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Live Oak Cafe reopens on Oak Street with expanded space, live music and a pastry counter 

  Live Oak Cafe (8140 Oak St., 504-265-0050; www.liveoakcafenola.com) reopened recently in a newly renovated and expanded space with a large kitchen, a live music area and a pastry and coffee counter. Chef/co-owner Clare Leavy says the cafe still wants to be a neighborhood hangout, but also a place for picking up morning pastries and coffee on the run or a quick plate lunch to go. The new kitchen space and equipment, she says, are a game-changer. Previously the cooktop, oven, prep and serving area were in the dining room.

  "With this new equipment ... it is possible for us to get really creative," Leavy says. "We're working into doing plate lunch specials Monday through Friday. We're trying to do something interesting — but hearty food that anyone would like. A lot of our lunch business is people on the street who are at work and don't have time to wait for a sit-down meal, so the take-away lunch gives us the ability to feed these people."

  She and chef/co-owner Helena Hjort are expanding their morning offerings, including strong coffee and freshly baked pastries.

  "Helena is a fabulous baker and she's bringing some recipes that she perfected in Sweden (her homeland), but also trying her hand at a lot of New Orleans favorites, so we've got pecan pie, fresh baked cinnamon rolls, seasonal fruit muffins," Leavy says.

  There's live acoustic music daily by a changing slate of artists, generally playing a different genre every day. "We're still experimenting as to what the space can do," says Leavy, who credits Jason van Ness, a server at Live Oak Cafe who also books music, with finding a variety of New Orleans musicians to play for breakfast and lunch crowds.

  Live Oak Cafe closed for renovations in December 2014 and reopened in March. It serves breakfast and lunch daily from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. Breakfast includes eggs Benedict and huevos rancheros (both made using cage-free eggs), Mama Leavy's pancakes and more. Lunch includes daily specials, sandwiches and sides made with locally produced ingredients. The cafe also added a fresh juice bar, which has seating for 10.

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