This piece was written as a sidebar for the restaurant and travel guide Hungry? San Francisco (2007).
A la crêperie, ma chérie
Growing up in the ’burbs of Orange County I dreamed an unusually particular dream. One of my favorite foods was that flat pancake made popular by the Frenchies and known all around the world as the crêpe. Oh la la, thought I, what if I were to open up my own crêpe stand—or better yet—a full on crêperie? I even had a name picked out: Ben-n-Breakfast. Unfortunately, no one in Orange County was interested in anything French except fries, and words with circumflex accents are still forbidden by law (look it up!). So when I moved to San Francisco so many years ago, still a child at heart and ripe with unrisen circles spinning loftily in my head, I planned to give life to that dream.
Imagine my horror when I realized that there were already dozens of crêperies in this fair, forward-thinking metropolis. In fact, the hilliest city in the country had gone totally flat. Tortillas, lavash, thin-crusted pizzas, chapattis, mu-shu, and pita chips: two-dimensional cooking seemed to be San Francisco’s culinary panacea. Flat was phat, and to my dismay, I was forced to get a real job like the rest of you. But my horror gradually turned into delight as I marveled at the top-notch crêpes available in every neighborhood of the city. While almost any crêperie you find will satiate your sweet tooth with a chocolaty Nutella crêpe, what the city does best are salty crêpes (or “savory,” as they insist on being called). California fusion is at its finest churning out delicious wafer-thin pancakes crammed full of untraditional ingredients like portobello mushrooms, feta cheese, basil, jalapeño, avocados, or roasted peppers. These crêpes are full meals folded into luscious triangles any honest Frenchman would quickly surrender to.
Lining up for Sunday brunch at the Crepevine, or grabbing one to go-go from Crepes A-go-go, I no longer feel the strains of my three-dimensional existence. And neither should you. Check out some of these fine eateries:
Crepes on Cole just outside the Haight Ashbury district (100 Carl St., 415-664-1800) caters to the whole gamut of diners, even those who hate hippies. This neighborhood crêperie is a favorite place to hang with friends or find a cozy corner to study. Giant salads and tasty daily soups are healthy alternatives, but the savory crêpes are delectable.
Crepe o Chocolat, as its name implies, specializes in dessert crêpes; the highly recommended Nutella crêpe comes with freshly ground hazelnuts. Its location is off Union Square (75 O’Farrell St., 415-724-3749), but the crêpes are some of the most Parisian you’ll find in the city thanks to the French owner.
Crepes A-go-go (350 11th St., 415-503-1294) is one of the Bay Area’s absolute favorites. They even have a truck that generously serves crêpes to insomniacs and SOMA hipsters until 2am. Though you’ll find several locales, for some reason the best ones are still at the original café in the East Bay (2125 University Ave., Berkeley, 510-841-7722).
The Crepevine (624 Irving St., 415-681-5858) Portions are tremendous and the Latin-American staff are simpatico at the Crepevine. The omelets are actually more delicious than the crêpes, and the freshly-squeezed carrot juice is divine. The N-Judah stops right outside making it a fine start for exploring Golden Gate Park. Another location at 216 Church St. (415-431-4646) is equally popular and is a fine start to exploring your sexuality in the Castro district.
Sophie’s Crepes inside the Japantown mall (1581 Webster St., 415-929-7732) graciously allows you to avoid eating bean paste for dessert. These Asian-influenced crêpes are crispier than most and the sweet ones are the real standouts, especially if you like green tea ice cream.
Ti-Couz (3108 16th St., 415-252-7373) is for the upper-class among us who demand authenticity and snootiness in their crêpes. Made in the tradition of Brittany, Ti-Couz uses buckwheat flour for its savory crepes and wheat flour for its dessert crepes giving it a slightly more earthy feel. Still, the crowds line up for this one on weekends, so come early.
© 2006 by b.z.