Where To Find The Best Crepes In LA
THIS STORY IS PART OF HOW TO L.A., OUR ONGOING SERIES OF PRACTICAL GUIDES FOR DAY-TO-DAY LIVING IN LOS ANGELES.
With IHOP churning out Swedish pancakes by the stack, the era of the crepe as a luxury dish, aka the 1970s, is long gone. Around Los Angeles, purveyors of the thin pancake have popped up in nearly every neighborhood. From the Chinese jianbing as portable breakfast to the Breton crepe as fast-food truck dinner to "create your own" ice cream sundae crepes, the options are virtually limitless.
What makes crepes so exquisite? Their fragility and the fact that no two are exactly alike thanks to constant debates about how to prepare them. The same is true of their makers, who incorporate culinary traditions from around the world into their technique. That makes it tough to separate the crème de la crepe from their characterless imitators.
These eight businesses do the crepe proud.
Although Peach Café across the street has longer lines, Café LuMar has spent the last seven years quietly remaking dining in Monrovia. With maps of the owners' native Croatia on the walls, LuMar's humble decor and limited menu belie the talent in the kitchen. Their savory crepes feature standard flavor combos, like chicken and broccoli, but LuMar also makes traditional Croatian palachinka, sweet treats of the highest order. Visnja's Delight, named in part for a member of the staff, is two gold triangles of paper-thin dough layered with a flambéed blueberry and strawberry compote, warm cream cheese and powdered sugar. Fair warning: these treasures have attracted talkative regulars who may interrupt your meal, so be prepared to offer a friendly "Zdravo!" ("hello" in Croatian).
136 E. Colorado Blvd., Monrovia. 626-357-2184.
Solar de Cahuenga
Marketing crepes as health food is an easy way for restaurants to hide low-quality ingredients beneath chic pancake veils. Solar de Cahuenga has a more honest and adventurous ethos, turning their crepes into works of art. Adrian's Favorite finds a bed of smoked salmon, brown onions, tomatoes and sour cream slipped onto a steaming hot pancake. Named for the restaurant's founder, it might become your favorite, too. If you prefer a sweeter version of a morning meal, the Energy Crepe (vanilla yogurt, Georgia peaches, grains and seasonal fruits) is your best option. Either way, Solar's crepes are exceptions in the world of allegedly good-for-you foods.
1847 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood. 323-467-7510.
OhBella Gelato & Crepe Café
In a side alley off a Canyon Country strip mall, the wonderful OhBella Gelato & Crepe Café has spread crepe fever in the Santa Clarita Valley. Since its 2015 opening, several imitators have sprouted up, hoping to attract some of OhBella's regulars. Don't believe their false promises. The traditionalist bent at this quiet, family-run bistro has helped OhBella maintained its reputation as one of the Valley's best dessert stops. Under cooks and owners Jon and Helen Han, the French crepes are objects of minimalist beauty, precisely garnished with Nutella (if they're sweet) or balsamic glaze (if they're savory). Even rarer are OhBella's prices, $3.95 to $6.95 for most crepes. Their concoctions -- like the Hans' favorite granola and fruit plate, Strawberry Delight -- have a delightful simplicity.
18585 Soledad Canyon Rd., Canyon Country. 661-424-9987.
Amara Chocolate & Coffee
This Venezuelan cafe's sipping chocolate has received plenty of praise but its savory cachapas are equally exquisite. The bedrock of each is a large, light pancake of yellow corn that's roasted, grilled and stacked with toppings. Amara Chocolate & Coffee's traditional cachapa comes slathered with queso fresco under black beans and plantains, creating a black and bronze delight that's perfect for a heap of pernil (slow-roasted pulled pork). Each bite of the handsomely designed crepe is a study in contrasts: dark and light, sweet and savory, soft and tough. Pasadena residents have caught on and you'll usually face a lunch line that stretches out the door.
55 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena. 626-744-1765.
In the last two years, Natalia Izawa's small Sawtelle dessert shop, Millet Crepe, has become one of the neighborhood's busiest dessert destinations. Izawa's French upbringing made crepes a natural choice but it was her business partner, Kazumi Tsuji, who designed Millet's signature crème brûlée crepes. These toothsome Japanese-style cones are made with gluten-free rice flour (rather than the typical wheat or buckwheat) and scratch-made butter. Then, they're filled with custard, wrapped around candied walnuts, red bean paste or green tea ice cream and blow-torched as carefully as a Chihuly glass sculpture. Novelty and excellence are separate qualities but under Izawa and Tsuji's stewardship, Millet excels at both.
2011 Sawtelle Blvd., West L.A. 310-473-0430.
It would be easy to write off the ultra-popular Crave Café simply for hogging a plum corner at Ventura and Van Nuys boulevards, if not for their sumptuous crepes. As the designated 24-hour diner of choice for the San Fernando Valley, Crave delivers the goods around the clock but its charm is clearest after midnight. Nothing quells a 3 a.m. stomach ache like their thin, square wheat crepe stuffed with hash browns, turkey bacon and eggs. It may sound sacrilegious but trust us, add pepper jack. If you prefer something simpler, Crave has perfected the streetside sugar and butter crepe, the better to please its worldly clientele of tourists and locals.
14504 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks. 818-990-7888.
Bea Bea's calls itself the place "where breakfast is everything" and for good reason. Its menu of pancakes, French toasts, scrambles and benedicts is overwhelming, at first glance. With eccentric breakfast crepes such as the ham-and-chocolate Piggie Delight or an Oreo and marshmallow version called (what else?) the Oreomallows, this Burbank restaurant is the paradigm of decadence. If those delicacies don't intrigue, other options include caramelized peaches, mascarpone, baked apples and raspberry compote. The mix-and-match possibilities are endless but there is no wrong formula here.
353 N. Pass Ave., Burbank. 818-846-2327.
ME + Crêpe
This small shop makes Beijing-style street crepes, known as jianbing. Made from wheat and grain flour, they're thin and soft but crisp around the edges. The basic "bing" crepes, as they're listed on ME + Crêpe's menu, are filled with egg, green onion, cilantro and black sesame. You can add fillings like Peking duck, ham, tuna salad, cheese, konjac, pickled mustard and roasted seaweed or opt for one of their combos, like the cumin lamb. They go well with one of the small bottles of plum juice in the refrigerated case.
89 E. Green St., Pasadena. 626-345-5291.