Feeling French, Craving Crepes, Crepe Bistro

Crepe Bistro

Now that Icosium Kafe in Lincoln Park and its sister location in Andersonville closed their doors to business, the creperies in Chicago that I loved had dwindled down to Crepe Town in Uptown. There are several crepe shops in Chicago, but rude and dismissive service kill the appetite. Having been to Crepe Town recently, I wanted to try another creperie in the city that I hadn’t visited before. And while roaming around in the Loop, I happened upon Crepe Bistro at 186 N. Well Street. Serendipity.

Upon entry, there are a few tables in the front area and a full bar to the immediate left. I looked like around the corner and saw that there were some lounge chairs and a sofa, very much the atmosphere of coffeehouses before they became classrooms for Internet access. I opted to sit outside since the weather was fantastic. After a quick glance at the menu, I was ready for action once the server approached.

Bellini. Coconut shrimp. Tomato basil soup. Kathmandu crepe. Banana nutella crepe. Coffee with cream.

The Bellini was exactly what I needed after a long week of Murphy’s Law at work making me want a hammer to the back of the head. When initially brought the table, it looked like a fanciful liquid parfait. And the bartender, who was also my server, deserves an encore for mixing the Bellini in such a fashion that it was smooth and easy on the way down. The coconut shrimp was delicious, although the accompanying sauce made the appetizer mildly sweeter. I gobbled the rest sans the sauce. The tomato basil soup didn’t taste like anything from a can, or doctored up from a can, so I was pleased with each spoonful.

Crepe Bistro Collage

Kathmandu Crepe. Coconut Shrimp. Tomato Basil Soup. Bellini. Banana Nutella Crepe.

The Kathmandu crepe was a winner. Stuffed with chicken, mushrooms, and mozzarella, and topped with a curry sauce and mango chutney, I was glad to have been hanging out in the Loop and hankering for crepes. Unlike minimalist crepes I have had at other creperies in Chicago and very much like Crepe Town in Uptown, the Kathmandu crepe was loaded. Per the server’s recommendation, I had the banana nutella crepe that ranks up there with my favourite bananas foster crepe. Again, here was another crepe that was stuffed instead of flat and cute for presentation. Along with the banana nutella crepe, I decided to take coffee with cream. If I have said it once, I have said it a million times: the biggest indicator of a quality coffee is being able to drink it without any sweeteners. Yes, I used the milk, but milk is not excessively sweet enough to overpower bitter coffee and the coffee at Crepe Bistro was anything but bitter.

I went during the late morning on a Saturday, so it wasn’t crowded the way I figure it gets later in the day or through the week. It may have been my luck to get the bartender for my server because not only was she good with suggestions, but also quite conversational: a trait in good bartenders. While observing the outdoor menu that was on a placard, I was curious as to whether Crepe Bistro was pandering to Russian, French, or some fusion of the two. During conversation with the bartender, she mentioned that the owner was Russian. Ah, that explained borscht on the placard. However, Crepe Bistro indeed honours French cuisine along the lines of crepes.

So, now Crepe Town and Crepe Bistro are my two favourite creperies in the city. I may have to search for a few other creperies that I may find myself fancying regularly. Well, that is provided the servers aren’t serving attitude with my orders.

Crepe Bistro on Urbanspoon

Icosium Kafe, All About Algeria

Icosium Kafe

Sweet Potato Puree

Sweet Potato Puree

When I was in undergraduate school and in graduate school, I always hung out with the foreigners, much to the chagrin of many in my class. I got invitations to dinner and believe me when I say that my classmates knew how to get down with the get-down in the kitchen. I got to travel to the Caribbean, to Africa, to India, and to the Middle East when they went home, many thanks to their invitations. I should clarify that being of Caribbean and African stock, my fellow Caribbean and African classmates were not foreign to me the way the Indians, Arabs, Iranians, Iraqis, and other Middle Eastern were. And while I did my share of travelling to Africa with my fellow classmates, I never got a chance to go to Algeria. Well, I got a chance to compensate for that loss with a wonderful visit to an Algerian restaurant in Chicago’s Lincoln Park.

Jamming with Jam

Jamming with Jam

For some Algerian delicacies, we went to Icosium Kafe at 5200 N. Clark Street in the midst of usual Friday evening chaos on the block where everything is constantly in motion and parking is at a premium. Tucked away in what looks like a little corner, Icosium Kafe is a small restaurant and coffee-house that specializes in crepes. Oh happy day. Seven of us met to partake of the menu of crepes, to interject our usual brand of humour, and to see if it was possible to walk a straight line after so much belly stuffing. And par for the course, we accomplished to do all that. As mentioned, Icosium Kafe is small and intimate, but it is also loaded with atmosphere. We seven — ranging from Jewish, to Mennonite, to Serbian, to Colombian, to Polish, to Caribbean — felt right at home squeezed into our little spot and up to our usual antics.

