Cat McLean has been quietly and diligently testing recipes for this endeavor for the last 18 months, and she is ready for showtime. She is the owner and sweets baker of the CAT Cafe in the historical jail, located at 1012 University Ave. She and her mother, “EBeth” Florer have been perfecting their menu while slowly gaining a following with their layered lemonade, coffee drinks and boozy cupcakes out of the “bustaurant” just outside their door.
Remodeling the ground floor of the building has been quite a task in a location meant to keep people in, but the work was recently completed by Florer’s husband Eddie Livingston and several local contractors.
The decor is bohemian chic, with comfy spots to study and standard tables to enjoy offerings that will join art with coffee, tea, light savory fare and house made baked goods.
Savory snacks like Buffalo Chicken Dip and Spinach Artichoke Dip are part of the opening menu, along with light lunch options of Roasted Garlic Hummus and French Onion Soup available in a rustic bread bowl.
Jalapenos star in the Jalapeno Bacon Rolls, with sweet and spicy meeting up in the Strawberry and Jalapeno Jelly Muffin and the Sweet & Spicy Jalapeno Poppers.
The duo intends to focus on fresh ingredients, no preservatives, and innovative food using old fashioned methods. The baked goods are based on recipes from the 40s, 50s, and 60s with a creative twist. Banana bread appears in a ramekin as a French toast casserole with salted caramel sauce, pecans and cinnamon powdered sugar.
For breakfast or an afternoon pick-me-up, their list of pastries features scones and muffins for every taste.
“We developed this place as a stage to showcase our flights of fancy,” said Florer.
McLean started cooking with her father as a child and learned the ropes of running a kitchen in high school when Florer owned the Pita Pit on Sam Houston Avenue.
Her Red Velvet cupcake is a perfect example of how much research and effort she puts into refining a single recipe. Contrary to popular belief, the original red velvet cake recipe did not contain red food coloring.
The idea was introduced by an Adam’s Extract advertising campaign after John Adams and his wife tried the cake at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. McLean’s version stays true to the early version, which got its hue from the chemical reaction of combining vinegar, buttermilk and cocoa.
For those who have not had one of their boozy gourmet cupcakes at local events around town, this is the chance to taste more adventurous combinations of liqueurs and libations infused into chocolate ganache, buttercream frosting, and classic cake.
The “Aces and Eights” cupcake is a nod to Wild Bill Hickok and is spiked with a quarter ounce of rye whiskey. Its female counterpart, “The Sweet Lady” is a brownie liqueur cupcake filled with chocolate ganache.
These cocktailesque cupcakes have become part of their signature offerings, and will continue to evolve with the rest of the menu, but will not be sold to young people. The list of drinks they curated to complement the food is extensive. It includes everything you might expect to find in a hot or cold caffeinated beverage plus a ton of other surprises and customizable flavor additions as well as sugar free options.
In order to keep overhead low while still expanding their offerings, McLean and Florer are joining forces with a couple of other local foodies who will come on board over the next several months.
Josh McDonald will join the CAT family later this year, offering comfort food from the “bustaurant” where the cafe got its start.
Brian Moore, who many know as The Tamale Gringo, could be selling his signature smoked brisket tamales at this location by May, but not until after he completes a fundraising commitment to local scouts.
Members of Scout Troop 98 and Pack 98 are taking orders for Moore’s tamales through the end of March to be delivered in two rounds in April.
After that, Moore will begin stockpiling the freezer at CAT Cafe with brisket, pork and chicken tamales for customers to take home. Due to popular demand, he will be offering his buttermilk pies by the time summer rolls around.
Moore began making tamales in 2019 when his tamale lady retired and has created a loyal following at fairs and festivals across Texas. He will serve as a guest chef at the cafe on occasion, featuring pecan smoked goodies that make his Facebook followers dream of living within close range of his barbecue pit.
McLean and Florer are committed to offering people a place to showcase their talent, and they are seeking area artists to deck their walls with a wide range of art in exchange for a nominal fee.
The art installations are starting to bloom, with work from local photographer Roberta Cowan and paintings from Janet Pace in the main dining room.
One of the interior rooms has Florer’s Silk Road Sari Creations for sale and will allow for other creators to sell their wares.
Student discounts for show space are available on a case by case basis because they want to give everyone’s art a chance to be exposed to the community. A monthly speaker series is in the works, and they are hosting a pop up art show and vendor market on the second Saturday of every month to coincide with Sip n Shop, with the next event from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on April 8.
CAT Cafe will be open Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Food and drinks are available for delivery through Door Dash.
Find the link to order on their website at https://www.catcafebakery.com/ and follow them on Facebook for upcoming event info at https://www.facebook.com/CoffeeArtTeaCafe
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