Kid Hit Menu Items: Baked goods at Black Cat Bakery & Café will be very useful if you need insta-placating. Otherwise try to wait for buttermilk pancakes, omelettes and scrambles, bacon, tortilla española, and a terrific and not too sweet housemade granola served with a pretty cluster of honey-poached apricots over yogurt ($6.95). (Pastries are made in-house, while breads are from Homeboy Industries‘ bakery.) So far in my experience at Black Cat, very tiny fingers have found their way into the heavily buzzed about “farro-style” bibimbap ($9.95), AKA what I call the “bibimbomb.” Must be the creamy burrata and egg bits mixed with the tang from the sun-dried tomato, along with the other delicious components combined into this Mediterranean-inspired interpretation of the Korean dish. Breakfast is served all day long, with lots of healthy and tasty multigrain action, too.
Adult Perks: Iced Vietnamese coffee! Plus full coffee and tea list. If you don’t want carb-intensive baked goods, sandwiches (organic egg salad, BLT, chicken tarragon salad, muffaletta), and such, Black Cat offers plenty of fresh salads, like the spry arugula mix with prosciutto, roasted butternut squash, walnuts and pears that my friend ordered last week. Check the Twitter feed and Facebook page for updates.
Pros: Staff is very friendly, and although generally it’s a counter service type place, they’ll come take your order and provide full regular table service if they’re not too busy.
Cons: Black Cat’s main dining room isn’t spacious and tables are tight, so if you have a stroller, you’ll be dining alfresco on the sidewalk. But my friend had her baby in the infant carseat last week and we were kindly offered a larger table inside to accommodate us all.
High Chairs: One Two very cute ones with a hand-crafty Amish-y vibe.
Parking and Access: Black Cat has a few spaces in the rear, and there’s metered street parking on Fairfax.
Other Tidbits: I spent many an afternoon and evening during my 20s nursing cups of Yogi tea and munching on sugar-free chocolate chip cookies in this spot on Fairfax back in its Mani’s days. But now that said business has moved on (and is on the edge of final demise if it hasn’t totally closed already), it’s fitting that Black Cat Bakery and Café has moved in and wiped the slate clean. The counter and kitchen are in the same place, the concrete floors remain, and use of space hasn’t changed overall. But Black Cat’s attitude, menu, and adorable salvaged decor pieces and cleverly selected antiques inject a new lease on life with chef/owner Nick Coe and co-owner Nile Park. A row of mix-and-match pendant lamps hang over the bakery counter, which is filled with treats such as the slightly spicy Mexican brownies, iced lemon bundt cakes, chocolate sour cream muffins, and fantastic chocolate chip cookies with sea salt (the sea salt + chocolate sweets combo is a trend I’m TOTALLY OK with). Breads come from Homeboy Industries, and while the joint effort is to be commended, I won’t be shelling out $7 again for a loaf of overly dense sour-wheat boule (storing it in plastic doesn’t do the crust any favors either).
Looking around Black Cat, it seems like someone had fun antique shopping, finding gems like the vintage medical cabinet that now functions as a milk/sugar station for hot beverages. The mostly black and white scheme with dark wall wainscoting has a simple Deco, retro Americana charm that allows the well-edited decorative touches to shine. Large framed vertical wall-mounted mirrors do that old trusty make-the-room-feel-bigger trick. As for the food, I know I’ll be back often to explore the menu. In the meantime, I can’t help but go for that hearty complete-meal-in-a-dish farro bibimbap that I literally dreamed about last night.
519 S. Fairfax Ave., Miracle Mile Adjacent/Mid-City
Hours: Monday – Friday, 7:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Saturday & Sunday, 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Update: Black Cat has closed and will become a new location of Eagle Rock’s Four Cafe sometime summer/fall of 2013.