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Review: The Crepe Place in Bywater

Simple, fresh, sweet and savory crepes in a casual cafe

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The Crepe Place is less a French restaurant than a cafe that pays homage to the country's best-known portable snack. Anchoring the airy space on Poland Avenue is the spot's raison d'etre, a custom-built wooden crepe cart. The quaint contraption has a sunshine-yellow awning, under which cooks pour batter over griddles before folding the thin pancakes into tiny paper cones and serving them.

  The new cafe from the team behind the French Market's Crepe Cart also is a quintessential Bywater haunt, and the neighborhood's crunchy aesthetic is mirrored in the spot's laissez faire vibe. Walls are decorated with colorful art; there is mismatched furniture and well-worn rugs. A kid's corner gives the space a homey feel. On one visit, a gray kitten sat next to me, and his glances at the bacon on my plate reinforced the feeling that I was eating lunch in somebody's living room. A tattooed man juggling bowling pins outside on the street was a subtle reminder of where I actually was.

  The kitchen takes a humble approach, highlighting a small cast of fresh ingredients, and it doesn't attempt anything highbrow. It is successful overall, but the savory side of the menu needs more options.

  The Crepe Place's batter produces an egg-heavy and slightly sweet crepe thick enough to hold the fillings generously tucked inside. A vegetable crepe was akin to a salad stuffed in a cone, bursting with fresh spinach, tomatoes, nutty pecan pesto, melted mozzarella cheese and a pungent and creamy dill and chive sauce.

  Order "The Works" and every savory ingredient in the house gets folded into one crepe, but it's not as much of a gut-buster as one might think. The crepe includes crunchy broccoli florets, spinach, thin-sliced ham, crumbled bacon, tomatoes, cheddar, mozzarella, a fried egg, pecan pesto and dill and chive sauce. The decadent medley is a surprisingly successful combination of flavors and textures.

  There's an entire selection dedicated to vegan and gluten-free crepes, which are made from a mix of rice and coconut flours and produce a thinner, darker pancake. A garlicky hummus version was layered with Roma tomatoes, heaps of fresh spinach and basil.

  Some of the sweeter options also have a healthy vibe. The Banana Boat was sweet but not cloyingly so, featuring banana slices, peanut butter, cinnamon, pecans, shredded coconut and light coconut cream.

  At the other end of the spectrum, the Elvis throws caution to the wind. Packed with peanut butter, bananas, Nutella and knobs of bacon, it's exactly what you'd expect of the King's namesake: a heart-stopping, over-the-top indulgence.

  In coming weeks, the owners plan to add vegan shakes and smoothies and occasional dinner service from rotating pop-ups. In the meantime, The Crepe Place is a charming spot to linger over a crepe and a cup of coffee in the company of a book, a friend and perhaps a kitten.

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