El Camino Blog

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Bloomington Coffee Houses: Café et Crêpe

(Noon, Monday, September 4, 2006, Café et Crêpe, 316 E. 4th Street, Bloomington.) When I entered Café et Crêpe, romantic postwar French ballads were emanating from the PA system. Standing at the counter, I could hear a smattering of French-sounding chatter in the kitchen. I seemed to be the first customer of the day. After I rung the counter bell, a tall, rosy-cheeked, graciously-smiling barista with Heidi braids (She was evocative of a prettier Helen Hunt) appeared in front of me. She was cheerful and engaging, in an appropriately understated manner. When she asked me what I would like to order, I replied that I wasn’t sure what kind of coffee I wanted, but that I usually ordered mochas. "Okay, that sounds good. Well, hey, have you ever tried a Nutella Mocha?" I replied that I had not. "It’s very delicious." So I ordered a large Nutella. I also ordered a chicken fromage crêpe. Eventually, the owner of the French-sounding voice appeared. He introduced himself as Rashid. While we chatted, I inquired about the background music. "That’s Edith Piaf," he explained. "Very romantic, very deep. The French culture is more deep, much more romantic." Rashid added plaintively, "The French singers used to have a lot of conviction, a lot of soul. It started fading away in the 90s, and now (the music) is all about money." He finished with, "French is the language of romance, English is the language of business. That’s why English is the language of the world. I’m glad I have both (French and English languages)." Rashid ambled back toward the kitchen to check on the Crêpe, leaving me with a lump in my throat.
The scene of the restaurant was approximately this: A minimum of electric lighting, in a single 27’ x 35’ room painted chocolate brown, but with recently-installed, French-type doors windowed and open to the café deck, there was sufficient visibility to feel comfortable and airy. a substantial collection of black-and-white photographic art hung on the walls. The attempt seems to be to evoke the essence of 50’s Paris. There are common coffeehouse touches, such as a couch area, replete with a coffee table and several chess sets. Nearby sits a bookcase with some random titles, and some old science magazines. Most of the furniture consists of wooden table-and-4-chair sets. Outside, a beamed deck accomodates patrons on humble plastic furnishings.
The chicken fromage crêpe was excellent: a delicately-crafted crêpe wrapping with understated egg taste; a sweet and tangy sauce inside embellishing large, pyramid-shaped chunks of chicken. A refreshing side salad with tomatoes helped freshen the palate. I noticed as the café filled up, the barista, working the tables on her own, kept pace with no sign of strain, and was a delightful hostess with all of the customers. The place, if you let it, takes you away into bliss, but it’s a subtle, brooding charm, in stark contrast with the rambunctious Soma. I hated to go on writing about all the details of Café et Crêpe, because it was begging to be enjoyed in a more sedate manner than my typing required. Café et Crêpe is a good place to visit alone or with a friend in the daytime. To guys, I would strongly recommend Café et Crêpe as a choice spot to romance a girlfriend. 4 stars.


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