by Alice Levitt
144 Church St., Burlington, 448-3155
Many restaurants were closed last night in anticipation of Sandy, but when I called Mr. Crêpe to see if they were serving, the young lady on the phone assured me, "We're not afraid of hurricanes here."
Very well. To Church Street I went, the wind blowing and the streets zombie-apocalypse empty.
Clean, modern and bright, the interior of Mr. Crêpe felt like the perfect antidote to the dark doings outside.
The prices at Mr. Crêpe can be astonishingly low, and even in the foreboding weather, several college-aged diners were digging in.
I did the same, starting with a watermelon-flavored Italian soda. Both the soda and my dining partner's unsweetened raspberry iced tea were served in heavy, frosted mugs. They don't even do that anymore at A & W. A lovely touch.
All of our savory fare arrived around the same time.
A big bowl of that night's special pea soup was ultra thick — more of a mash than a potage — and filled with hearty, tender cubes of ham. Dressed in a shower of shaved scallions, it was beautiful to look at, but the flavors of the key ingredients didn't pop. I would have loved more smoke, more pea flavor, something to make it just a little more exciting.
The spiced pear salad, at under $7, was easily enough for a meal. However, the ingredients were disappointing. The pears appeared to be canned, not stewed and spiced, though I enjoyed their tingly, effervescence. My dining partner complained that their sogginess left the rest of the salad with a wash of sugared pear juice.
On the flip side, the blue cheese crumbles were dry and chalky. No complaints about the walnuts, the fresh, poppy grapes or the base of baby spinach, but overall, the salad seemed like a great idea that didn't quite reach its potential.
I had similar feelings about the Super Lamb crêpe.
On their own, the cubes of house merguez were delicious — just gamey enough and surprisingly spicy, though generally I prefer a coarser grind on lamb sausage. I loved how fresh basil leaves complemented the meat, but from there, the combination of flavors went wrong.
Roasted red and yellow peppers were pretty, but combined with caramelized onions, they created a blend of sweetness on sweetness that overwhelmed the more delicate spinach and feta. Perhaps it was just too much going on at once.
When I return, I will likely order one of the simpler combinations, such as mushrooms and fresh thyme or smoked turkey with homemade cranberry sauce.
The problem was certainly not the pancake itself.
It's slightly thicker and far airier than those at that other Burlington crêperie. It reminded me of crêpes I've had in France. And in one non-traditional filling, Mr. Crêpe achieved an ideal blend of old and new that will have me returning over and over— two words: S'mores Crêpe.
Nutella is great, but melted, semisweet Belgian chocolate, mixed with sticky marshmallow fluff and crumbles of graham cracker, well, that's just perfection.
And we got an extra treat last night. Our server accidentally brought us another party's ice-cream-accompanied crêpe at first. The one we ordered doesn't usually come with a scoop, but she didn't want us to be disappointed after seeing one right under our noses. So, when she brought out our correct order, it was accompanied with a scoop of its own — making the end of our meal the ice cream on the crêpe.
Alice Eats is a weekly blog feature devoted to reviewing restaurants where diners can get a meal for two for less than $35. Got a restaurant you'd love to see featured? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.