What Crepe?: The Charming
For most people wrestling with the abstract concept of romance, finding sensuality in food is usually reserved for nights out at five-star restaurants or room service orders of champagne and strawberries. However, romance isn’t just seared halibut and wild mushroom risotto. Sometimes it’s spaghetti, sometimes it’s chocolate ice cream, and sometimes it’s crêpes. Actually, more often than not, it seems to be crêpes. Ann Arbor was graced with another trendy eatery this past February when What Crêpe? opened its third location on Liberty Street. Paul Jenkins Jr. also known as PJ, is the mastermind of the trifecta. PJ fell in love with the French dish in Toronto and noticed its lack of presence in Michigan, inspiring him to open his own place with no prior restaurant or cooking experience. Nevertheless, it’s been quite a success.
What Crêpe? has seen impressive traffic in the few months it’s been open. Manager Nicole spoke about the restaurant’s so far unwavering success, complimenting the establishment by saying “we don’t just want to feed people. We want to welcome them as if it was our home.” If it were a home, it’d certainly be unique. The décor is a cross between a modernized bar, the Ritz tea room, and a 1950’s soda shop. Black rectangular tables are arranged around the room with a narrow counter with bar stools at the front for extra seating. The walls are accented a deep red and a metal bookshelf with an assortment of seemingly random items is positioned on one side. It’s very modern except for the half a dozen chandeliers sparkling from the ceiling and the doo-wop music playing over the stereo system. All together, some may consider it an interior design disaster, but I found it charming. The space is crisp, romantic, and sweet. It’s just the environment I need to properly enjoy a crêpe.
The restaurant boasts an extensive menu, mostly serving crêpes but also gorgeously composed salads and unique “chips and dip” appetizers, which offer several dips served with extra crispy crêpes served as the chips. Drink pairings are soon to be added to the menu with wines being matched with the savory crêpes and dessert martinis matched with the sweets. Of the savory crêpes, popular favorites seem to be the ribeye truffle and the spicy chicken truffle, but there are many others, including vegetarian options and the opportunity to “build your own” crêpe.
I tried the crêpe de crevette, an open-faced crêpe with marinated shrimp, red peppers, fresh grape tomatoes, and a curry sauce. The flavors were decent. I especially liked the addition of the chilled raw tomatoes with the warm shrimp, and the little flare of heat from the curry. It was a little on the bland side, but I was most disappointed in that it wasn’t really a crêpe. Call me a traditionalist, but putting ingredients on top of a folded triangle of cooked batter does not a crêpe make.
The sweet crêpes are easily the crowd-pleasers. Nicole mentioned that some of the favorites were the chocolate éclair and the banana exotique (ex-o-TEE-kay) which is a take on a banana’s foster and includes flaming rum. Yes, please.
I tasted the S’mores crêpe which came out like a painted canvas. The crêpe is filled with a thin layer of graham cracker crumbs, folded and then topped with drizzles of chocolate, marshmallow, and peanut butter sauce, and finally cut through with a knife or toothpick to create the pop art design. It’s a great dish for kids or really anyone with a sweet tooth. It tastes just like it sounds, sweet, a bit salty, and sweet again. The graham crackers add a nice texture; the crêpe is basically just there so you have something to chew on. The dessert crêpes really are delicious, beautiful, and just the right amount to share, and then maybe order a second. Even if the savory crêpes aren’t your favorite, you should always get dessert.
What Crêpe? is a hip, little restaurant, a nice place to go when you want something you can't get anywhere else. The food is adequate, though, based on what I tasted, rather simple. I’m planning a second trip to try the ribeye and banana exotique crêpes in the hopes that these will more effectively blow my mind. All this aside, What Crêpe? is a fantastic place to satisfy that pesky sweet tooth. What Crêpe?’s sweet crêpes are the perfect end to a night out with friends, family, or maybe a cute neurosurgeon. Every city needs a classy go-to sweet spot. Overall, it's a charming place, one that may become a ritual for some and an occasional stop for others. But whether you decide on a long-term commitment, it's definitely worth a first date.
If you would like to learn more about What Crêpe?, here is some basic contact information:
241 East Liberty
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Monday closed Tuesday 11a-9p Wednesday 11a-9p Thursday 11a-9p Friday 11a-11p Saturday 9a-11p Sunday 9a-4p