Ryan Kneller / The Morning Call – It can be sweet. It can be savory. And now, it can be found close to your home. I’m talking about the popular French crepe.
In the past few months, four eateries serving the thin pancakes have opened in the Lehigh Valley, with one more set to open in the spring.
Those that have already made their tasty debut include 187 Rue Principale (Nov. 18), a 50-seat restaurant also serving other French fare such as duck breast and pan-fried rabbit at 187 Main St. in Emmaus; Crepe Soleil (Dec. 26) at the Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley; Cachette Bistro & Creperie (Feb. 4) at 504 Main St. in Bethlehem; and Vava’s Creperie Cafe (Feb. 6) at 2362 Catasauqua Road in Bethlehem.
Retail analyst Jeff Green, who recalled the creperie chain Magic Pan that was popular in the 1980s, predicts creperies will continue to expand significantly in coming years, but depending on how fast and broad, he also envisions “a flaming out by the end of this decade.”
“I think part of it is a tad trendy — almost equivalent to the cupcake business,” said Green, president of Jeff Green Partners in Phoenix, Ariz. “I worry about it because I don’t see it as long term, especially because the way we eat changes.”
If creperies are a trend, south Bethlehem’s Full of Crepe was at the forefront when it opened in 2012 at 333 S. New St.
The business, which introduced its Green Machine food truck for public and private events last summer, is planning to open its second 13-seat location at 21 S. Second St. in Easton by early April, owner K. Ashley Caldwell said.
It also will debut a stand featuring popular selections such as the egg-centric “Blue Plate” and more locally sourced items at the Easton Farmers Market in May.
“Competition is critical and I’d like to see everyone succeed,” Caldwell said of the influx of creperies. “I think we all bring something different. Cachette, for example, created a Parisian cafe, but that’s something I never tried to be. I set out to be a fast-casual eatery offering fresh, sophisticated hand food — a great meal on the go.”
Speaking of Cachette’s French feel, it’s easy to forget you’re in Bethlehem, thanks to the space’s rustic elegance — complete with brick walls, exposed beams, pendant lighting, a metal chandelier and wall art that includes images of the Eiffel Tower.
The 30-seat eatery is connected to Tapas on Main Spanish restaurant and is run by the same co-owners, Rafael Palomino and Juan Carlos Paredes, who also operate Mesa Modern Mexican in Easton.
“The idea is to offer high-quality food in a relaxed atmosphere,” said Palomino, noting his favorite crepe to be the “El Mexicano” (chipotle pulled chicken, tomatoes, cheddar, sour cream, black beans and salsa verde).
The pair has a Colombian background. And while the crepe concept might seem odd to outsiders, the duo maintain that French food is very popular in Columbia.
Examples of savory selections, $8.95-$11.95, include “The Lox Box” (smoked salmon, capers, arugula, red onion, dill cream cheese) while sweet crepes, all $7.95, include “The Crepe Suzette” (orange zest and orange liqueur), among others.
Soups, salads, frites, croquettes and other small plates also are on the menu.
A beverage bar offers coffee, espresso, tea and, starting in April, breakfast items such as beignets and croissants. Beer, wine and cocktails are also available, thanks to the liquor license shared with Tapas.
The pair is not done introducing scrumptious food to the Lehigh Valley. Paredes said they plan to start construction this year on a “casual concept that will span Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton.”
The area’s newest creperie, Vava’s, fills the space left vacant by The Gyro Company in the Shoppers Village shopping center. It is named after owner Kathie McGlynn’s French grandmother, who made crepes for her as a child.
Like its counterparts, the 12-seat eatery serves a wide variety of sweet and savory crepes (all under $8), including house recommendations such as “The Provence” (ratatouille, goat cheese and gruyere) and “French S’mores” (dark chocolate, marshmallow and graham crackers).
You can also create your own ($4.95 for sweet; $5.95 for savory) or choose from other menu items such as coffee, pastries, parfaits, soups, salads and quiche. Info: 610-419-0402 or vavascreperie.com.
If I haven’t made you hungry yet, I think this next dining development might do the trick.
