Many Portland restaurateurs are relying on community recognition and a faithful customer base to ride out the pandemic. Chad Bernard has gone in a different direction. He's used the shutdown as an opportunity to overhaul everything about his business—from the menu to the décor on down to the name.
As of two weeks ago, what was once cozy French bistro Chez Machin is now Frog & Snail, a casual creperie with a menu that caters to the health-conscious and gluten-free. It doesn't exactly fall within Bernard's culinary background: Before taking over at Chez Machin in 2019, he spent time working at Bamboo Sushi and alongside pan-Asian chef Johanna Ware. But the new menu does have some personal significance for Bernard, drawing inspiration from his family roots in the Alsace region of France.
In less viral times, guests can expect brightly accented walls, bar seating around an open kitchen where customers can watch Bernard work, and French onion soup with layers of bread and Gruyère that don't have to be stamped out with a biscuit cutter to fit into a paper to-go cup.
For now, Frog & Snail is a one-man game, with crepes, quiche and a handful of homemade sides available to order for takeout or delivery through Postmates. Fans of dessert crepes can indulge in the Classic ($5.95) with Nutella, fresh banana and graham cracker crumble, while those who prefer savory options can try the BBQ ($9.95) and Grilled Cheese ($6.95), many of which accommodate for dietary restrictions.
The standout so far, though, is the German ($9.95). Here's what goes into it.
Like the rest of Frog & Snail's savory selections, the German has moved away from the treacly wheat batter that was a staple of Chez Machin. "We are focusing on 100 percent buckwheat crepes, which are naturally gluten-free and are more of the traditional way that savory crepes are made in France," says Bernard. "They're super-nutritious, too, which is nice. It's got a nice, almost earthy flavor to it."
The theory behind the German is that you can throw all sorts of rich, salt-heavy ingredients into a thin pancake and strike gold. It's not wrong. The buckwheat crepe is stuffed with potatoes au gratin, caramelized onion jam, crispy bacon and scallions, topped with a healthy serving of homemade crème fraîche. It also comes with a house salad, for balance.
According to Bernard, the German, like all of the menu's savory crepes, works because it operates as a meal in itself. "The potatoes au gratin are already a really popular side, so putting them in the crepe is pretty delicious," he says. "It's really hearty, and you can eat it any time of day—it's definitely one of our more popular ones."
ORDER: Frog & Snail, 3553 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 503-736-9381, frogandsnail.com. Takeout and delivery 9 am-8 pm