7520 S. Rural Road
Tempe, AZ 85383
I should begin this post with a few disclaimers. One, I really despise hipsters. Having lived in Chicago, participated in many a Critical Mass, attended no fewer than three Pitchfork Music Festivals, and spent more than one drunken night at the Skylark eating tatter tots and humming lines from that Southern Culture on the Skids song (“So you don’t think there’s any way I can get that quarter from underneath your pointy boot, do ya?”) for my own personal amusement, I feel I have earned my disdain.
Two, I basically think of crepes as really good street food—something to be purchased off a cart for a couple Euros in most of the better European cities. Yes, crepes can be stuffed with expensive goodies, sauced to perfection, or labeled “crespelle” and cross the line to fine dining, but that’s generally not how I think of them. Thanks to a lesson from a French friend, I now keep a jar of Nutella squirreled away in the fridge (yes, I know it says “do not refrigerate” right on the jar) for a late night Nutella, overly ripe banana, crepe snack.
Three, when a place is really hyped, I expect a lot.
Okay, now for the real post: We went to Crepe Bar on Sunday morning for breakfast. I had read that if the place is full, the wait for food can be excessive (45+ minutes). We did a drive by: only half the tables were full. We decided to go for it.
Crepe Bar is going for that Hipster chic look—a few mismatched, wobbly café tables, chemistry beakers full of potpourri as center pieces, a psychedelic blue and grey mural on the wall that divides the counter from the kitchen, and (dreadful) local art on the walls. They’ve even found a flannel clad Zooey Deschannel look alike to work the cash register (by which, I mean iPad). The clientele, wall-to-wall hipsters, who, annoyingly enough, all seemed to have been out the night before with the kitchen staff. So clearly, given my first disclaimer, I was less than thrilled with the first impression of Crepe Bar.
The menu, which offers sweet crepes, savory crepes, and “sides,” was more promising. The “savory” offerings encompass things usually found in breakfast burritos, quesadillas, and sandwiches that are instead rolled in a crepe. The “sweet” involve more of what one thinks of when one imagines breakfast crepes—Nutella and bananas, berries, vanilla custard. The sides aren’t what one thinks of as “sides” per se—coffee cake, porridge, yogurt parfait.
I ordered a cappuccino and the caramel apple crepe. My partner got a coffee and the Breakfast Burrito crepe --egg and bacon in a chipolte crepe with avocado salsa and queso. I would quote prices here but I didn’t actually see any and I have no idea where the receipt from the iPad ended up. It was about $20 for two people. Because Crepe Bar is a pay at the counter before you eat, and because one adds the “optional tip” with “Zooey” holding the iPad out to you with prefigured percentages on the screen, tipping seems less than optional, even though one has little evidence of the service at the time of tipping.
We sat at a very unbalanced table. We waited. We listened to the wait staff promise their hipster friends special treats. We rocked our unbalanced table back and forth to see how far we could slide the potpourri beaker. We watched the special treats arrive. We wondered where our coffee was. We waited. After about 20 minutes, a server at the counter called my partner’s name for us to come get our coffee (I’d recommend less than the 18% tip we opted for). The coffee was really good. About five minutes later our food came out.
The crepes were good too. My partner liked his chipolte crepe (I'm assuming this is really adobo sauce added to the crepe batter) and was pleased that the meat didn’t take over his whole dish. Sadly, the avocado salsa and queso were used as garnish and more or less undetectable as actual sauces.
I liked my crepe as well. The fillings (though they weren't actually in there crepe) were good—the caramelized apples were still nicely tart and the walnuts were a lovely contrasting texture. I do wish I had ordered whipped crepe to break up the beige of my plate. Certainly the fillings of both our crepes were well above the ham and cheese or sugar standard fare of street carts. I admit to being hungry when we came in, but the serving size was disappointingly small and the sides aren’t things one would really order as sides. Some breakfast potatoes or fruit salad would be a nice touch.
Crepe Bar is good. It’s not brilliant. I think if I had a hipster coffee bar in mind, I would have been pleasantly surprised. Still it's not the kind of place one hangs out in and reads the paper--though one must find something to pass the time while waiting for one's food. From the hype I wanted sauces and posh fillings. I was disappointed. I’ll go back--probably when I have friends in town from Chicago and want to make them feel at home.