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Crepe expectations pan out in Safety Harbor, Parrish


Times Food Critic

It's hard not to see the trend as a function of the economy. In the past 18 months, more than a dozen creperies have opened in the area. Why? Crepes tend to be a smaller portion and a more modest financial commitment than other meals, both for diners and restaurateurs.

There are Russian blini, Jewish blintzes, Hungarian palacsinta, Indian poori and roti, Chinese bao bin and Italian crespelle — but the basic recipe is the same. It's a batter made from flour and some liquid, poured onto a griddle and cooked quickly.

But for some reason, the skinny pancakes that have captured our attention are the French ones, whether they're filled with chicken in a lush cream sauce or berries and a little chocolate ooh-la-la.

In November 2007, Kurt and Pam Bollenbacher renovated a tiny gift shop off the main drag in Safety Harbor, launching Crepe-ology. And in Parrish, Donna Posso bought Crepes & More two months ago and started pouring batter.

In both cases, the motivation seems to be the same. Posso, a former barista, and Bollenbacher, an electrician and former air-conditioning and refrigeration tech, wanted to be their own bosses. And they felt the time was right for crepes. (It's cyclical. Remember the Magic Pan?)

Crepe-ology is practically a one-man show, Pam helping Kurt out when there's a lunch rush. It's paper plates and plastic utensils (coffee and tea in Styrofoam cups are a drag, but the kitchen's lack of industrial dishwasher is stymieing), just a few tables inside and a lovely outdoor patio.

The top seller is a flash-frozen raspberry beauty ($4.75) slathered in a dark Ghirardelli chocolate sauce. But a mighty fine meal can be assembled with a sprightly mesclun mix salad ($2) studded with grape tomatoes and cuke rounds and a "chicken supreme" duet of crepes ($6.25), a jumble of deeply caramelized onions elevated by herbs de Provence, topping hunks of white meat chicken and lengths of sauteed portobello, and a swath of molten Emmentaler cheese.

I like a crepe to be plush and pliable in the center but crisp at the very edges, a textural quibble, but Kurt's tend to be soft all the way through. Still, my grand finale of soft butter-sauteed bananas under a blanket of crazy-hot caramel sauce ($4.75) was standing-ovation material.

In Parrish, near the 301 and I-75 exchange, Crepes & More is the kind of coffeehouse/dessert spot where it's easy to linger. A quick hazelnut latte ($3.25-$4.25) can lengthen into a perusal of the menu and a long loiter over a garden veggie crepe ($7.95) given a big wallop of velvety alfredo sauce (a sauce that moistens a number of the savory offerings, from a crab version to one with roasted peppers, Italian sausage and onion, $7.95).

The dessert case is packed with allures, but hold out for a Swedish Delight ($6.95) with its lingonberry preserves, berry sauce and whipped cream. In fact, a dollop of lingonberry preserves graces a number of crepe offerings, giving the whole place a Swedish accent. And between the expertly made coffee drinks, Italian sodas ($2.25-$2.75) and fruit smoothies ($3.75-$5.75), a lack of liquor license hardly seems like a hardship.

At both spots, a healthy, hearty meal can be had for under $10. Which surely explains the current creeping encroachment of crepes.

Laura Reiley can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2293. Her blog, the Mouth of Tampa Bay, is at Reiley dines anonymously and unannounced. The Times pays all expenses. Advertising has nothing to do with selection for review or the assessment.

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155 Fifth Ave. N, Safety Harbor

(727) 799-3300

Cuisine: Crepes

Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday

Details: V, MC, Disc.; no reservations; no alcohol

Prices: Salad $2, sweet crepes $2-$4.75, savory crepes $2.95-$6.75

Rating out of four stars:

Food: ★★

Service: ★★

Atmosphere: ★★

Overall: ★★

Crepes & More

8324 U.S. 301 N, Parrish

(941) 803-8294

Cuisine: Crepes

Hours: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday

Details: V, MC, Amex., Disc.; no reservations; no alcohol

Prices: Smoothies $3.75-$5.75, sweet crepes $4.95-$6.95, savory crepes $7.95-$8.95

Rating out of four stars:

Food: ★★

Service: ★★

Atmosphere: ★★

Overall: ★★

Crepe expectations pan out in Safety Harbor, Parrish 07/08/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 8, 2009 4:30am]
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