Les Petites Choses (The Little Things)

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August Issue View more

Suzette’s Creperie

december2012_table_suzettesAny restaurateur looking to bring the flavors and aesthetics of a foreign cuisine to these shores faces a distinct choice – go for the full Epcot effect, or play it more appropriately cool and demure. Luckily for fans of authentic French fare, the folks at Suzette’s Creperie in downtown Wheaton, have long subscribed to the latter philosophy, forgoing a scaled-down Eiffel Tower, or a replica Arc de Triomphe straddling Front Street, in favor of a more modest and enveloping approach.

The result is an experience that does more than simply mimic a Paris café, it gives diners the feeling of actually being in such a place, by keeping the frills to a minimum and staying focused on the finer points of creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere. In this way, it’s as much a transportation business as a restaurant.

Cultural Immersion

A big part of the charm at Suzette’s is the versatility of the fairly modest space, wherein December-DiningOutcustomers can pop by for a quick sweets purchase from the patisserie, sample a wide selection of vintages in the wine bar, linger over a cup of tea in the café (an especially enticing prospect in December thanks to the restaurant’s special three-course Christmas tea option), or enjoy a full meal in the dining room. A recent expansion added more seating to open up the dinning room space, but did nothing to diminish the cozy charm of the place, particularly when the cold winds are whipping outside.

But the feeling of “being there” goes beyond simply the layout or décor. From the conversational service, to the leisurely pacing of the meal, to the live jazz music on the Friday we visited, everything about Suzette’s inspires thoughts of Paris before one even cracks the menu.

Pancakes Plus

Once inside that menu, one is immediately drawn to the selection of sweet and savory crepes, due in equal parts to their prominent presence on the marquee and the many delicious variations available. But there’s also a full slate of bistro fare that cannot be ignored, so we did our best to sample a little bit of everything.

That meant starting with a simmering pot of white wine and gruyere for two, served alongside crusty baguette pieces. From there, we decided to share a crepe stuffed with spinach soufflé and topped with Swiss cheese – an almost stereotypical example of the well-known richness of French cuisine. As much as it seemingly veered from traditional, our other entrée sounded too good to pass up – a pair of crab cakes served with mashed potatoes, thin green beans, and a deceptively spicy habanera lime sauce. If you can’t bear the thought of leaving without a crepe, the crab cake can be sampled as an appetizer instead.

Given the amazing pastry creations we had seen while passing through the patisserie on our way in, dessert promised to be a highlight of the evening. Here again, we opted to split the bill, with one crepe (hot fudge banana) and one non-crepe (pumpkin cheesecake) selection. Not surprisingly, both choices proved to be inspired, but then it seemed hard to imagine any way to possibly go wrong with this portion of the meal.

As we took one last look at the brightly lit dessert cases and passed the jazz quartet on our way out into the night, it was clear that this evening hadn’t been anything of a French revolution, but then it really wasn’t meant to be. It was, quite simply, a few hours in Paris (in Wheaton); neither showy nor dramatic, but satisfying in all the little ways.

Suzette’s Creperie
211 W. Front Street, Wheaton
630.462.0898
suzettescreperie.com
By Mark Loehrke
Photos by Greg Shapps