Crepe Aziz

Crepe Aziz

To get things started, we began with a round of rooibus tea, which is a red tea based out of South Africa around Western Cape. Goes to show that there is apparently a lot of love in Africa such that Northern Africans can appreciate the sweet, nutty taste of rooibus tea that they would include it on their menus. It was a nice touch, if I may say so. We also had cups of sweet potato purée soup. If I had disposable income, I’d be on an airplane to Algeria, typing this journal up from an altitude of 35,000 feet, so that I could indulge in eating that soup. If I had a few slices of pumpkin bread to go along with it, I would have been in heaven. It was the kind of soup that was so delicious that if someone were to serve it up to you, you’d probably make all sorts of promises that you’d eventually break without compunction. Wait a minute. I don’t have to go to Algeria for more of the soup. I can simply go back to Icosium Kafe. Cue sad trombone.

When it came down to the main meal, we placed our fair share orders of savoury crepes that we could all share family style. There was no need in being individualistic with such good food and because we operate in the mode of being a community, sharing is what it’s all about. We ended up feasting on the following:

  • Cheka Chouka Crepe — crepe filled with goat cheese, arugula, caramelized onions, fresh Roma tomatoes, pine nuts, roasted garlic, and baby spinach
  • Crepe De Roma — crepe filled with capers, baby mozzarella cheese, fresh roma tomatoes, Portobello mushrooms, fresh basil, baby spinach, and lamb sausage
  • Crepe De Paris — crepe filled with green applies, escargot, roasted garlic, and brie
  • Chicago Crepe — crepe filled with avocados, Muenster cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, sunflower seeds, fresh cilantro, scallions, organic mixed greens, and chicken
  • Carthage Crepe — crepe filled with scallions, feta cheese, fresh Roma tomatoes, fresh basil, and organic mixed greens
  • Greek Crepe — crepe filled with cured olives, feta cheese, fresh Roma tomatoes, toasted almonds, fresh cilantro, roasted garlic, baby spinach, and salmon
Chicago Crepe

Chicago Crepe

If I had to give a definition of satisfaction, getting our fill of the crepes would be it. Some may differ, but I would have to recommend that they go to Icosium Kafe and discover the true meaning of the word. After a moment of letting the food go down, cracking up on work, trying to get one of the foodies to become a stand-up comedian, and breaking down the real meaning of enjoying ice cream, we were ready for dessert.

The desserts were, of course, stuffed crepes with all sorts of yummy goodies for the tummies. And because you’re hankering to know what all we had, I shall indulge you with a description of the greatness that we ate with all the rapture of individuals taking full advantage of life.

  • Bananas and Nutella — crepe filled with bananas and melted nutella, which is a hazelnut paste
  • Crepe Aziz — crepe filled with fresh strawberries, kiwi, and nutella
  • Crepe D’Amour — crepe stuffed full of fresh raspberries with dark chocolate
  • Crepe Buena — crepe with fresh mango, ginger chutney, sunflower seeds, and raisins
  • Crepe De Limone — crepe with fresh lemon juice, white sugar, and lemon zest
  • Jamming with Jam Crepes — crepe filled with fresh raspberry, apricot, strawberry, orange marmalade, and lingonberry
Crepe D'Amour

Crepe D’Amour

Along with the dessert crepes, we had ice cream. Hmmmm. Naughty-naughty. Our crepes came with a dollop of chocolate, vanilla, pistachio, green tea sherbet, strawberry, and rainbow. Well, I can say that I appreciate ice cream, especially after having it served up with such appetizing crepes. And we had this production line activity going, taking a bite of a crepe and passing the plate clockwise to the next person. All while we were doing this, we kept singing

Pass the Dutchie on the left hand side
Pass the Dutchie on the left hand side
It a gonna burn, give me music make me jump and prance
It a go done, give me the music make me rock in the dance

You know the food has to be good when you’re singing at the dining table.

Bananas and Nutella

Bananas and Nutella

And so our success continues. Icosium Kafe was definitely a gem of a restaurant and the food was absolutely outstanding. If I had to change anything, it would be into a pair of pants with an elastic waistband. The food isn’t necessarily pricey, but if you eat the way we foodies eat, it may bring about a wince when the bill comes. Yet again, this is one of those restaurants where you go with a group of friends for the real experience. While it may be small and intimate, it’s still not intimate where you can sit in the corner licking your date’s fingers. If you find yourself doing that, may I recommend ice cream until you get home?

Icosium Kafé on Urbanspoon

 Icosium Kafe LTD on Foodio54