July 15, 2010
At first it seems like a dumb idea to open a new crepe place in the center of an on-going crepe fight between the city’s other two serious crepe places — grand dame La Creperie and upstart Crepes Francaise, just one block up. But then you step into the new Paris Crepe Euro Cafe and see buckwheat, rice or garbanzo crepes filled with Thai beef, Algerian potatoes and eggs or Italian pesto chicken and you realize this isn’t the same old crepe place. It inhabits a culinary niche all its own, stressing fresh, from-scratch, international flavors and dynamite prices.
Paris Crepe occupies a narrow slot on Tejon formerly occupied by Cold Stone Creamery. The bright yellow interior is punctuated by fresh flowers and hipster French pop songs. To one side, an open crepe kitchen with three wide, black griddles sits like a DJ booth amid the beats. The restaurant is the work of Colorado Springs native Stacy Hafsaoui and her husband, Wahid, who is a native of Algeria. They met in Italy seven years ago, got married and eventually ended up back in her hometown.
Wahid’s family also owns restaurants in Algeria and France, but the Colorado Springs creperie serves up a globe-trotting menu all its own. It is very good, and the prices are hard to beat.
Start in America with the Philly Cheese Steak crepe ($5). Order one and Wahid ladles a sizzling layer of traditional wheat batter onto a griddle. He spoons in delicious, thin-shaved, marinated beef and hot slivers of mushroom, sweet sautéed pepper and deeply caramelized onions, then melts a slice of bold Asiago cheese over the whole mess and folds it neatly in on itself. It makes a fast, fresh and delicious lunch.
From there, the crepes get more exotic, interesting and wonderful, and, in one instance, a bit too odd.
The Algerian crepe ($5) is fantastic — tender beef slowly marinated in cumin and other spices, mixed with egg, potato, sharp red onion, kalamata olives, fresh cilantro and slices of sweet, piquant Peppadew pepper. It is rich, sour, sweet, salty and assertive, yet not overpowering.
Just as inventive is the Mediterranean Crepe ($5), in which savory roasted eggplant puree, bitter tahini, cool cucumber, ripe tomato, sharp kalamatas and mild French feta cheese are wrapped in a robust crepe made from chickpea flour. The whole thing is not only addictively tasty, it is gluten-free. So is the rice wrapper for the Asian Crepe ($5), which is stuffed with chicken and a bright ginger-carrot-sesame rice.
Paris Crepe also has terrific, well-priced salads and espresso drinks that make it a terrific lunch spot.
The only stop on the crepe world tour I could not really embrace was the Thai beef. The rice crepe ($5) comes filled with delicious chunks of ginger-marinated steak, red onion, peanuts, cilantro and a Thai-style peanut/coconut milk sauce (so far so good). But it also comes with paper-thin sheets of pickled pear. It is an inventive idea and I wanted to like it, but the pears made the whole package a hair too sour and acidic.
This is a tiny quibble about an overwhelmingly winning menu that also has a full lineup of delectable and well-priced dessert crepes ($2.70-$4), including standard favorites such as Nutella and banana, and Hafsaoui specials such as apricot, pear-caramel and toasted almonds.
All come with dollops of homemade whipped cream and all are so sinfully good that they soon make it clear that, crepe war or not, this place will be here a long time.
PARIS CREPE EURO CAFE
4 STARS out of 5
Address: 218 N. Tejon St.
Hours: 9 a.m.–9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 9 a.m.–10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 9 a.m.–4 p.m. Sundays
Vegetarian: Plenty, and some gluten-free options
Credit cards: Yes