CAFE CREPE (246 Queen West, at John, 416-260-1611). Stylin' Vancouver chain comes to town with competent crêpes, both savoury and sweet, but questionably executed sandwiches blow any credibility. Complete meals for $22 per person, including all taxes, tip and a glass of wine. Open Sunday to Thursday 9 am to 11 pm, Friday and Saturday 9 am to midnight. Licensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NN Rating: NNNNN
the brouhaha over the closing of the Bamboo overshadowed another closing that, as far as I'm concerned, had far greater cultural significance -- Hollywood Clothing's Queen West operation. This cluttered storefront stacked with 50s and 60s gear had been selling local punkers discount Doc Martens and black leather motorcycle jackets since the 70s. But its prime location across from MuchMusic fell to a Vancouver chain of crêperies.
A name like Café Crêpe is just asking to be mocked. Throw in staff in matching outfits and a neon corporate logo of the Eiffel Tower on the facade and you wonder what head office was smoking when it decided to locate in a neighbourhood of Adbusters- and Naomi Klein-reading semiology students. Smart move, though: every time Ed the Sock interviews anybody on the sidewalk, Café Crêpe looms large in the background. Just like Mr. Pong's.
Once past CC's branding, glass doors lead to a tiled lobby lined with a stand-up bar and an open kitchen. Walls painted glossy red lead the eye to a skylight two storeys overhead. We follow shiny checkerboard tiles past a permanently reserved semi-circular booth upholstered in flat black leatherette. And take a seat on the banquette of this long, narrow room. Filtered French house plays discreetly. This is nice! The Literary Device, dressed for the part in a beret, stripy maillot and apache scarf, asks for café au lait. As one does.
"Is that the same as a latte?" our otherwise on-the-ball server asks. Sorta. It arrives shortly, a large foam-swirled cup of first-rate Illy ($2.80 small/$4.50 large). We split the crisp organic house greens in peppery Dijon ($2.95/$4.95) that are only let down by pale, tasteless tomato. But a savoury ham and Emmenthal crêpe ($5.75) as well as one with diced chicken and creamy egg squiggled with mayo ($6.40) couldn't be tastier, even if they're a tad monochromatic.
A few days later, we sample the lineup of baguettes and grilled panini. If this is what Van considers Traditional French Sandwiches (as the menu claims), we're lucky Café Crêpe doesn't tackle coq au vin. Imagine a buttered hot-dog bun stuffed with only six slices of supermarket salami -- sorry, "saucisson sec" ($5.95) -- and two halved, limp pickles ("cornichons"). Or thin slices of prosciutto ordinaire sandwich-pressed into meek bocconcini and more wimpy winter tomatoes ($6.95). Nearby sandwich kings Red Tea Box, Jules and Citron still rule. Hell, you get a better s'wich at Subway.
Equally laughable, the very abbreviated wine list includes Mouton Cadet ($5.95 glass/$23.80 bottle), a label I haven't seen mentioned with a straight face since 1972.
To compare, I check out Crêpe de Paris, a local chain located in food courts around town (Scotia Tower concourse, 100 Yonge, at Adelaide, 416-941-9628, and others). Lacking Café Crêpe's swell decor and cool tunes, Paris still impresses with some of its pancakes. Wilted spinach, quartered button mushrooms and slivered almonds in a 14-inch whole wheat crêpe ($3.50) is as close to macrobiotic as can be found in a fast food joint. And who could resist anything called Comedy of Fruits ($3.95), syrupy blueberries and apples in a wrap? firstname.lastname@example.org & drink