La Petite Crêperie began as a food stand at the Lexington Farmers Market. It was an instant hit. The passion for the product was so strong that the early-morning crowd thought nothing of waiting patiently for several minutes while their crêpes were being prepared. No genius was required to figure out that sooner or later a sit-down spot would appear.
That day came a few months ago in the form of a light and airy café on Kentucky Avenue across from Woodland Park. There is outdoor seating on the porch and on the front lawn — complete with a communal water dish for the dog, just like in France — but for the next several cold-weather months, we will all be retreating to the quaint and cozy space inside. No complaints here.
I love the intimate feel of the place. Merry accordion ballads sung in French play all the time. Fleur-de-lis decor is everywhere. The tables are near enough to your neighbor to feel community, yet with just enough distance to ensure privacy.
When you go to the counter to order, you can watch the crêpe batter that will soon be your pancake being swirled across a big round pan. Again, just like in France.
Unlike in France, however, where the basic batter is usually flour, milk and a little butter and salt, La Petite Crêperie's standard is slightly sweet, flavored with a few drops of vanilla and a touch of sugar. I mention this fact because it shocked me at first to have the sense that dessert was mixed in with the main course. Now I like it.
You can also get a delicious croque-monsieur or -mademoiselle grilled cheese sandwich or a fine entree-size green salad that includes radicchio, spinach, shredded cheese and your choice of additional vegetables (although the dressing would benefit from bolder additions of salt and freshly ground pepper).
But crêpes are, of course, the main focus.
Protocol is straightforward: Build your own savory crêpe by selecting from numerous options in the vegetable and meat categories, or design dessert from a third list of fillings. The possibilities seem endless.
I've sampled mixed and matched variations with mushrooms and provolone, tender diced potatoes and onions, eggs and country ham, all folded into quarters and lightly drizzled with the vinaigrette, referred to as "sauce maison" (house sauce) when served with savory crêpes.
But actually, one of my favorite fillings has been an autumn-themed special of the day: apple cider pork. It was fantastic. The chunks of pork were so tender that they tasted poached. They were served in a crêpe speckled with light golden brown blisters that also included delicate sliced apples, emerald leaves of spinach and a handful of provolone cheese.
Desserts are an exercise in decadence. They might be filled with fruit and whipped cream, or perhaps a bourbon sauce. But almost everyone I know, myself included, gets them with Nutella, the wonderful thick spread made of hazelnuts and chocolate.
Finally, to keep things consistently French, there are colorful macarons, meringue cookies by the marvelous baker Martine Holzman of Martine's Pastries. These tiny mouthfuls of crisp and creamy sweetness break and crumble at first bite, and then release their intense flavor. I sampled the pistachio. They are worth every cent of the $1.59.
While it may have been fun and funky to enjoy the street food scene at the farmers market, I am delighted that La Petite Crêperie has opened a brick-and-mortar location. I can still queue up and watch the cooking, but if I choose to hang out with friends at a table, I can do that in charm and comfort. Fantastique!RESTAURANT REVIEW
La Petite Crêperie
Address: 191 Kentucky Ave.
Phone: (859) 684-2737
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tue.-Fri., 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Sat., 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Sun. Closed Mon.
Other: Local ingredients used when available. Beer served. Street parking. Vegetarian-friendly. Savory crepes, $4.95-$6.95; sweet crepes, $3.50-$6.95; sandwiches, $6-$6.50; salads, $5; specials of the day, $8.95.