No, I’m not at Momofuku Milk Bar. I’m in a strip mall in Tempe.
Today I have a research trip planned by the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild for my Phoenix Craft Beer article coming up in the next Taste & Travel. My first stop is Four Peaks, so I needed to find somewhere close for breakfast as my first brewery appointment was at 10AM.
We had driven past the crêpe bar a few days before, and I had been mildly interested in checking it out. It was fairly unassuming, typical Phoenix red lettering on the outside of a sandstone storefront in a big, bland strip mall. But after checking out the menu (coffee flavoured crêpes? banana brûlée? hibiscus gel?) I thought it might be a little more than its exterior let on.
I head in and had a chat with owner Jeff Kraus who told me of their from scratch philosophies, experimental dishes and the original food truck that started it all, super popular Truckin’ Good Food. Crêpe bar is their brick and mortar location, and a pretty darn hip one at that.
I take a sip of my latte and am transported back to Melbourne. Finally, a good, strong latte made well with a creamy, rich quality grind. Jeff says he selected the roasters because their philosophy matches his with the food – Heart Roasters out of Portland love what they do and they focus on uncompromising quality.
This comes across in the food – Jeff isn’t the type of owner to drop in for ten minutes in the morning. After our chat he went back to the kitchen, rolled up his sleeves and got back to cooking. He is hands on, passionate, and highly skilled.
I started with a taster of their housemade cereal, with chopped dried fruits, pistachios, maple syrup and to balance the sweetness; a dash of smoked sea salt.
On the counter you will find a number of housemade baked goods, all displayed in Alice in Wonderland-style glass cloches, names written on their marbled metal countertop.
Even though pork belly for breakfast is not something I would normally go for, I couldn’t help but order their Grand Prix. A coffee crepe was topped with a sunny side up egg, smoked pork belly and maple glazed pork jowel. Presentation was way above what you would expect from a little crêpe bar, and the housemade meats were exceptional.
It is funny how certain things make you expect a certain thing – I expected a crêpe bar to just have a menu of crêpes filled with various fillings. But Jeff has turned the idea of a crepe bar on its head – he seems to approach his menu in a more chef-like manner. He concentrates on building up a collection of eclectic flavours, for example egg, coffee, maple and pork, and then designing a dish that contrasts with a perfect balance. The fact each dish has a crepe almost feels like an afterthought – unlike your typical crêpe cafe he doesn’t seem restricted by the conventions that usually apply to a crêpe – he cooks interesting dishes and uses the crêpes to make them extraordinary.