Sunday, January 02, 2011

Black Cat Cafe sinks its claws into the ghost of Mani's

Now that Mani's has closed for good in its new Maple Drive location, let's breath a sign of relief for the arrival of Black Cat Bakery in Mani's old Fairfax Ave. location. Sorry for you Mani's fans, but the place had gone way downhill in the last decade and the oil-soaked, fruit syrup-laden baked goods were never "healthy" to begin with. 

There's already Black Dog Coffee and Animal in the neighborhood, so why add to the menagerie with Black Cat? It's actually a nod to L.A. history. Ever notice the cat sign atop venerable Silver Lake bar Le Barcito? The bar was the location of one of the seminal events in the gay rights movement, the Black Cat Tavern raid two years before Stonewall. Anyway, as co-owner Nick Coe explains it, there's no particular connection, but after looking at the Le Barcito location for a different project they realized it was a fun name that shouldn't go to waste.

Mani's space has been completely cleaned up and refreshed by new owners Nile Park and Nick Coe and now has a European neighborhood ambiance and a full Southern-inflected breakfast and lunch menu. A glass case in the front holds a few simple but tempting-looking baked goods including Mexican chocolate brownies and housemade Dingdongs. Coe, who has cooked at his own Nick's in South Pasadena and at 310 Lounge in Santa Monica, plans to continue adding more ambitious dishes to the simple menu of sandwiches, salads and breakfast fare.  
Homeboy Bakery, where Coe has been consulting on improving the baking program, supplies artisanal breads for meatball subs, muffaletas and more, and the bakery also employs a few of the rehabbed gang members. 
Farro bibimbap-style is terrific for breakfast or lunch
An early standout is farro bibimbap-style on the breakfast menu. It's a sophisticated risotto-like concoction of farro, burrata, shitakes, gently roasted tomatoes, chard and asparagus, topped with a fried egg. For a vegetarian dish, it's as decadent as they come, bursting with umami elements and textural contrast. A recent breakfast addition is Kut'ya, made from Russian kasha with almonds, chocolate, cherries and homemade almond milk, just in case there's any vegan Mani's fans still floating around. 
With dishes this imaginative, Black Cat Bakery is a great addition to Fairfax Ave. that's sure to get even more interesting in the coming weeks.
Black Cat Bakery
519 S. Fairfax Ave.
(323) 932-1500


glutster said...

awh. actually really liked their vegan carrot cake :( oh well, to new beginnings! But it did suck to pay $6 for such a small slice, haha.

thanks for the report pat :)

oddlyme said...

Closed for good? The website said they were closed for the holidays - reopening Jan 3rd.


oddlyme said...

Love the Homeboy Bakery breads and happy to hear they are served there!

Food GPS said...

Farro's one of my favorite grains and bibimbap is one of my favorite Korean dishes, so sign me up for the mash-up. Good report. Happy New Year.

sku said...

Sounds interesting.

Good riddance to Mani's. I can't believe that place stuck around as long as it did.

When I hear black cat, I immediately think of the coffee. I actually had thought maybe that was the reference.

Kate Coe said...

Thanks, Pat! I'm sure Nick's got some more tricks up his sleeve, not that I would know because I never see him! But at least I know where he is.