Astoria Staple Fatty's Cafe Will Reopen in Mid-April
Fernando Peña had been working in restaurants since his early 20s, but when he saw a "For Rent" sign in a vacant shop on the corner of Crescent Street and Ditmars Boulevard in Astoria, he knew he wanted to build a restaurant of his own. He began envisioning Fatty's Cafe (45-17 28th Avenue, Queens).
The original Fatty's Cafe, on the corner of Crescent Street and Ditmars Boulevard
That was in back in 2003, and soon after, Fernando and his wife (and now business partner) Sue borrowed some seed money and rounded up some donated equipment from Peña's old bosses. "There wasn't anything else in Astoria that had that downtown feeling," he says. "Plus, Starbucks was up the block. If they knew they could sell coffees for $5, then I thought I could definitely sell a burger and a beer." They named their new venture Fatty's, an inside joke and term of endearment between Sue and her friends. They installed a menu of Caribbean classics -- mofongo, chuletas, and killer mojitos -- as well as steak frites and sandwiches, and they also serve a "Charity Burger," of which $2 is donated to various causes, ranging from breast and lung cancer to SIDS and MS.
Over the last decade, the Peñas have carved out a niche for themselves in the neighborhood, and they eventually took over the storefront next door, turning it into a brooding wine bar called Crescent and Vine. But that sense of community was disrupted late last year, when their lease expired and forced them to relocate. "I'm not going to lie and say I don't feel bad about that," Fernando says. "It's very personal. It's like a child. We basically lost a child last year." But they soon found a new space on 28th Avenue near 45th Street -- which was formerly the restaurant Stove -- and it's more than twice the size of the old Fatty's. It's still under construction, but the Peñas hope to see it open by mid-April.
On the next page, we chat with Fernando about the move, as well as his hopes and apprehensions for the future of Fatty's Cafe.