Photograph by Carlie Statsky
Join the Club: The turkey club crepe at the Crepe Place makes for a perfect lunch or late-night meal.
Restaurant Review: The Crepe Place
Like an old friend, Santa Cruz's favorite late-night eatery remains comfortable and inviting.
By Denise Vivar
Minute by minute, day by day the earth shifts in its celestial orientation, and suddenly we're in a new season. The difference between the day before the equinox and the day after is imperceptible to us modern folk, but still we mark each juncture, and many welcome it as an opportunity for transmutation—fall cleaning, back to school, back to work. Just when that old pair of cheap rubber thongs is about to give out it's time to put on the work boots and move on.
In my book change is good, so when I heard that the Crepe Place had undergone a change of ownership a few months ago my curiosity was piqued. From time to time I enjoy stopping into the Crepe Place before or after an event at the nearby Rio Theatre, but to be honest I haven't actually had a crepe in the Crepe Place since about the Reagan administration. The draw for me has been its cozy atmosphere, the small friendly bar and the fact that it doesn't roll its sidewalks up at 9pm like much of the rest of Santa Cruz. And so after the renovations were complete and the doors were opened to Santa Cruz once again, I made a visit to welcome the Crepe Place back into my repertoire.
My first visit back was on a Sunday morning. The first thing I noticed was the expanded bar—the only physical change, in fact, to the front room. Moving to the back room I realized it was the only physical change to the whole restaurant, save for a small stage in the far corner of the back patio, from which the banter of a standup bass could be heard keeping rhythm for a bluegrass quartet. My waitress left me with the brunch menu and I instantly recognized it. Nary a trickle-down menu change here.
Though the bulk of the menu consists of variations on ingredients wrapped in crepes, I was in search of standard egg fare, so from the noncrepe menu I chose the eggs Florentine ($8.25). This Florentine comes with two poached eggs over English muffins and hollandaise sauce, but on a bed of spinach and mushrooms as opposed to the standard spinach and tomato. My waitress agreed to bring me half of each. I'm glad I tried the mushroom version, which I ended up preferring to its standard Florentine cousin. The hollandaise was satisfying, with a shy lemon tang and the barest hint of cayenne for a zippy finish. The potatoes were cooked to a nice crispness, but I was disappointed to find them overly salty.
On my next visit I stopped in for lunch and had the Santa Cruz cobb salad ($11.50) with a loaf of honey wheat bread ($1). This substantial salad comes with both ranch and blue cheese dressings, more than enough for the two servings this dish easily makes, unless you're like me and you eat most of the toppings (egg, chicken, carrots, avocado, blue cheese and red cabbage) and leave the lettuce, dressing and bacon behind. Next time I'll have to ask for more chicken and less of the bacon. The bread is still the same warm pouf of caramel-colored cotton candy and I always manage to eat more of it than is warranted.
On my most recent visit I enjoyed a lovely balmy evening under the gazebo on the patio with a glass of Bargetto Pinot Grigio ($7) and the sounds of jazz from the new outdoor stage. Thinking perhaps it was time to revisit the crepe, I chose the turkey club crepe ($10.50) from the specials menu. My crepe was delivered, and it bore little resemblance to the pallid blankets of cake suffering under gobs of cheesy sauce from my memory. This golden crepe was folded over and the ends brought together to look more like a toasty crown standing at attention, sauce on the side. In the filling, turkey, white cheddar, avocado, tomato and bacon were all well represented. I found the accompanying dill sauce to be both incongruous to the flavor of the filling and superfluous. I only wish the turkey was in bite-size chunks rather than deli slices.
For dessert I recommend the Tunisian donut ($5), but bring a friend. This big, yeasty deep-fried pillow is very nearly the size of its namesake country. It comes with choice of jam, chocolate sauce, maple syrup, lemon sauce, honey, cinnamon, powdered sugar or apple butter—or any combination thereof for just 50 cents each.
I'm happy that the cozy ambience is still intact after the renovation and am also pleased to see another venue for live music, even if there's been no big menu shake-up. Sometimes change comes dressed in a different package than you expect, and I'm OK with that.
The Crepe Place
Address: 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz
Hours: 11am-11pm Mon-Thu, 11am-midnight Fri, 10am-midnight Sat and 10am-11pm Sun
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