As a little kid in Pittsburgh, the best adventures were when my parents dragged me out of the suburbs to run errands around the city. Growing up in Mt. Lebanon, I always looked forward to the ride into downtown Pittsburgh, and the thrill of staring out the window as the car exited the Liberty tunnels.
Walnut Street in Shadyside is land of the hot moms and haute couture. Upscale shops like J. Crew, Victoria Secret, L’Occitane, Shadyside Market, William Sonoma, numerous galleries, and a handful of jewelers cause this place to swarm with successful, middle-age women during lunchtime. In the early 2000s, it was my mom’s questionable, post-divorce, blonde hair needing redone which brought us frequently to the area. Now I realize the lunches beforehand were probably an attempt to pacify her rambunctious gradeschooler for the long wait at the salon.
Crêpes Parisiennes was a quaint, underground French café in Shadyside tucked off the main drag that became our go-to spot. That is where I not only learned of crêpes, but fell in love with them. David Handler, once a fashion photographer in Paris, brought his old daily lunch ritual to this Pittsburgh location in September of 2000. In the fall of 2013, David moved his crêpery to a larger location on Craig Street in Oakland, and the subterranean den became available. The space was acquired by new owners, and was transformed into the new Café Moulin.
I only mention the history of this cozy space because it is evident the new owners wanted to maintain the French atmosphere, but add some flavor of their own. Co-owners Beven Ozen and Evren Karabacak, both natives of Turkey, have obviously worked hard to create a diverse menu that represents not only France, but the entire Mediterranean.
The names of the numerous dishes indicate a versatile European palate. The Bristol crêpe reminds you of England with turkey and goat cheese. The Tivoli crêpe takes you to Italy with fresh mozzarella, tomato, and basil. The Greek Mykonos french toast uses Sujuk, a Mediterranean spicy sausage, to shake up the selection. Don’t worry, because French classics like the Ottawa or Marseille still hold down the original Parisian ingredients.
This was the first cappuccino I have had from a cafe since receiving my own machine for Christmas. Regardless of how much I believe I am the master barista after 3 weeks, this warm mug of brilliance made me realize how much I have to learn. Where the clouds of crema ended and the rich espresso sludge began, the world may never know…
Something about being underground surrounded by natural stone walls just takes the ambiance to a whole new level. The low ceilings and soft lighting create a crêpe munching den that is comfortable and welcoming. There is even another step down after the bar-style seating which separates the space nicely. Where there isn’t stone, dark wooden paneling wraps around the room. All the colors are organic and earthy, and the thoughtful decor contributes to the restaurant’s charming character.
These are the big, bad, industrial crêpe makers that do not mess around. With an experienced chef behind them, the possibilities are endless. You can see him placing white chocolate chips that will slowly melt for a sweet crêpe. Behind it, slices of Swiss wait to conform to the chicken beneath. Have you ever seen crêpe batter spread that perfectly circular?! It reminds me of the Spongebob episode where Squidward can’t believe how Spongebob is sketching an immaculate circle in art class.
I went with the Ottawa crêpe. Three fluffy eggs, melted brie, and crispy bacon on top with a side of fresh fruit. I’ve always been a sucker for that creamy French cheese, and adding bacon? Game Over. The buckwheat flour used for the batter gives the crêpe a nice texture. Perfect browning demonstrates the chef has his timing down to a science, which can be difficult when you need to melt cheese inside. The bacon on top adds an eccentric element to the presentation, but I might have liked it chopped and mixed in the filling. The fruit was refreshing and a great, cold compliment to the hot meal. However, it was revealed to be nothing special when the waiter divulged they were in fact “Cuties” clementines. Also, they were possibly cut in the morning as the edges looked slightly dry.
Regardless, the dish was killer. Two Turks took on the tall task of improving a Frenchman’s crêpe recipe, and I think they may have succeeded. I finished every bite and am eager to return and venture into the more intriguing selections on the menu.
My mom has been to Paris and eaten a crepe from a street cart atop Sacre Coeur. Now I would expect this to possibly ruin all stateside crepes for the remainder of her eating career. Surprisingly, the first words out of her mouth were,”Oh wow, is this ham flavorful!”. Crêpes are simple, and if the ingredients are subpar it will be noticeable in the end result. These are definitely high quality, and I even read that the buckwheat flour is from a local provider. All the food was delightful, and both of us found our choices très bien!
For some reason, my mom chose a nice lunch as an opportunity to shove a pamphlet of incomplete paperwork at me to fill out. Upon walking up, our waiter immediately asked me,”Is that a Bic V5″. Not being a pen aficionado, I gave him a weird look. He explained that the model of pen I was using (ironically the only pen my mom has bought for 20 years) was of a very high quality. After my mom bragged a bit about it being her preference, he explained he was a cartoonist and ran back to grab his favorite weapon for us to try. With this ridiculously good calligraphy pen, I began doodling awful Eiffel Towers on an index card and got into the most peculiar conversation on pen tips…
With this meal, I expected to relive some nostalgia from an old French cafe. Instead, I got a damn good Turkish chef, an eclectic menu, and a super friendly cartoonist server. He returned the check with his own interpretation of the iconic Eiffel Tower. It was the cherry on top of a truly pleasant experience. From now on, when my crêpe craving flares up, this will be my go to spot.
732 Filbert St, Pittsburgh, PA 15232
Monday – Sunday 9am – 5pm