Being greeted with blaring '70s music upon walking in the door is a good way to let you know something funky might be going on at Cathy’s Southern Kitchen. The relatively new Southern food spot at 8121 Florida Blvd. is shoehorned into a location at the corner of Florida and Wooddale boulevards that formerly housed an Enterprise Car Rental and more recently a Dunkin’ Donuts.
Delicious fried smells fill a bright and cheery dining room, and colorful graphics adorn the walls with branding to rival any national chain. But don’t be fooled: Cathy’s is a Baton Rouge original.
At its heart, Cathy's is a fried chicken place — the logo features a chicken — so that seemed a good place to start. I started with the three-piece Bird Station meal ($8.99), a mixed, white meat-dark meat combination with a side dish and cornbread.
Cathy’s declares everything is "always made fresh, cooked to order," which means a short (and sometimes a not so short) wait can be involved. A hefty Styrofoam box soon arrived containing a wing, leg and breast. The crust was crispy despite arriving still steaming from the fryer, and the meat was juicy without being greasy. The only downside was that the crust, while crunchy, was nearly unbearably salty.
The freshness of the chicken was let down by a side of mashed potatoes, slightly gummy and reminiscent of powdered mix, but it was saved by a rich, brown gravy. An accompanying cornbread muffin also failed to deliver on its promise, looking perfect but proving to be dry and crumbly.
The portions were generous. The breast alone must have weighed in at close to a pound — too big for me to finish on top of everything else, but it made for a filling lunch.
Cathy’s Southern Kitchen isn’t a one-chick pony. The menu features pork chops (in platter and sandwich form), salads and even a few seafood offerings like the Half & Half ($11.99), a platter of four fried catfish strips and four fried shrimp served with a side, a few small hush puppies and a soft roll.
The shrimp were hot and crunchy, and the crispy fish strips hit all the right notes. They were begging for a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, but none was to be had, so the hot sauce provided in the box made a good, spicy substitute.
Cathy’s side dishes are soul food staples, like red beans and rice, macaroni and cheese, dirty rice and, my selection for the day, candied yams. Sweet and syrupy, they were a perfect antidote to the briny shrimp.
The restaurant is a great lunch spot in the busy Florida Boulevard area, but it also features many dinner options, including family chicken dinners and wing boxes available through its drive-thru. If Cathy’s Southern Kitchen is in your dinner plans, you might want to get there early: Despite being listed as being open until 10 p.m. on its website, on two occasions, I found the store closed by 8 p.m. (The restaurant also says it closes its dining room an hour before the end of its day.)
Even with its chain look, Cathy’s has a family restaurant feel, with loose and friendly service and eagerness to please. It could be that Cathy's hasn't quite hit its stride yet, but the restaurant is a good place to get some comfort food with a drive-thru, providing a welcome touch of soul on Florida Boulevard.
Cathy’s Southern Kitchen
8121 Florida Blvd.
11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday
(225) 778-7707; cathyssouthernkitchen.com
Pros: Food cooked fresh to order; large portions; plenty of menu options
Cons: Inconsistent side dishes; overly salty; unclear hours