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Review: Spotted Cat Food & Spirits on St. Claude Avenue

A lively St. Claude spot for Southern-inspired fare

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At Spotted Cat Food & Spirits, the restaurant's name, signature pale green decor and colorful logo match its Frenchmen Street predecessor, but that's where the similarities end. The restaurant on St. Claude Avenue is from the owners of the Marigny music spot, but it is foremost a restaurant, albeit with regular live music.

  A strong Southern current runs through the menu by executive chef Rob Clement, and regional ingredients and dishes are reimagined with a touch of whimsy and creative flair. This has had mostly successful results, but there are plenty of changes afoot: The menu recently was revamped from a breakfast-focused concept to offer more traditional lunch and dinner options.

  The changes are a nod to the neighborhood clientele, Clement says, and while more vegan and vegetarian dishes have found their way to the table during the shift, there's still a homey influence. Red beans comprise a sort of veggie burger and also are used in a hummus-like spread.

  In a fun spin on the "everything" bagel trend, the breakfast staple meets its Asian match. Disguised as a smoked salmon and cream cheese rangoon, the thin wonton wrappers envelop the snacks, which are served on a bright crimson sweet and sour sauce dotted with black sesame seeds and scallions. A watermelon salad arrives brimming with fresh herbs, dusted with cumin and showered with nibs of queso fresco, an original and Latin-leaning take on the summer staple.

  Some of the menu seems designed for snacking. Three slices of lacquered pork belly adobo were tasty, but the portion was small compared to some of the dinner dishes. A massive shrimp and grits plate gets an Italian spin, with shrimp smothered in roasted tomato sauce and garlicky herb pesto atop crispy grits cakes.

  Some dishes seem deprived of the kitchen's creative flair. Deviled eggs tasted fine but didn't come off as enticing or original.

  The former all-day breakfast concept has been shed, but brunch is one of the best reasons to visit Spotted Cat. Live music from a jazz trio fills the space and bottomless mimosas help fuel the lively atmosphere. Dishes range from the conventional, such as an earthy mushroom omelet filled with goat cheese, to traditional brunch standards turned on their heads. One special dish featured a brilliant hybrid of sweet, salty and umami flavors in bacon and scallion pancakes tucked beneath fat pats of garlicky miso butter and topped with green onions. At times sweet and at others deeply savory, the pancakes are good for diners hankering for something sweet without risking a sugar overload.

  Fried chicken and buttermilk waffles sets a high bar. Juicy dark meat is beneath a deep caramel-colored exterior and is coated in a vanilla and maple syrup hot sauce that leaves behind a sweet and vinegary heat that pairs nicely with the soft waffle wedges dusted in powdered sugar.

  There may be more changes are to come at Spotted Cat Food & Spirits, but the creative menu is promising, and the space provides a relaxed and fun dining atmosphere.

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