In recent years, downtown has had its share of successes and failures in restaurant start-ups. Many factors are at play from accessibility of the menu to proximity, parking, atmosphere, and consistency. In a market like our city center, nothing matters more than having great food – because as much as people claim food options in downtown are limited, there are over a dozen food establishments – even if you don’t count the casinos or Subway – competing for your taste buds, and there’s always room for more.
With the recent move of Sevendipity Cafe from 420 Marshall to their new location in Highland at the corner of Creswell and Kings, a ready-made food space was available downtown. Catherine’s Eatery’s owners, 20+ year vets in the local business, saw the opportunity to come out of retirement and re-join the fray in the fertile soil to provide another breakfast and lunch option at a familiar location and a hungry lunch crowd. Unfortunately for said lunch crowd, this new option isn’t that great.
When I walked in with my friends, the place had a sterile and cold atmosphere, much like a cafeteria. Even though Sevendipity’s use of the space could have been better, the sunny disposition and the clientele always offset any feelings of what could have been improved – but this feels like a step backwards. That’s just a small red flag though, nothing major. The familiar bar has been turned into a buffet of sorts where the special of the day is taken from a tray and plated in front of you. Cool idea, but there was no sneeze guard, which made me nervous, and the staff weren’t using gloves. The small, flashing lights in my head began to glow. Something wasn’t right. And as I stood there in line, the gentleman serving my fried chicken plate was trying to explain to me a very complicated pricing system which we eventually figured out to mean rice with the dish was a lower price and it was two dollars more for mashed potatoes. I love taters, so I got that high-roller upgrade and rounded out my plate with carrots and cornbread.
We sat down, my refreshing bottled root beer in hand, and I couldn’t have been more excited. There are a plethora of drink options including bottled and fountain drinks which is a total plus in my book. I wish more places downtown had such options. After discussing on the experience so far with my friends, I dug into my fried chicken and… it wasn’t bad. No spices, little flavor but I thought, perhaps, I needed to smother it in potatoes or something – maybe a little pepper. After all, some dishes are best eaten with the other flavors in the dish. Nope. The potatoes, while fluffy-looking, tasted boxed. The carrots tasted like they came straight from a can and my co-mealers agreed on both accounts. What’s going on here? The cornbread was fairly dry, slightly burned, and also bland. None of this could have been farm-fresh, none of it could have been made with any kind of love – because you can feel the difference.
It just didn’t make sense. Why was it so mediocre? These folks have restaurant experience, Sevendipity didn’t, and yet they blew the doors off. Mediocre simply isn’t acceptable ‘round these parts unless you are a staunch fan of Nicky’s Mexican. Shreveport is now totally aware of what fresh, lovingly cooked-to-order food looks, smells, and tastes like as evidenced by the popularity of the Shreveport Farmers’ Market and other similar venues. There’s still plenty of wiggle room, as many downtown establishments are lacking in one area or another – be it ticket times or service – but the food is always the top priority. The bar isn’t set incredibly high, but it’s high enough to matter, and I think Catherine’s has underestimated the palate of downtown Shreveport. So I just have to ask “Who is Catherine’s Eatery targeting?” It’s not the crowd that once crossed the threshold into Sevendipity. It’s not the bar crowd because they close by the early afternoon. Unfortunately, I foresee a restaurant that won’t be in business for very long – or at least won’t be frequented by me. I’m willing to give it another go in a couple of weeks once they get settled in, but if I taste the flake-like texture in my potatoes again or the aluminum on the carrots, I’m out. Maybe it will find a niche but, for this foodie, it’s not worth the $10 a plate to get pre-packaged, uninspired, and lukewarm food.
Rating: ⅖ Shreves