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Black Cat Bakery: First Impressions

steiny33 Jan 2, 2011 05:40 PM

Stopped in for breakfast at Black Cat Bakery (Formerly Mani's) on Fairfax earlier today. I like what they did with the space, a vintage modern sort of hybrid.

I ordered an Italian omelette with fruit on the side. Prices seem reasonable. Omelette was good, I guess i was hoping for a "Square One Dining" kind of experience where my mind was blown, but it wasn't at that level. Fruit was ripe and tasty, but nothing special, just pineapple and honeydew melon. Wish they included some berries or bananas.

One gripe was no bread was included with the meal. Not sure if that was extra or if I had to ask but next time I'll add that in. I guess since they have Homeboy Bakery bread, maybe they don't want to include it with a meal for free? It's a bit stingy of them I think, but not a deal breaker for me.

Espresso was great! Didn't watch them make it so I'm not sure if the espresso machine is auto or manual, I'm guessing manual by the taste...didn't see what beans they were using either but very rich, smooth flavor. Quite good by LA standards.

Definitely will be back to try more breakfast and lunch options. I like that Chef Nick Coe has specials, not sure if they're weekly or daily but I'm excited to try other items there.

Black Cat Bakery
519 S Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036

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  1. b
    Bobthechow RE: steiny33 Jan 4, 2011 10:55 AM

    Had late breakfast on Sunday with GF and I really like what they did withe the space. I had Blueberry pancake with pork sausage on the side. This is by far the best pancake I have ever had. It was moist and flavorful with real blueberries and warm real maple syrup. Pork sausage was also really good with slight hint of spice and just right amount of fat. GF had Kut'ya which is I guess some type of Russian cereal with home made almond milk. She really like it since it was vegan and she said it was very tasty. I truly loved their drip coffee and their smoked salt chocolate chip cookie was awesome. I'll be back to try their lunch next time.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Bobthechow
      Chicayamato RE: Bobthechow Jan 4, 2011 06:05 PM

      Their gluten free Mexican brownie was great and I also liked their vegan soup which I think was corn & asparagus chowder. Their breakfast menu is very interesting and would like to try their Bibimbop farro on my next visit. It's also good to see some familiar faces from ex Manis employees now working there. I also really the way they cleaned up and gave more stylish decor.

      1. re: Bobthechow
        mollyomormon RE: Bobthechow Jan 5, 2011 12:00 PM

        I checked it out yesterday and agree that the blueberry pancakes are fantastic. I also really enjoyed the spanish-style tortilla and their take on bibimbap, made with farro instead of rice, although they need to start stocking some sriracha in back to doctor up the heat level. Great addition to the neighborhood with really friendly folks and reasonable prices.

      2. i
        Ideefixed RE: steiny33 Jan 4, 2011 06:27 PM

        I've been a couple of times for lunch or a quick snack, and I'm inclinded to go back. The prices are certainly reasonable for the neighborhood, and I loved my egg salad sandwich. I agree about great coffee.

        1. c
          Clyde RE: steiny33 Jan 5, 2011 01:04 PM

          I am eating my Farro bibimbap now. I got takeout today as none of the food trucks today looked appealing on wilshire. i was impressed with the friendliness of everyone in the place as soon as i walked in which continued until i was handed my food. i'll be back! ps. i had to look up farro - i'd never heard of it. glad to read it's low in gluten- hopefully that info is correct.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Clyde
            Dogbite Williams RE: Clyde Jan 26, 2011 07:59 PM

            Clyde, according to Wikipedia, farro is a wheat species. It probably does contain gluten.

            1. re: Dogbite Williams
              goodhealthgourmet RE: Dogbite Williams Jan 26, 2011 08:11 PM

              actually, you're both somewhat correct. farro *is* an ancient species of wheat...but the farro genome lacks the series of peptides that causes gluten reactions in Celiac and gluten-sensitive people. however, the reality is that the crops are likely all contaminated by gluten from other wheat species such as durum that are grown nearby.

              1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                Clyde RE: goodhealthgourmet Jan 27, 2011 01:16 PM

                thanks! that is helpful info!

          2. c
            coffeebrownies RE: steiny33 Jan 6, 2011 09:35 PM

            Did Mani close and is this a totally new operation, or is it Mani 2.0? It sounds like they are also serving a health-food style selection, with vegan and gluten-free options?

