The words "Northeast Alberta Street" once brought to mind a stereotype of wall-to-wall health-food stores, yoga studios and radical vegans. But the strip's growing presence of Food Network-friendly artery-cloggers like Southern food, greasy good fish 'n' chips and doughnuts (they may be vegan, but it's still chocolate) tells a different story. Maybe people who work on depressing social causes need an indulgence more than the rest of us do.
Owned by Brenda Drain (formerly of Urban Grind), Tour de Crêpes recently took over the Airstream trailer and converted garage that once housed Fold Crêperie. The rough-around-the-edges restaurant displays a juxtaposition of quirky hedonism and radical guilt that is slightly jarring but very Alberta: Eat your $7 prosciutto crêpe on old furniture rescued from landfill doom. For dessert, enjoy a chocolatey treat, but not too much—a large retail display of T-shirts condemning the ongoing tragedy in Darfur reminds us that in other parts of the world they don't have Grand Marnier and crème fraîche. Resist the urge to run home, donate your lunch money to charity and make a PB&J instead, because the crêpes here make the world a better place in their own small way.
The Gallic comfort food is prepared classic Breton style, with thin, lacy buckwheat crêpes and an emphasis on Gruyère for the savory versions and a strong Nutella presence (as well there should be) on the sweet side, but unexpected additions like cayenne pepper and a fig-onion chutney wake up old standbys. The Gruyère, green apple and cayenne crêpe ($5.75) creates a perfect balance between starchy-creamy and fresh-zingy. The Nutella, toasted coconut and coconut cream crêpe ($6.50) is the perfect thing for those who like to eat three candy bars in one sitting. On one visit it seemed to swim not in coconut cream but coconut milk, but the fat factor was still high enough to narrowly avoid sogginess. If you really want to make your head explode, have the staff make it with chocolate crêpe batter (50 cents extra) and add vanilla ice cream ($1.50). Washed down with a French sparkling blueberry lemonade ($2.75), it's a true Willy Wonka moment.
As the savory crêpes run small, diners with heartier appetites may want to round out their meal with a quiche ($5.50), salad ($2.50-$6) or the French onion soup ($3-$5), whose slightly tangy broth soaks into generous quantities of melty Gruyère, thick bread and soft, sweet onions. You'll look pretty silly to passersby with strings of cheese hanging out of your mouth, but chances are they'll be silly-looking too, especially if it's Last Thursday.
Tour de Crêpes' blend of continental cooking and Alberta Street ethics may seem random, but that's what will make this eclectic little spot equally attractive to activists in dire need of a dessert break and suburbanites who want to go on a culture safari without having to eat twigs and leaves. After all, it's hard to protest a crêpe.
Tour de Crêpes, 2921 NE Alberta St., tourdecrepe.com. Breakfast, lunch and dinner 9 am-9 pm Wednesday-Sunday. $ Inexpensive.