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Crepes Parisiennes fills savory, sweet orders

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Whether you like them savory or sweet, crepes are an anytime food.

It's easy to think of these thin but commodious pancakes as breakfast or brunch food. But depending on how they are accessorized, they're equally good as a lunch or light dinner entree, a dessert or a snack.

That might be one reason there's a steady progression of customers walking through the doors of Crepes Parisiennes in Oakland.

Noisy, busy, efficient and diverse, this casual drop-in creperie provides a quick, no-frills fix when you crave a crepe.

Three years ago, owners and marriage partners David Handler and Shannon Reilly expanded their business by opening this second shop on South Craig Street. Their first shop continues to operate at 723 Filbert St. in Shadyside.

They were attracted to the diverse and international population that frequented the Oakland area. "It's been good because we have an international menu that attracts international people," Reilly says.

Small tables line the brick walls of the narrow, brightly lit dining area. On a warm Saturday afternoon, they're filled with families, students and one hand-holding couple enjoying the large variety of crepes listed on the wall-mounted chalkboards.

Possibilities are divided into savory and sweet, and there's also options for salads and paninis.

Vegetable- and cheese-filled savory crepes range from $6.75 to $8.50. Sweet crepes, filled with many combinations of fruit, chocolate and sugar, run between $4 and $6.

The restaurant also serves a selection of Mariage Freres teas, imported from France, at $2 a cup, as well as espressos ($1.55), chocolat chaud -- that's hot chocolate to us -- at $3.75, as well as Evian, Perrier and other soft drinks.

Customers place their orders at the counter at the rear of the shop, then choose a table to wait for delivery. Service is swift but impersonal and distant.

It's important to know before you go that the business is cash only. No credit or debit cards or checks are accepted.

We opted for the mixed vegetable and cheese crepe ($7), choosing mushrooms, spinach and cheese from the list of possibilities. It was properly soft, warm and comforting with melted cheese and well-cooked vegetables. Savory crepes come with a choice of four sauces. We opted for the dab of creme fraiche. But you could also choose bechamel, olive oil and garlic or a tangy soy.

Accompanying the crepe is a small mound of fresh greens embellished with tiny mandarin orange sections. The salad also comes with paninis.

If you've got a craving for something sweeter, you wouldn't go wrong with fillings such as Nutella, the European hazelnut spread that blends well with banana and brown sugar, or dark chocolate and orange ($5.50). The last is one of the shop's top sellers, according to Reilly.

Next time, we're going to try the yummy-looking Russian blintzes or blini, tiny pancakes tightly wrapped around slightly sweetened cottage cheese and fruit preserves.

The paninis looked so appetizing, we had to try one.

For $7, we got a warmly grilled crusty roll somewhat like a baguette, only shorter and rounder, that was filled with big chunks of tuna and tomato held together by olive tapenade. Washed down with a cup of Marco Polo tea, it was far more like a meal than a snack.

Additional Information:

Crepes Parisiennes

Location: 207 South Craig St., Oakland

Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Details: 412-683-1912

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