            2 Replies
            1. re: coffeebrownies
              goodhealthgourmet RE: coffeebrownies Jan 6, 2011 10:05 PM

              Mani's relocated to Maple Drive in BH back in October, but eaterla is now reporting that they've decided to close on weekends and just stay open M-F. Black Cat isn't related to Mani's, it's just in the former space.

              1. re: coffeebrownies
                goodhealthgourmet RE: coffeebrownies Jan 7, 2011 09:16 PM

                update: looks like Mani's is toast.


              2. s
                shebop RE: steiny33 Jan 7, 2011 01:16 AM

                Wonderful banana muffin!

                1. r
                  running pig RE: steiny33 Jan 8, 2011 08:35 AM

                  I have noticed an increasing number of restaurants wanting you to pay for bread...they bill it as artisan and charge $2-3 for modest amounts. Don't like it.

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: running pig
                    Chicayamato RE: running pig Jan 9, 2011 12:10 PM

                    I don't understand why restaurant would give you free food. Even if restaurant gives you free bread it's built into their price of the dishes so you actually pay higher prices. I would rather pay for things that I actually want and not have it tacked on whether I eat it or not. I also think it's perfectly normal to charge for toast if it doesn't come with your dish.

                    1. re: Chicayamato
                      running pig RE: Chicayamato Jan 9, 2011 07:27 PM

                      I don't feel that the restaurants charging for bread are adjusting the entree price downward in exchange for the bread charge. To me, it just seems like a way to nickel and dime customers. Basic things like bread, water and condiments have traditionally come with your meal. More and more restaurants are charging for bread (and condiments) but their prices seem pretty high to me! I just feel that bread or toast should come with an omelette....I would be surprised if it didnt.

                      1. re: running pig
                        bulavinaka RE: running pig Jan 9, 2011 07:47 PM

                        Hi running pig, nice to see you dropping by every so often - hope you're well! This kind of charging for stuff that was once traditionally included has been standard now for many Japanese and now Chinese places as well (rice, tea) - I'm sure you've experienced this as well at these types of eateries. I kinda get grated by it at first as well - it just doesn't feel right - but I guess commodity prices are becoming more of an issue. The late great Bite Bar and Bakery started out including side salads, garnishes and what not in their orders but they received feedback that the prices were a little high. To bring the costs down, they pulled back on the garnishes and started offering an upcharge for things like side salads. Their produce was FM-grade stuff, so I can see where the potential cost savings would be in changing to this strategy. Oh well, if it's a place that I like, it won't bother me...

                        1. re: bulavinaka
                          running pig RE: bulavinaka Jan 10, 2011 08:10 AM

                          Hey bulavinaka, thanks for the welcome :-) Hey, I think thats great Bite actually decreased prices and charged for individual items. Thats awesome! But I felt pretty frustrated when in Seattle I paid $14 for a breakfast egg dish that was awfully small....and then had to pay $3 for a small baguette. I've noticed this trend in L.A. as well. I don't think that bread has a very high overhead, it used to be a nice gesture extended to customers....I guess I miss that.

                          1. re: running pig
                            bulavinaka RE: running pig Jan 10, 2011 05:44 PM

                            Unless it was exceptional, the $$ on that Seattle breakfast would have sent me to Starbucks for a Grande drip and a stale croissant instead - I jest - but I would have thought about it... :)

                            1. re: running pig
                              tastycakes RE: running pig Jan 11, 2011 09:34 AM

                              bread doesn't have a high food cost, but is tremendously labor intensive when being made in artisan style (handmade and not spit out by a machine). i can see a couple slices of toast on a breakfast or brunch plate not being a cost issue, but bread baskets on the table that may or may not get eaten could add up for a new restaurant trying to watch its bottom line.

                              1. re: tastycakes
                                Clyde RE: tastycakes Jan 11, 2011 10:05 AM

                                i'd prefer not to have bread at the table. i hate filling up on bread only to miss the point of the meal.

                                1. re: tastycakes
                                  running pig RE: tastycakes Jan 13, 2011 06:42 AM

                                  Good point!

                      2. EarlyBird RE: steiny33 Jan 25, 2011 03:11 PM

                        My wife, friend and I had breakfast at Black Cat Bakery a couple of weeks ago on a Saturday morning. The slight re-design of the small space makes it feel much larger than Mani's ever did.

                        I agree the blueberry and plain pancakes are outstanding and well worth a visit. The fruit in our fruit cup was very ripe and tasty. The coffee was great. Certainly, quality and execution are way up there. I look forward to trying their baked goods.

