Spencer Sigalow | Sun Staff Writer

October 3, 2018

The Cat’s Out of the Bag: Ithaca’s First Cat Cafe

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Purr-fect. The cat’s pajamas. A sight fur sore eyes. Paws-itively amazing. I could go on and on describing one of Ithaca’s newest establishments with these mediocre puns, but I should probably start the article right about meow (okay, that was the last one). The Alley Cat Cafe, located on East Seneca Street, is a delightful new eatery that combines tasty sandwiches and refreshing coffee with adorable felines. But have no fear if you are not a fan of cats (read: if you don’t have a heart), for you are still more than welcome to enjoy the edible offerings of the cafe, separated from the cats by a glass wall.

When I walked in last Friday morning, I was greeted by two cheery purr-istas (yes, they really call themselves that), who answered my myriad of questions and graciously allowed me to order lunch at 10:52 a.m., despite the menu’s proclamation that lunch began at 11:00 a.m. The Alley Cat Cafe has a fairly small menu that still manages to offer a variety of sandwiches, soups, pastries and coffees. This destination is a great spot for breakfast, a small lunch or an afternoon snack. With plush chairs, warm colors and ample space to spread out, the cafe itself has a very homey feel. Toward the back is the cat area, where the felines are housed in one of two rooms: either high-activity or low-energy. They are both about equally sized play areas with toys, but as their names suggest, the high-activity room has kittens sprinting around while the low-energy room has more mild-mannered cats. The food was moderately priced, with sandwiches priced at about $8 and specialty coffee drinks around $5. Additionally, the cost to enter the cat area was $5 for 30 minutes.

But enough about the background, let’s jump into the good stuff. I thought it would be fitting to recreate my experience in the form of a tasting menu, but with cat pairings for each offering. Yes, I have chosen which cat I believe goes best with each item that I tasted on the menu. Now, I am not 100 percent sure, as I did not bother to look it up, but I have a feeling that this is the FIRST EVER combined food and cat review in the history of modern print. So buckle up, take your allergy medicine, grab a lint roller and let’s go:

Beverage: mocha
Served in a ceramic mug, this mocha was a bit pricey; nevertheless, it warmed me up on a chilly Ithaca morning. It was delicious, with a blend of espresso and mocha that was neither too sweet nor too bitter. However, I somewhat regretted not ordering another more desirably named drink: the meow-chiato.
Cat: Layla
Much like an overcaffeinated college student, this energetic kitten did not stop running around for the entirety of my visit in the high-activity room. I would not be surprised if this kitten had somehow tapped into the coffee supply, given its tireless running. Even though I’m quite superstitious, I felt lucky for having met this black feline.

Pastry: cherry tart
Simple, yet tasty. With this delectable item begging me to consume it, I could not resist the urge to order it. I was initially hesitant, as I was unsure if the pastries would be fresh, but my worries soon disappeared as I devoured this sweet concoction. I would certainly recommend this and order it again in the future.
Cat: Marigold
Sweet, tender, delightful. This orange, larger cat was on the lower-energy spectrum, but craved attention and was extremely friendly. Although she is the one cat that is not up for adoption at the cafe, she is nevertheless deserving of affection and attention.

Sandwich: Cat-Prese
Whether I was inspired by the actual menu item or the name itself, I could not resist the Cat-Prese sandwich, which consisted of basil pesto, mozzarella and roasted tomatoes on an Ithaca Bakery ciabatta roll. The sandwich was heavenly and served warm, with large chunks of fresh mozzarella melting in my mouth. Every aspect of the sandwich was perfect, and this was most certainly the highlight of my experience.
Cat: Jackie
In much the same way as I was unable to find fault with the Cat-Prese, I absolutely fell in love with Jackie, an adorable gray and white kitten who would not leave me alone. I was absolutely smitten with this kitten (don’t tell my girlfriend — sorry, Hannah!)! For a moment, I was convinced that I was going to leave the cafe with a new feline companion. This cat played with me, climbed up the walls, enjoyed my shoe laces and was extremely affectionate.

I cannot adequately emphasize how enjoyable of an experience I had at the Alley Cat Cafe. The food was delicious, the staff was lovely and the kittens provided endless entertainment. I implore each and every reader to visit the Alley Cat Cafe for a great dining experience. And hey, you might end up going home with a new feline friend!

Serves: soup, sandwiches and pastries
Vibe: casual, artsy and cozy
Price: $
Food: ★★★★★
Cats: paw print paw print paw print paw print paw print