The new Gregory’s Steakhouse, which I would label the most-asked-about restaurant last year, started serving its filet mignons, prime ribs, New York strips and other meaty options on Monday at 2201 Schoenersville Road in Hanover Township, Northampton County.
The restaurant, which had been closed since January 2013 due to a fire, underwent extensive interior and exterior renovations last year. It now boasts a sleek appearance — complete with new tile flooring, pendant lighting, earth-toned booths and animal head wall sculptures.
In addition to its many steak entrees, including its famed 120-oz. steak, other offerings include appetizers such as bacon scallop skewers and Tex-Mex nachos, seafood platters such as broiled haddock and 8-oz. cold water lobster tails and pasta dishes such as shrimp scampi and steak alfredo.
A rectangular bar, featuring 24 taps and several flat-screen televisions, is housed in a room separate from the main dining room. Info: 610-264-9301 or gregorysteakhouse.com.
In last Sunday’s column, I wrote about the area’s newest electronic cigarettes and accessories retailer, Get Your Vape On LLC, which opened in December at 610 State Ave. in Emmaus. Well, it appears the business won’t hold that title for long as Easton-based VapeMeister Electronic Cigarettes (next to State Theatre) is planning to open its second location at 650 Main St. in Hellertown by early March.
The 2,700-square-foot space, formerly occupied by Klassic Gold, will feature a 25-foot bar, lounge area and entertainment such as a pool table, four televisions and video games.
Like the Easton location, which opened in April, the Hellertown shop will offer nearly 100 made-on-premises e-juices (available in 0-24 mg of nicotine) with the option to customize your own flavors. All of the same hardware and accessories will be sold.
It will join more than half a dozen similar shops in the Lehigh Valley. Info: 610-829-0829 or vapemeisterusa.com.
Where one business is booming, another one is going bust.
As was reported Tuesday in The Morning Call, bankrupt electronics retailer RadioShack plans to close hundreds of stores nationwide, including eight locations in the Lehigh Valley: South Mall, Allentown; Parkway Shopping Center, Allentown; Saucon Valley Shopping Center, Lower Saucon Township; Palmer Park Mall, Palmer Township; 25th Street Shopping Center, Palmer Township; Carbon Plaza, Lehighton; Lehigh Valley Mall, Whitehall Township; and 733 S. West End Blvd. in Quakertown.
The company, founded nearly a century ago, said in its Chapter 11 filing that it plans to sell 1,500 to 2,400 stores to its largest shareholder, investment firm Standard General. It is seeking to close the remainder of its 4,000 U.S. stores.
Part of its plan is for Sprint, the No. 3 U.S. wireless carrier, to open mini-shops in as many as 1,750 of RadioShack’s remaining stores. The deal is expected to wrap up in the coming months.
On Union Boulevard in east Allentown, one ethnic eatery has closed while another has opened.
First, Aria Afghan kebab restaurant has closed at 1052 Union Blvd. (next to Blvd. Auto Sales). Signs in the window now list the space as available.
The eatery, which opened in September 2013, filled the space left vacant by Carmine’s Italian restaurant.
Second, Dominican Family Restaurant opened Jan. 30 at 1139 Union Blvd., the former space of Tony’s Pizza Bar & Grill.
The 40-seat eatery, owned by Pedro Rodriguez of Allentown, serves a variety of Latin American specialties, including sides such as fried plantains, sandwiches such as the Cuban, and meat and seafood dishes such as fried pork chops and shrimp mofongo.
Takeout and free delivery are available. Info: 610-351-1574.
Whether you’re looking to fix your vehicle or just give it a face-lift, there is no shortage of auto parts retailers in Walnutport.
Thanks to my colleague Betty Kern, I learned that Advance Auto Parts opened in early December at 320 S. Best Ave. The Virginia-based company, founded in 1932, boasts more than 5,300 stores, including more than 20 other Lehigh Valley locations. Info: 484-262-3074 or advanceautoparts.com.
Nearby at 200 S. Best Ave. (Walnut Plaza), AutoZone is coming soon to the space formerly occupied by Fashion Bug, according to a sign in the window.
The chain, founded in 1979 as Auto Shack, has more than 5,000 stores in the United States, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Brazil, including more than 15 other locations in the Lehigh Valley. A message seeking a tentative opening date was not returned.