YBOR CITY – It’s called Last Wish, and as a final treat, a parting gift to yourself on the way out, it seems to me nearly impossible to beat.
Last Wish isn’t a final rite or ceremonial act, but a sweet crepe, made with baker’s flour and served with whipped cream and powdered sugar. This particular crepe comes filled with nutella, banana, walnuts and Grand Marnier.
So if you’re vacationing in Ybor City and it’s your final night in town, here’s a smart tip to take to the bank: make reservations for yourself and your family at La Creperia Café, and then order Last Wish as your final local meal. You’ll find yourself sitting in this quaint bistro wishing you could take the place home with you for regular crepe fixes.
Anyone who has been to Ybor City knows what to expect: a kind of New Orleans’ French Quarter in the Tampa Bay area, the ultimate party spot for a night of revelry, a place to see drag shows, to smoke at the Hookah lounge, to find people who think early evening begins around 1 a.m. Don’t expect much to be happening in the morning hours in Ybor City, because the folks who know where the fun is are fast asleep around 11 a.m.
Ybor City is also a peerless place to eat, since it hosts some exquisite restaurants — and offers an interesting mix, too, from Cuban and Italian to seafood and Greek and French … which happens to bring us back to La Creperia Café. It’s not a huge restaurant, although there are two small tables out front if you want to sit outside. There are a decent number of tables in the bistro itself, and once you’re seated, you may spend quite a long time reading over the menu. Order drinks first, and don’t be in a rush to call the waiter over.
Why? Well, it’s happily a diverse menu, one that includes pasta dishes (Marinara with homemade tomato herb sauce with mushrooms for $9.95, or Penne a La Vodka, topped with Pamesan cheese, for $13.95), Panini’s (the Cordon Blue is grilled chicken with spinach, ham and Swiss Cheese, for $9.95, or the Rossi is Italian salami and provolone cheese, for $9.50), salads, homemade soups (French Onion, $5.75), and “Wrap Delights” (the Santorini gives you Romaine lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and feta cheese with olive oil and Balsamic viniagrette wrapped in a spinch tortilla, $8).
Any of the above would make La Creperia Café a great lunch spot, and the bistro’s list of specialty coffees, frozen drinks, fine wines and imported beers doesn’t hurt, either. It has the look and feel of a bistro in either New Orleans or Paris, complete with the busy foot traffic right outside the window as you sip your Espresso and casually watch the world go by.
But this bistro’s true raison d’etre is the bistro’s impressively lengthy list of crepes. And more crepes.
There are Sweet Crepes, which include not just the Last Wish but The Apricot (cream cheese or Brie cheese with apricot and lemon juice), the Butterball (cream cheese, almonds and butterscotch topping), Sunflower (honey, walnuts, lemon juice and bananas), and Musique de Chambre (Ricotta sweet blend and chestnut cream puree), all ranging in price from just $5.50 (The Hot Feeling, which comes with sugar, butter and cinnamon), to $9.25 (The Marie Antoinette, with nutella, banana, strawberries and Bailey’s – wow!). A sweet tooth never had it so good.
There are also Savory Crepes, made with whole wheat flour, and garnished with lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers. If you order a complete dinner, the bistro tosses in a French baguette and your choice of a House, Caesar or Greek salad.
There are also breakfast crepes – in fact, the list of crepes is so lengthy there are 66 to pick from. If you’re a fan of crepes, you could be tempted to starve yourself for a day or two, then show up and make multiple selections at one sitting. It’s hard to imagine you’d be disappointed after doing so.
La Creperia Café, the Bistro & Espresso Bar, as its full title states, has been around for 20 years, and one of the genuine treats about dining here is the opportunity to watch the chefs demonstrate the art of crepe making, as they pour, twirl and flip those dishes to perfection.
The restaurant is at 1729 E. 7th Ave. in Ybor City, part of a complex that starts with the historic L’Unione Italiana (The Italian Club) and includes an Italian restaurant (La Terrazza Ristorante) and the Ybor Cigars Plus cigar shop – and interesting mix, with crepes for dinner and a Cuban cigar to smoke afterwards, if you’re so inclined. There’s a tatoo shop across the street, so depending on how adventurous Ybor City makes you feel ny nightfall, you could stuff yourself in La Creperia and then get a Bolero Crepe tattooed onto your shoulder right after dinner. Ybor City has a way of casting spells on you like that, be forewarned.
The cigar shop and tattoo parlor are fringe benefits, though, to the real joys that La Creperia Café offer.
“A French tradition to Breton families for many years, sweet and savory crepes were originally a basic element in dining,” the restaurant’s menu notes. “Cooked on a large cast iron plate heated over a wood fire, the fine art of crepe making has been improved with the introduction of the electric crepe maker.”
However they cook it these days, the results are delicious. Plus, I love the entire concept of this bistro – find out how many creative varieties of crepe there are to be made, and select your favorites. I has a marvelous time devouring the Vegetarian Savory Crepe, which mixed in cheese, mushrooms, tomatoes, Greek olives and spinach. If you think French cooking is high end and prohibitively expensive, that meal cost me $9.95 – not exactly budget busting these days. And there are so many other selections that tempt me back there – the Texan Savory Crepe (cheese, chicken, olives, sweet onions, and barbeque sauce). To Your Health Breakfast Crepe (yogurt or ice cream, honey, walnuts, strawberries and bananas). The Exotica Sweet Crepe (nutella, coconut and banana.) So much to pick from, so little time to explore each and every one. Sigh.
To learn more about La Creperia Café, call 813-248-9700, log on to www.lacreperiacafe.com, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Ybor City is justifiably known as a wild night spot, but La Creperia Café is the kind of restaurant you’ll be more tempted to enjoy for a lengthy lunch or relaxing dinner, long before the partying begins.
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