“It is a French Creperie, but it has the warmth of an Irish pub,” summarized Jean. Ravenous Creperie on Phila Street in Saratoga Springs was cozy (seating about three dozen) with tables of varying sizes, an exposed brick wall, paint to resemble antique walls, wood floors, a couple of counters and an open kitchen.
Although the open floor plan rendered the space noisy, the activity was engaging and not at all disruptive. Soft music softened the edges of the sound.
What was a little disconcerting was waiting in a cold and windy doorway with no place to sit. We were asked by the friendly hostess Theresa at the door for our name and phone number, explaining that we could go shopping and she would text us in about 25 minutes when a table for two was available. We chose to stand and wait. I watched this same scenario take place a dozen times. Ravenous appears to have an enthusiastic following.
A few minutes later, apologizing for the wait, Theresa sat us at a small table adjacent to the kitchen and the rest room.
The table was adorned with slim bottles of Saratoga Olive Oil, 18-year-old balsamic vinegar and a small sign imprisoned in clear plastic announcing “Today’s Feature, The Champ: fresh exotic mushrooms, imported Gruyere cheese, scrambled eggs and a side of “our hand-cut, golden and crispy pommes frites.”
The menu was composed of descriptions of crepes which were divided into Savory ($11.99-$13.99) and Sweet ($6.99-$8.99), dipping sauces ($0.79), Poutine ($5.99-$6.95), a variety of hot, cold and house-made drinks, beer and wine. The menu explained that savory crepes were served with a small salad and add-ons (like grilled asparagus, sausage and sundried tomatoes) if desired.
We began with two house-made beverages. An order for Pink Lemonade made with fresh lemon juice, and Iced Moroccan Mint Tea sweetened with a touch of honey ($2.79 each) was taken by attentive server Marissa.
The savory crepes were made from batter containing buckwheat which made them sturdy, permitting them to be liberally stuffed with the usual assorted cheeses and vegetables, but also with more exotic ingredients such as smoked Atlantic salmon, adobo-spiced pork and homemade chili con carne.
After serious consideration, I chose the Green Mountain Crepe with ham, cheddar and maple-glazed apples ($11.99), and a side of poutine to replace the usual green salad for a reasonable $2.59 additional charge. The hearty crepe had been cut in half and was attractively angled one half over the other. Poutine with a small cup of house-made brown gravy occupied the rest of the plate.
The crepe was flavorful, but I was unable to discern maple. It was, however, more than enough for lunch. Poutine was new to me. Essentially pommes frites sprinkled with cheddar curds, I found it uninspiring. While I’m guessing diners might pour the gravy over the mound, or perhaps dip the fries and curd separately in the gravy, John suggested they might have done me a favor by presenting the gravy on the side.
His Taj Mahal Crepe with a side of Mango Chutney made his taste buds sit up and take notice. Curried chicken, apples, cauliflower, onions, and raisins evoked a taste of India wrapped in a buckwheat envelope. Jean is more of a connoisseur of pommes frites than I and found they measured up to the hype they receive.
We were not too full for dessert. A list of tantalizing sweet crepes beckoned to us. Initially assuming we would share one order, it became clear our preferences had other ideas. John’s Blue Zeppelin ($8.99) was crowned with blueberry compote made of what appeared to be tiny wild blueberries akin to the German “trockenbeeren” (dry berries) grapes used for the sweet dessert wine “Trockenbeerenauslese.” The crepes themselves were rolled up with sweetened fresh cheese, vanilla and orange zest, and topped with sweetened sour cream.
My Strawberry Fields ($6.59) was straightforward and heavenly. A tender crepe was folded into a triangle and topped with fresh strawberries lightly sweetened with a vanilla sugar-butter sauce and adorned with a substantial dollop of fresh whipped cream. An espresso ($3.25) rounded out my sweet crepe.
Pictured: For dessert, sweet crepes: Blue Zeppelin (top) and Strawberry Fields, with espresso. (Beverly M. Elander/For The Daily Gazette)
Ravenous offers a Prix Fixe meal for $16.99 per person which includes a small order of pommes frites with dipping sauce, a classic crepe and a petit sweet.
A combination of French fries, cheese curds and gravy, poutine is said to have originated in Quebec Canada in the late 1950s, becoming popular in the Northeastern US in the early 2000s. Possibly stemming from the word “pudding,” poutine has been referred to as “Quebec’s adored junk food.” Recently, it has been gastronomically elevated with additions like lobster, brisket and caviar.
WHERE: 21 Phila Street, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866, (518) 581-0560, www.ravenouscrepes.com
WHEN: Tue 11 am to 2 pm, Wed-Thu 11 am-8 pm, Fri 11 am-9 pm, Sat 9 am-9 pm, Sun 9 am-8 pm
HOW MUCH: $52.77 for two people with desserts, and beverages, but without tax and tip
MORE INFO: Family-owned, no stairs, street parking (difficult) but with large municipal lot across the street, no reservations, take-out and delivery, catering, gluten-free menu upon request, all major credit cards accepted