Fifty shades of crepe

Crepe Boheme brings Paris to Dayton

By Paula Johnson

Strolling through the Second Street Market in downtown Dayton feels very much like strolling through a public market in Paris, with open stalls full of vendors selling fruits and vegetables, flowers, meats and tasty treats. On a recent Friday I roamed the length of the hall, enjoying the sights and smells and picking up a few things for dinner later that day. But this is not just a market to buy provisions to cook at home. The Second Street Market is one of Dayton’s best lunch spots, with several vendors offering a range of ethnic and American foods. One of my favorites, Crepe Boheme, has been at the market for close to four years and has quite a following.

Grand dame

Sabine Grand, owner and operator, lives up to her name indeed. Tall and lithe in her black T-shirt and jeans and sporting a crystal pendant, she manages to look fashionable and chic despite wearing a chef’s apron. Possessed of that effortless elegance only French women seem to be able to pull off, Sabine applies that same je ne sais quoi to not looking harried or rushed, despite the line of hungry patrons eager for crepes. Many regulars call out “Bonjour” to her as she spreads thin crepe batter on the large circular griddle, expertly manipulating the wooden crepe tools custom made by her father. To many she answers back in French, furthering the romantic illusion that I’m far, far away from Dayton.

The space she has to work in is hardly larger than a broom closet, yet Sabine and her staff (there are four of them back there on the weekends!) seem to have a choreographed ballet down pat to keep from colliding. I was able to observe the dance up close by scoring one of the only six or so seats at the narrow lunch bar. Additional seating can be found at tables scattered throughout the market itself, and on pleasant days (yes, Dayton, they’re coming!) outside as well.

Crepe conundrum

The glass counter which fronts the space is covered with whimsically colorful flyers describing the day’s offerings. Reading them, I was faced with the issue every crepe lover must consider: savory or sweet? As I lamented, Sabine solved the problem for me, saying, “Let me make some of my favorites for you!” Mais oui! In order to try as many as possible, she made smaller versions of the usual sized crepes. Even I couldn’t have consumed what she placed before me if she hadn’t. Just two of the full-sized versions are more than sufficient for one person, but it’s the way to go to satisfy the sweet vs savory dilemma.

I began with two savories, the Hotel California ($9.50) and the Poisson du Jour ($12.50). The former featured crumbly bits of spicy chorizo (from Market vendor KJB Farms) a softly fried egg and grilled peppers stuffed into the soft pancake with slightly crisp edges. A sweet hot pepper jelly lent just the right spicy sweet punch to the delicious yolky bundle.

The Poisson du Jour was next. This crepe, spread with a basil pesto, was filled with brie, hot smoked salmon and a lovely variety of grilled vegetables – eggplant, carrot, squash and potato. Another nicely balanced combination with a variety of flavors and textures working in concert.

Sweet relief

Now it was dessert time! First up was the September Sun ($8). The sweet cream cheese and fat juicy blackberries perfectly balanced the slightly bitter tang of the candied orange peel marmalade spread on the crepe. An inventive combination and so delightful, I couldn’t imagine one I’d like better. But that’s because I hadn’t tried the KaraBana ($8.50) yet. Filled with dulce de leche sauce, mashed bananas and peppered with chewy toffee bits under a snowy dusting of powdered sugar, this crepe is one of Crepe Boheme’s most popular.

As I mopped up the last bit of the sauce Sabine asked, “Do you have room for one more?” Did she even need to ask? The Creme de Fraise ($8) featured a silky soft homemade cheesecake and sliced strawberries finished with just the slightest touch of cinnamon. I am hard pressed to say which of these three was the winner.

There is one small thing I would question, and that’s the use of Redi Whip to top the crepes. Crepe Boheme uses mostly organic produce, fruit and meats locally sourced from the market’s vendors. It would be lovely to see the final dollop of whipped topping made from the cream of one of the Market’s on site purveyors. These little masterpieces deserve it.

What’s in a name?

As I savored, Sabine and I chatted about the future for her operation, and she revealed that big changes are afoot. Sometime in the next few months, Crepe Boheme will become Citizen Crepe. “Many things went into deciding on the new name,” she said. “I think the old name is a little tough for some Americans to say and remember.” She continued, “I recently became an American citizen. The new name is a reference to the classic American movie, and I think it also expresses the universality of our approach to the ingredients we use in our crepes. These are not classically French, more of a hybrid – more American!”

And that’s not the only news. Sabine also mentioned she’s exploring the idea of opening another location, more of a full scale restaurant operation somewhere in Dayton. To this I say, merci beaucoup! I will be first in line. Vive La Citizen Crepe!

Crepe Boheme is located at the Second Street Market, 600 E. Second St. Hours are Thurs-Fri 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and Saturday 8 a.m.-3 p.m. For more information, please call 937.307.7457. Please note Crepe Boheme is cash only.

Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at PaulaJohnson@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at PaulaJohnson@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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