To early risers in search of substantive sustenance, it may just be a godsend.
But for chef/co-founder Vincent Bradberry, Crêpes on the Corner (257 15th St. SE) was mostly an ordeal.
The fledgling eatery officially got under way in early February. But the project apparently languished in development for “quite a while.”
Bradberry said he originally tried to open up a restaurant on the bustling 14th Street Northwest corridor more than two years ago. When that deal eventually went south, he set his sights elsewhere. He pounced on the Southeast location 18 months ago but suffered through countless fits and starts in a disheartening battle to bring the modest restaurant up to code.
Now that the dust has finally settled and the bureaucrats have been appeased, Bradberry can focus on his true passion: feeding folks with a touch of flair.
Worth the Wait
“I always knew that it was going to be a very small menu,” Bradberry said of his lifelong dream of establishing a “neighborhood restaurant.”
By choosing to focus on quality rather than quantity, Bradberry has sidestepped the early pitfalls that plague newcomers who erroneously ply patrons with a dizzying array of underwhelming options.
“I roast my own turkey, make my own stuffing ... everything is made here on site,” Bradberry stressed.
That means signature crepes are mixed daily using buckwheat and all-purpose flour while gluten-free wrappers are coaxed from rice flour. Fresh herbs are plucked from the surrounding garden (growing presently: mustard greens, kale, radishes, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes and assorted seasonings). And Smithfield hams, exclusively, are smoked in-house.
“Most people just expected a coffeehouse with some crepes. It’s the opposite of that,” Bradberry said.
Mind you, they do serve coffee. And the core menu remains crepe-intensive, sporting just more than a dozen specialty selections. But even a cursory scan of the far-reaching daily specials — think: brie flanked by figs and crostini, turkey-black bean soup and chipotle barbecue pork sandwiches (where’s the heat?) — suggest Bradberry is only getting started.
Not that that’s dissuaded regulars from latching on to early favorites.
“Can I get the cream of mushroom soup and the Marc crepe. It’s all I ever get,” a repeat guest sheepishly explained to a comely cashier during one visit. Another afternoon, an older gentleman specifically popped in for his “cookie of the day.”
Bradberry identified the Harvest (sliced turkey breast, herb stuffing, cranberry relish and gravy), the Marc (diced chicken breast, pesto sauce, chopped tomato and grated Gruyere) and the Classic (country ham, Gruyere and egg) as the top-selling savory snacks. On the sugary side, he said folks tend to flip for the Tropics (seasonal fruits, toasted pistachios, shaved coconut and whipped cream) and Campfire (a self-contained summer treat re-created with Nutella, marshmallow spread and graham crackers).
And sandwiches appear to be on almost equal footing with both. “Our sandwich business is much bigger than I thought it would be,” Bradberry said of the rather surprising, and apparently mildly disconcerting, development.
To each his own, chef.
The Harvest perpetuates Thanksgiving every day, but didn’t strike us as cause for much celebration. We appreciated the homespun turkey (tender and tasty) and from-scratch stuffing (accented with carrots and onion) but kept getting overwhelmed by the overly tangy cranberry-strawberry relish.
The Marc proved more appealing, its mellow mix of roast chicken, basil-packed pesto, ripe tomato and nutty melted Gruyere melding into swallows of complementary succulence.
Most of the sweet crepes we tried were basically Nutella delivery vehicles, the decadent hazelnut spread overshadowing all but the most emphatic compatriots.
The Tropics, on the other hand, dazzled us with bright blueberries, luscious strawberries, dulcet kiwi and tongue-teasing mango. A hail of toasted pistachios provided crunch throughout.
Sandwiches got better the more exotic we went.
Tuna basks in the glory of pungent capers, sour Greek yogurt and refreshing citrus zest. Chicken salad reveals spice-swaddled bird (steeped in curry; earthy cumin leads the charge) parked between buttery croissant halves. And every sandwich leaps into overdrive when layered with a house blend of preserved carrots, onion and cauliflower; ravishing slaw rejiggers the enjoyment equation toward spice junkies.
On the Horizon
The next step, in Bradberry’s mind, is to flesh out his beverage carte with some of the harder stuff.
“D.C.’s a drinking town,” he stated, estimating that the absence of an liquor license has kept potential dinner clients at bay.
Bradberry expects to fill the vacuum by applying for a stipulated liquor license — a provisional permit that allows restaurant owners to begin serving alcohol within 30 days of filing.
“I know we will definitely get more traffic ... if we get an [Alcoholic Beverage Control] license,” he said, arguing that there is “nowhere else within a mile of Eighth Street [Southeast] to drink.”
Once, or if, the booze starts flowing, expect to see expanded cheese boards and mouth-watering charcuterie selections join the gustatory mix.
Sen Mary Landrieu, D-La., poses for a selfie with LSU football fans as she campaigns at tailgate parties on the Louisiana State University campus before the LSU-Mississippi State game on Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014. Buy photo here.