Palo Alto Weekly

Eating Out - July 9, 2010

Comfortable Crepevine

Good value, but little inspiration in comfort food

by Sheila Himmel

It's always brunch time at Crepevine. The all-day conveyor belt of comfort food opened two months ago in downtown Palo Alto, reclaiming the space left by the unlamented Italian restaurant Madison and Fifth.

On a recent weekday, Crepevine had a line while next door the Cheesecake Factory was more than half empty. Lingering recession, anyone?

With large portions, good prices and a children's menu, Crepevine's formula meets a need. Food quality is so-so, but the place is bright, clean and fun. High French doors open the whole front to the sidewalk.

The Palo Alto location is the Bay Area's tenth Crepevine, which has plans to keep growing.

The signature dish comes in 11 varieties, and if none of them appeal, you can construct your own crepe. Start with the basic cheddar and glazed onion crepe ($6.95) and add $1 per item except for salmon, chicken, ham or sausage, which cost more.

Vegetarian? No problem. Six of the savory crepe combinations are meat-free — as are many items in other brunch-lunch categories, including omelettes, scrambles, pancakes and French toast. Or go to pasta, sandwiches and salads.

Crepes are large, and they come with green salad and a large serving of cottage-fried potatoes.

In the Philly crepe ($9.95), grilled beef and white cheddar cheese ooze together with onions, mushrooms and, if you like, hot peppers. That's as it should be for the Philly. The problem is that too many other dishes at Crepevine have the same gummy consistency.

The Milano crepe ($9.50) was undone by bitter eggplant, even though doused in marinara, spinach, tomatoes, cheddar, mozzarella and cottage cheese.

The Big Sur sandwich ($9.95) is very much like the Philly cheese steak crepe — a compact of grilled beef, mushrooms and onions with cheese enfolded in starch. But one is bread and one is crepe. One has provolone and the other cheddar. They shouldn't taste so alike.

"Benedictions" are plays on eggs Benedict. The Cote d'Azur ($9.95) came with two poached eggs perched on English muffins, and pieces of smoked salmon, sauteed spinach and onions. A dollop of hollandaise sauce topped both eggs. A large serving of cottage-fried potatoes accompanied. The English muffins soon turned into bread pudding, which may be how everyone else likes it, but I prefer a little crunch.

Sweet crepes ($6.95) had the same issues with definition. In the Santorini, walnuts, pistachios, brown sugar, coconut, cinnamon and mascarpone become one with the crepe. In the tri-berry, Nutella oozed between recognizable but not very flavorful strawberries, blueberries and raspberries. The Stanford, a nod to the neighborhood, combines strawberries, bananas and Nutella.

The best dish we tried at Crepevine was a salad. The Nicoise ($9.95) offered a bed of spring greens, black olives, red potatoes and ample slices of warm ahi, semi-seared on the outside. The French beans were limp, a small infraction for such a large portion at this price. Mild citrus vinaigrette brought it all together, but not too forcefully. They don't overdress the salad at Crepevine.

Beverages reflect the all-day format, from coffee to cocktails. Crepevine has a reasonable wine list, and cocktails for $6. There are fresh-squeezed juices. Safari juice ($2), a blend of carrot, orange and lemonade, tasted like a melted Popsicle.

Servers are pumped full of cheer:

"Water refill?"

"Yes, please."

"Not a problem!"

"No, thank you."

"Not a problem!"

Bottom line on Crepevine: fun, fast, assembly-line value.

Crepevine

367 University Ave., Palo Alto

650-323-3900

www.crepevine.com

Hours: Sun.-Thu. 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Fri.-Sat. 8 a.m.-11 p.m.

Reservations: yes

Credit cards: yes

Parking: street

Alcohol: yes

Children: yes

Takeout: yes

Outdoor dining: yes

Party facilities: no

Noise level: high

Bathroom cleanliness: excellent

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