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Spats Cafe and Speakeasy Restaurant

What’s in a name? Before I ever went to Spats I got the impression that I was going to have to be sized up through a little sliding window in the front door, maybe give a password to let me into the self-proclaimed “speakeasy.” Prohibition is long over and State College is anything but a dry town (as described in amazing detail by This American Life’s #1 Party School) but Speakeasy’s still a cool term and might have its etymological roots in Pennsylvania.

Our first visit was years ago during a cold winter holiday. I remember sharing lunch with our son, then 15, and one of his first girlfriends, Danya. The tall ceiling wasn’t making it easy to heat the dining room but we had a pleasant and special lunch in the dim filtered light of late December. It was that day we realized they actually had vegetarian choices. Thank you to Danya for drawing Spats to our attention.

On the corner of College Avenue and Pugh Street in downtown State College, Spats sits above The Rathskeller to which I gave an earlier food review. I always like to stop outside the brick exterior and read the posted menus because they have been dedicated to always having one vegetarian special.

The interior is lovely and dimly lit with a Deco Bourbon Street theme. The wood floors, tables and chairs are accented with the rouge and black color scheme of table cloths and high painted ceiling.The selection of jazz always puts me in a festive mood and the little Mardi Gras beads wrapped around the silverware is just the best.

We almost always get the Vegetable Jambalaya but since I reviewed the same kitchen’s creation at the downstairs The Rathskeller (from which you can tap into the WiFi), we took time to really look over the menu and seek out some new things to try. We went for dinner but read over the Tapas and Amuse-Bouche menu too. So much to tempt us but it was a couple of vegetarian specials that won out this time.

You might think I was sick of chili after the week of prepping and competing in the Vegtoberfest Chili Cook-off. Not so, I am always intrigued to see how others put together a Vegetarian Chili. This recipe was quite mild but smoky with chunks of tomato, green & red peppers, corn and kidney beans. I thought they played it a little too safe but it was fine other than being too salty. I added their Spats hot sauce to make it have a little heat.

I also ordered another of my favorites, Creole Chopped Salad. It always comes out super chilled with a wonderful range of textures, veggies and flavors. It does include a cheese, lettuce and a sweet creamy dressing. There is nothing else like it anywhere in the area and we both really enjoy it.

Jim took advantage of the vegetarian special of Eggplant Ravioli. It was topped with soft small cubes of mozzarella and scallions and the fresh made pasta pillows with blanketed in a red sauce. The sauce was creole inspired with the twist of adding sun-dried tomatoes and kalamata olives for flavor and texture. The sauce on its own was a little too salty to begin with and the olives pushed it over the edge. The raviolis were very mild, well cooked pasta around a perfectly done filling of cooked eggplant and cheese.

Although Spats has regular vegetarian specials, I can’t think of many who will want to visit regularly. It’s just a bit salty – price and palette wise. Save it for a special night with your sweety or a group of friends who are hard to impress. How many places do you know in State College that offer a between course sorbet palette cleanser?. It’s not a place to take rambunctious children and reservations are suggested. A Vegan would be hard pressed to easily sort out what might make a good meal here but it is a pretty classy place for a Vegetarian dining experience.

Winner Pennsyltucky Veggie Awards 2011Best Salad

Spats Cafe & Speakeasy on Urbanspoon

The Rathskeller

Sure The Rathskeller is a dive bar but come on down for lunch on Thursdays and get a bowl of the Vegetable Jambalaya and you won’t regret it! That’s right, the lunch special is the same great meal you can have upstairs at Spats for a great lunchtime price on Jamby Day. Make sure to ask for the Vegetarian Jambalaya and use a little of that kick @$$ hot sauce to push your Pennsyltuckian limits – YOW!

You’ll get an abso-frickenly HUGE bowl of smoky tomato based rice with a melange of veggies (shredded carrots, diced eggplant, mushrooms, celery, green & red bell peppers, onion) topped with lightly steamed broccoli. Each bite is a new discovery as it holds a new veggie to discover. Eventually you will be stuffed but cannot stop eating.

I suggest the outdoor seating in the fine weather and a glass of Blue Moon to moderate that awesome additional hot sauce. Jamby Day is too hot to call heaven so get your bad self down for lunch on Thursday at the ‘Skeller to see what I mean. A week with out it and you’ll get the DTs. Hot, exciting and down right addicting!

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