Crepes are the new cupcake. Or maybe they’re the new artisanal doughnut. Either way, until very recently Portland’s dedicated creperies had been a small, turn-of-the-millennium group—think Le Happy and Chez Machin, and not many more.
Since the late aughts, however, low-overhead creperies have been proliferating in the city’s farmers markets and food-cart pods, opening and sometimes closing with vertiginous speed. The excellent Suzette was the first to make the jump to a permanent location, setting up shop on Southeast Belmont Street in 2012.
In the past year, the dam done broke: Four brick-and-mortar creperies have opened in Portland since last summer, including three veterans of farmers-market stalls. We tried them all, and found that the most interesting crepes go well beyond the brie cheese or chocolate sauce of your average sidewalk cart. Think polenta crepe batter, Belgian cookie spreads and crepes made with tender pork confit.
C’est Si Bon! Crepes Vins
22 NE 7th Ave., 703-9378, cestsibonpdx.com.C’est Si Bon creperie comes from the farmers markets, but it seems to have found its niche as a wine bistro. The tastefully minimalist, elbowed room manages to maintain much of the domestic charm of Kir—the much-missed bar that once filled the space—right down to the French accent from behind the bar and the excellent Euro-centric wine selection. The crepes are the show, however, immediately jockeying with the best in town. The pork confit combines obscenely tender Tails & Trotters pig with apple butter, fried sage and onions caramelized to their melting point, to achieve a womblike warmth I remember from the cafes of France and pretty much nowhere else. The lemon curd crepe, folded in pleasantly eggy white flour, comes dotted with fresh blueberries that it perhaps doesn’t even need: It’s like a Dutch baby gone pillowy, all bright tartness and sweet comfort.
8337 SE 17th Ave, arugularium.com.
In the sunnily twee Sellwood house that used to contain Lili Patisserie, Arugularium offers something I’d yet to encounter: a polenta crepe. The new spot from the folks behind the Savory et Sweet farmers-market stand uses corn as ground for a Southwestern-influenced poblano crepe featuring chicken breast, pan-seared poblano peppers, heavy cream, corn, tomatoes and onions. But between those tomatoes, poblanos and especially the Tillamook cheddar melted into the crepe, the dish was marked by an acidic sharpness not countered by the corn’s nutty notes, making it an experiment I wouldn’t necessarily repeat. But other savory crepes on the rotating menu looked promising, from shiitake and potato to a ham-fig-brie number served on buckwheat. Though berry season is high, most of the sweet crepes instead featured the house caramel or dark chocolate. The Guy Noir had both, and arrived extremely lacy; the white-flour crepe had crisped edges and quarter-inch craters in places that had filled with rich chocolate. Except for the texture problems, it was every bit as mom-decadent as a ganache from Papa Haydn up the street. Arugularium is promising, but the crepes still have a few wrinkles to be worked out.
Silver Moon Creperie
4220 N Mississippi Ave., 889-0195, silvermooncreperie.com.
Portland is full of people who moved here to start a restaurant. But Chris and Theresa Therrien came here with a restaurant already attached: The couple had operated their Silver Moon Creperie for seven years in Dover, N.H. In a gesture appropriate for its adopted Mississippi Avenue new-condo vibe, Silver Moon seems designed expressly for tykes—call it romper chambre—from its bright-orange walls covered in kids’ paintings to footstools that let the little ones get a Plexiglas-shielded view of the crepes being made. Accordingly, the sweet is a lot more fun than the savory here. While deli-style variations on ham, turkey, egg and Swiss are fairly rote, Silver Moon’s sweet menu ranges from cajeta (goat-cheese caramel) to Nutella—the latter expressed on the walls as a gift from a Renaissance god. Look especially for the speculoos crepe, which boasts a Belgian cookie spread that tastes exactly like a soft graham cracker. Which is way better and more decadent than it probably sounds.
1001 SW 5th Ave., Suite 160, 971-255-0872; 7401 SW Bridgeport Road, Tigard, 352-4883; katscrepes.com.
Kat’s—which has long sold crepes at the
arena during Blazers games—has bloomed into two tiny crepe shops since
last summer. One is in Tigard’s Bridgeport Village mall, while the
newest is hidden in downtown’s Congress Center building, across an
interior hallway from the Melting Pot. Within the heartbreakingly
sweet-minded shop, a chalkboard asks patrons which inanimate object
they’d like to be. Amid peace necklaces, velveteen rabbits and stones on
a beach, the most popular answer was “Gerard Butler’s Chap Stick.”
Kat’s crepes, unfortunately, are a bit rubbery, and a modified BLT crepe
cone actually includes mayonnaise, creating some slightly sickening
egg-on-egg action. Meanwhile, a marionberry crepe was folded multiple
times around the fruit, making it the crepe version of a wrap as
compared to a burrito. Crepes, when doubled, are American pancakes. And
these are very American crepes.