I’m always in search of a great crepe.
I experienced my first crepe ever as a college student, a sweet Nutella one at a street-front window in Cologne, Germany. Over the years, as I’ve sampled sweet and savory options at eateries and markets in Northeast Ohio, this romantic French fare has always been one of my favorites.
So when I discovered Kelly’s Cafe online, a true creperie whose fare consists solely of crepes, my craving for these paper-thin treats, stuffed with a variety of goodness, went into overdrive.
Kelly’s Cafe is a casual eatery with a homey feel, situated in a retail plaza along a busy stretch of Pearl Road in Brunswick. Owner Kelly Horter, who grew up in a restaurant family in Cleveland Heights, has owned her creperie for nearly 11 years, with her anniversary coming up May 6.
Horter offers more than 30 crepe varieties, most of them Americanized versions. But when you dine there, it’s best to do as the Europeans do: Sit back, drink your coffee, enjoy some conversation and spend time both waiting for and savoring these made-to-order little miracles.
“It’s fresh, it’s made to order and it takes a little time,” said Horter, 49. “It’s not fast food. It’s slow food. I actually love that about my place.”
She and her staff of seven work at seven crepe grills and the orders come out in the order they were received, whether for in-person dining or carryout. The restaurant currently has six socially distanced tables (normally 14) and is operating at about half capacity due to COVID-19.
My husband, Steve, and I, who ate there Sunday morning, waited about 25 minutes for our crepes to be served. In the meantime, it was fun watching Horter up front in the restaurant’s open kitchen working her magic on several grills, spreading the crepe batter in an arc with a rozelle (a T-shaped, dowel-like tool), adding fillings and deftly folding and plating the crepes.
I went for the Porky Fruit Bomb crepe, both for its fun title and its great flavor combinations. This selection is from the savory-yet-sweet part of the menu, featuring ham and goat cheese inside and craisins, pecans and mandarin oranges on top, served with a side of apricot preserves.
The salty ham combined with the comforting taste of goat cheese and a nice crunch of pecan for a lovely medley of flavors. And the mandarin oranges and craisins added subtle sweetness, complemented by the apricot preserves.
Steve chose the rich deliciousness of a bacon, brie and strawberry crepe with honey drizzle. The brie was the piece de resistance in this delicacy.
Horter, whose family previously owned Shujiro Japanese restaurant, the Pub on Lee and The Cafe, all in Cleveland Heights, didn’t set out to create a creperie. The Kent State graduate spent some time living in Europe but ever since she lived in Chicago in the 1990s, she’s kept in the back of her mind all the great savory crepes she discovered in that city.
She opened Kelly’s Cafe focusing on ice cream and coffee, and decided to add some crepe options to go with that concept. Soon, the crepes started to steal the show.
Horter went from opening with about 10 crepe varieties to more than 30 now. Crepe choices are all listed on chalkboard behind the open kitchen, and folks can get a printed paper menu, too.
The restaurant’s most popular sweet crepes are the Cafe Banana Split (strawberries, banana and Nutella) and the Banana Caramel and Pecan selection, served with caramel drizzle and raw sugar.
Both are served with “The Stuff” inside, a homemade whipped cream/cream cheese filling that comes from one of Horter’s aunt’s pie recipes. Sweet crepes cost $8.75.
Most popular savory crepes ($9.75) are the massive The Big Show and The Little Show. The former includes ham, sausage, egg, potato, grilled onion and cheddar, while the latter contains sausage, sausage gravy, potato, grilled onions and cheddar.
The restaurant draws a number of farmers from the Brunswick area who enjoy the generously stuffed crepes, said Horter, whose clientele hails from throughout Medina County and the Akron and Cleveland areas.
Kelly’s Cafe also offers four vegan crepe varieties, inspired by Horter’s young adult, vegan children. They are loaded veggie; spicy potato; cinnamon, peanut butter, banana and chocolate; and cherry with fruit and chocolate.
The eatery also features weekly crepe specials, with last week’s being a chocolate crepe shell filled w/ white chocolate, cherry and “The Stuff” with a chocolate drizzle. For even more sweetness, vanilla ice cream can also be added to any crepe for $2.75.
I’m not a coffee lover but I learned what a red eye coffee was after my husband ordered it — brewed coffee topped off with a shot of espresso. The cafe serves fresh coffee from Berardi’s French Roast in North Royalton.
Next time, I want to try the red eye chai (chai tea latte with an espresso shot). Kelly’s Cafe also offers specialty floats, including an espresso float (ice cream with a double shot of espresso on top and whipped cream) and a chai float (chai latte with ice cream and whipped cream) for $4.25.
Horter also offers several simpler, traditional French street crepes upon request, including lemon, sugar and butter; nutella; and nutella strawberry.
So what makes a crepe so special?
“The love that goes in there,” Horter said, without missing a beat. “It can be anything really you imagine it to be. … It can be so simple or it can be very complex, and so that keeps it fun over the years.”
Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or [email protected]
Place: Kelly’s Cafe
Address: 1661 Pearl Road, Brunswick
Hours: 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Thursday, Saturday and Sunday; 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays
Upcoming summer hours: Additional hours 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Mondays-Tuesdays, May 3 through July
Facebook: Kelly’s Cafe
Carryout: Yes; call or order in person