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Something for everyone at Cocoa the Salty Kat Tavern in Follansbee

NEW DINING OPTION — Kaia Figueroa, owner of Cocoa the Salty Kat Tavern, aims to offer something for everyone at her new restaurant at 855 Main St. Gathered at the business were, from left, front, supporters Troy Bailey, Joshua Barnhart and Stephen Bailey; and back: staff Nate Gardner, Chicote Thompson, Figueroa, Nichole Goodwin and Jade Williams. -- Warren Scott

FOLLANSBEE — Whether looking for a change of pace from their usual dining choices or wanting a standard but satisfying breakfast, lunch or dinner, visitors to Cocoa the Salty Kat Tavern will find something to their taste, said Kaia Figueroa, owner of the new business at 855 Main St.

Longtime residents know the site as the former location of Gabby’s Cafe, an establishment often patronized by steelworkers and others who stopped in at the end of their work days.

Figueroa said by opening early and remaining open late into the night through the week, she hopes to fill that niche while also drawing those on a more casual eating schedule.

Open from 6 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday and from 6 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Figueroa and her staff will be serving up breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Current plans involve the restaurant being closed on Wednesdays.

Figueroa said she picked up many recipes from the various places in which she lived while growing up as a self-described military brat while learning to cook from her Navy officer father and schoolteacher mother.

Figueroa said her father’s military career took her family to many states, including California, Texas and Florida, and her cooking reflects her exposure to diverse cuisines.

She plans to offer dishes including shrimp etouffee, a dish similar to jambalaya; crab served with home-made macaroni and cheese; cheese-filled corn dogs and pitas filled with bacon, eggs and other breakfast food.

The eatery also will offer velvet rum cake and sweet potato and key lime pies among other desserts, including freshly made baked goods, she said.

But knowing Italian dishes are very popular with area residents, Figueroa said the menu will include lasgna and other pasta dishes as well as sandwiches and other standard lunch fare.

“We’re doing a little of everything to make sure everybody’s good,” she said, adding spicy and mild versions of Cajun dishes will be available for those new to them.

It’s the first independent business venture for Figueroa, who worked for a time in Washington, D.C., one of many diverse jobs she’s held through the years.

Not believing she should limit herself, she said she has worked as a nurse, electrician, roofer and truck driver.

“I like to prove people wrong,” she said.

Figueroa said her versatility can be attributed in part to her parents, who encouraged her to do everything from yard work to auto repairs as a youth.

She added her father was known for his white glove inspections, and she will apply the same high standards of cleanliness at her new restaurant.

Figueroa now is channeling her energy and enthusiasm into the new business with the help of her oldest son, Chicote, and good friends and staff members Nichole Goodwin, Nate Gardner and Jade Williams.

She said they and others at the restaurant will work hard to see each customer has a positive experience.

“I want everyone to feel comfortable. I don’t want anyone to feel out of place,” said Figueroa.

(Scott can be contacted at wscott@heraldstaronline.com.)

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