celebrate birthdays or other occasions. It's fun to see families who come in to celebrate anniversaries and other special occasions, or to have an individual who just comes in to have a quiet lunch or dinner and read or work on paperwork."

He also likes when clubs or reunion groups choose Phat Cat as its gathering place.

He continued, "We have people who come in and are in a big hurry and those who come to stay awhile and enjoy each other's company. We like them all. Whether you are dining casually or more seriously, you are welcome at Phat Cat."

VARIED MENU

Keith's favorite item on the menu, as well as that of many of his customers, is the Cat Scratch Taco Salad. He says it has two types of lettuce, red onions, tomatoes, cheese and grilled chicken, all served on top of chips with salsa and sour cream.

He explained that they have several sandwiches on the menu and a couple of favorites to date have been the "Cali Cat" and the chicken pesto hoagie. The Cali Cat features ham, roast beef and Swiss cheese toasted on sourdough bread and topped with mayonnaise, spicy brown mustard, sprouts, red onion and vinaigrette. The chicken pesto is grilled chicken, zesty pesto sauce and provolone cheese with red onion and tomato.

Keith is creating a new sandwich, "The Heathcliff," that will be a white bread hoagie filled with ham capacolla, roast beef, pepperjack cheese, spicy brown mustard, lettuce, tomato and cherry peppers.

They do have a several other specialty sandwiches, hamburgers, a selection of salads, homemade dressings and a special each day. Some of the specials include meatloaf, turkey, spaghetti and chicken and dumplings. Phat Cat also offers a kids menu.

The sides include home-cut Phat fries, homemade coleslaw, macaroni salad, potato salad, cornbread salad, fresh fruit, pasta salad, chips, cheesy bread and a garden salad.

Homemade desserts are another favorite at the restaurant. Every day is different but some of the more popular choices are cheesecakes, chocolate pie, Italian cream cake, blueberry yum yum, pinto bean pie, honeybun cake, carrot cake, fruit pies, banana pudding and more.

Keith shared that several of the cafe's recipes are from his grandmother, Frances Young, of Virginia. She taught him to cook when he spent time with her when he was younger. He chose to offer hand-cut Phat fries because he loved the ones an aunt of his used to make. "They take a little more time," observed Keith, "but the taste is worth it, my customers tell me daily."

He enjoys cooking even at home, Keith said. "My favorite thing to cook here or at home is spaghetti, because I make my homemade sauce. I like to do fried chicken at home and I love baking -- pies, cakes, desserts. I experiment quite a bit."

He said one of his funniest cooking experiences was when he was canning pickles. As he was making the syrup, a hole developed in the canner, creating a mess everywhere.

KEITH LOVES CATS

Between the Phat Cat name and the "cat" names of menu items, it is obvious Keith loves cats.

He found an injured black kitten outside his home a few months ago, and although he named her Bear, he decided to draw on his love of cats to name the restaurant. Keith discovered that phat means awesome, so he decided to go with Phat Cat Cafe. He uses a silhouette of a black cat on the front window of the restaurant and on the menus.

He was born and raised in Grainger County and is the son of Millon and Claudette Kitts. Keith graduated from Rutledge High School in 1990. He then worked for Wal-Mart for several years in several different states, gaining what he called "valuable business experience."

As far as restaurant experience, Keith worked as assistant manager at one of the Krystals in Bristol and then became manger for three years. He then attended the Bristol School of Hair Design, graduating in 2001. Keith came to Greeneville, where he teamed up with Vickie Mullins to open up Family Hair Center in 2004. He also owns Jamaican Me Tan, both located on Tusculum Boulevard.

"I had thought several times about opening a restaurant (or) a bar," said Keith, "and when I learned Tannery West was closing, I decided it would be a good location. It took about a month to totally redo the inside. Having a restaurant is like putting a puzzle together -- working with the food, staff, menus, you name it."

In addition to dining in the 98-seat restaurant, Phat Cat offers pick-up orders and reservations by calling 823-9387. They will also deliver.

Phat Cat Cafe is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

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