American enthusiasm for crêpes seemed to explode earlier this decade, and now a new shop is offering the thin, pancake-like French fare to Strip District strollers and shoppers. With its covered cart set up in the middle of a bright, airy storefront, Crêpes Napoleon and Josephine feels a bit like a street vendor taken inside for the winter, splitting the difference between a casual sidewalk-stall and a sit-down café.
The shop opened last November at a former Subway location, and is operated by Sam Patti of La Prima Espresso Company. The local coffee roasters supply many independent coffee shops in the region, and run an old-school espresso shop just around the corner from Napoleon and Josephine, at 205 21st St.
The menu offers six choices of crêpe fillings ($4-6.75), as well as La Prima's coffees, various juices and "yoga nectar." The fillings are divided into sweet ("Josephine") and savory ("Napoleon"). On the sweet side, there's the basic cinnamon and sugar, as well as banana with chocolate-hazelnut Nutella spread, or guava and cream cheese.
But that's just what's on the menu, says Cara Flodine, who often tends the shop. On weekends, she says, she concocts different special combinations. As for ordering on the menu, she recommended the turkey and asiago -- and since it was lunchtime when I visited, the savory side sounded more appealing. I settled into a chair to wait, flipping through a copy of Whirl as Genesis' "In Too Deep" billowed out of the stereo.
After just a couple of minutes, my order was ready, and I was handed a slim, piping-hot rectangle of aluminum foil. My first thought was "this is it?" But after the crêpe cooled enough to eat, I realized that the small size was offset by the crêpe's richness and the filling's density. The airy, not-too-chewy crêpe shell held few extra-thin slices of the seasoned turkey, with the asiago cheese complementing the meat's saltiness with a rich, pleasantly bitter taste.
Based on a few overheard conversations, I suspect that for some, Crêpes Napoleon and Josephine is a regular stop between pilates and a hair appointment. But it's also a great place to pause during your Strip District shopping, rest your dogs and enjoy a quick, tasty Continental snack.
2107 Penn Ave., Strip District. 412-565-7070