The vibe at Cafe Crepe at high noon on a Thursday is like a buzzy school cafeteria. Backpack-clad students dig into S’more crepes filled with chocolate, marshmallows and Graham crackers and chat giddily. Office workers cool their heels at stools, eagerly awaiting the Billy Goat: herbed goat cheese, roasted red peppers, spinach with balsamic glaze tucked into a hot, portable, thin pancake.
The newest food offering at Portland Public Market House is one week old and going like Parisian hot cakes. Lauren Brinkmann, owner of the food-truck-turned bricks and mortar business, is keeping things simple, savory, sweet and fast. With four crepe makers raging at a time, her crepe emporium, last home to K. Horton Specialty Foods, which closed in January, is a high-output gourmet go-to for hungry Portlanders.
The Greenville native started making crepes in a truck in Colorado in 2010. Moving back to Maine a few years later she served the nourishing street food to coffee and beer drinkers from a bright orange and electric blue truck parked outside Tandem Coffee Roasters and Allagash Brewery. In 2014 she opened her first stationary cafe in Freeport, but always kept her eye on Monument Square.
“I looked at this building three and a half years ago and it seemed like a big leap,” said Brinkmann. Her non-stop work ethic and the staying power of crepes, (not a trendy fad like cupcakes), paid off.
So when the central, first floor space, which greets customers flocking into the market, became available for the first time in 18 years, she was ready.
“It’s four times the space I’m used to,” said Brinkmann, whose husband Tyler is helping her with crepe execution.
So what’s on the menu? Breakfast crepes, gluten-free crepes, and crepes that will make you question the merits of a sandwich, wrap or slice of pizza ever again. After all, who doesn’t love a hot lunch? Nothing soggy here.
Crepes range in price from $3.50 for cinnamon, sugar and butter, to $8 for a loaded Tom Jack with turkey, pepper jack cheese, jalapenos and red onion.
Hours are Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on Sundays they close at 5 p.m. 28 Monument Square, Portland.