Pittsburgh is a classic American city. Like most American cities, it is more known for its meat & potatoes fare than its international flare, and perhaps that is undeserved. One shining example of entrepreneurship with international cooking is Pittsburgh’s own crêperie: Crêpes Parisiennes.
The crêpe (properly pronounced more closely to “crep” than “crape”) is a classic French food. It is a thin flour batter made into an even thinner pancake like construction, filled with sweet or savory fillings, folded and served with a bit of garnish. In France, they are everywhere, existing as street food, bistro food, and even fine restaurant cooking. Fillings range from seafood to chocolate, and versions exist of fine white flour for sweet crêpes and heavy savory buckwheat flour for the classic galette.
While Crêpes Parisiennes may not be the fanciest restaurant, nor exhibit the full variety of shapes and flavors of France, it does basic crêpes masterfully. For around $6, you can have a savory crêpe and whittle away some time in their casual atmosphere. On weekend mornings, you can expect a bit of a wait, as they queue as deep as 15 people in my experience, but on a relaxing weekday morning, things are a bit easier. If you have to wait in line, rest assured that it is well worth it, as they serve crêpes beautifully.
They have a strong selection of sweet and savory ingredients to tempt you. The savory crêpes eat like a delicious-but-delicate sandwich, but like real French food, they balance limited quantities with high quality ingredients and rich flavors. You may not get the same feeling of gluttony from one of their crêpes as you might at the Original Hot Dog Shop, but you will get a feeling of decadence that is unrivaled on Craig Street.
Speaking of Craig Street, they have two locations. Craig Street is closer to CMU and Pitt, and is the newer location. Considering that the owners, David Handler and Shannon Reilly, got their start selling crêpes from a cart on the Carnegie Mellon campus, it is fitting that they continue to serve the community there. The CMU students and staff sure seem to appreciate it, and they comprise the majority of patrons on many days.
Since 2000, they have had a permanent location just off of Walnut Street in Shadyside. While somewhat hidden off of the street, locals know where to go when they are looking for some nutella or berries. On weekends, the line outside can rival the nearby Pamela’s, which is quite an accomplishment. Alongside the delicious crêpes you can have coffees, teas, and hot chocolate made with the same care as the crêpes that have made them popular. That hot chocolate, by the way, was once voted the best in Pittsburgh and is made with real chocolate, melted and stirred on the spot for a rich, creamy taste.
If you are making a date of it, I recommend going to the Craig Street location, and headed to the Carnegie Museum of Art afterward. Start by splitting a savory crêpe, then having your own dessert crêpe. I’ll admit that this is somewhat unnatural to split dinner and have separate desserts, but I have found that it is much easier to agree on what savory crêpe to split than what dessert crêpe to split.
No matter what you choose to do, this place will not disappoint. It makes a charming contrast to the normal “heaps of heavy American food” that dominates the Pittsburgh cuisine otherwise, and is a great way to spend some time and money enjoying the flavors of France.