                        The prices were high for the portion sizes, however, and everything seems to be ala carte which really cranks up the bill. My friend had scrambled eggs, bacon and toast, and he had to order everything separately. He's not a big guy, but he left hungry and considerably lighter in the wallet.

                        We were very put off by the order-and-pay-at-the-counter/ be-seated-and-served-by-a-waiter, process. It was very inefficient, and made a "nice cafe" feel more like a cafeteria.

                        Also, on a busy morning, the server had to carry each coffee cup individually, back and forth through a line of customers waiting to order, to refill them at carafes at some station in the back. I wanted to yell, "will someone please get this poor man a coffee pot?" The inefficiency was maddening.

                        We discovered an over-charge, and the manager/owner was very gracious in refunding the right amount. The servers were very polite and attentive.

                        The service problems were to be expected of a brand new place, and were certainly nullified by the positive attitude of everyone and the excellent food. To thrive, they really must figure out what they want to do in regard to service, however. They must drop the self-serve/full service hybrid, and choose one or ther other. I really hope they choose the latter.

                        Black Cat Bakery
                        519 S Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: EarlyBird
                          Bobthechow RE: EarlyBird Jan 25, 2011 06:44 PM

                          Hi Early bird, I also think their pancakes & coffee are amazing. I also think some of their dishes are on little high side like "two eggs with toast & potato" but find most items are lower than restaurants in the area. Maybe because my GF and I are used to the "counter" service from Urth cafe but found their service quite good. On some occasions staff have refilled the coffee for us but I think they do it to help. I think they are definite improvement over Manis and wish them luck.

                          1. re: Bobthechow
                            EarlyBird RE: Bobthechow Jan 26, 2011 03:30 PM

                            Hi Bob, I also most definitely prefer the Black Cat to Mani's. So glad I can walk right over from my apartment.

                        2. liu RE: steiny33 Jan 27, 2011 09:59 AM

                          I agree with all who have posted that their pancakes are truly delicious...yes, better than others! However, every few bites I encountered a blueberry that tasted moldy and that anticipation pretty much ruined their blueberry pancakes for me.

                          The coffee is really good and they were nice to permit me to refill my iced tea cup with iced coffee; of course, we left them some nice change just for that!

                          1. aching RE: steiny33 Jan 31, 2011 02:44 PM

                            We tried Black Cat Bakery for brunch yesterday. I had the Belgian waffle (a special), which was served with whipped cream, strawberries, and syrup. It was incredibly light and crispy - truly a joy! My cappuccino was excellent as well. We will be back.

                            Black Cat Bakery
                            519 S Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036

                            1. d
                              Dogbite Williams RE: steiny33 Feb 13, 2011 11:27 AM

                              I had lunch there on Saturday after work. I intended to try the blueberry pancakes, but the $8.95 price was just too high for me even with the maple syrup, especially if there's a chance of moldy blueberries.

                              I got the homemade pork sausage and the skillet potatoes. I loved them both and would order them again. The two sausage patties were small, but they were fairly firm as if they had a relatively high percentage of meat vs. fat. They were pretty tasty.

                              The skillet potatoes were cooked with sage, garlic and shallots according to the menu. The garlic was not noticeable and I did add one dash of salt and four dashes of black pepper. I actually liked the potatoes more than the sausages.

                              When I'm at Clementine, I almost always get the bacon cheddar flat bread and the butterscotch brownies with walnuts to take home. Nothing at the Black Cat enticed me to make a purchase.

                              I enjoyed the ambiance and since I can add a side salad to the sausages and potatoes, I'll return for dinner some day.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: Dogbite Williams
                                Bobthechow RE: Dogbite Williams Feb 14, 2011 04:49 PM

                                Hey Dogbite, They are not open for dinner yet was told they plan to open soon. I've tried their smoke salt chocolate chip cookies and Mexican brownies so far and both were amazing. I think I am addicted to the smoked salt chocolate chip cookie.

                                1. re: Bobthechow
                                  Dogbite Williams RE: Bobthechow Feb 15, 2011 07:11 PM

                                  Thanks for the heads up on the hours, Bobthechow. I took home a paper menu, but for some strange reason they omitted the hours and days of operation.

                                  1. re: Dogbite Williams
                                    Ideefixed RE: Dogbite Williams Apr 25, 2011 06:49 PM

                                    I've heard they're opening for dinner this week.

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