About 18 months ago, downtown stalwart La Creperie, established in the Springs nearly 30 years ago, added a new Eighth Street location where Walter's Bistro used to be. A devotee of the cramped and cozy little downtown bistro, I didn't make it to the new place until just this month.
A long-overdue dinner with a friend showed me what I've been missing. Though the menu at this La Creperie spinoff is identical to its downtown counterpart, the dining room is spacious and warm, decorated in reds and golds, providing a distinctly different dining experience that includes elbow room, privacy, the luxury of lingering at a table, and a full bar.
Several handcrafted beers are available, including one French beer and two Belgian choices, as well as hard apple cider. The carefully chosen, French-heavy wine list generally is expensive, but half bottles of many varieties are available, and the selection of wines by the glass is extensive. The two house wines, one imported and one domestic, can be ordered by the glass, or in demi- or full carafes at very reasonable prices.
Over the years, La Creperie has evolved from offering separate lunch and dinner prices and menus to offering small and large portions of the same dishes at both meals. For dieters, or those who like to share, this is a real bonus.
A hungry couple could happily split a large Carhaix-Plougher crepe stuffed with shrimp, mushrooms and Swiss cheese, smothered in a cream shrimp sauce ($13.50), enjoy separate small dinner salads ($3) and still have room for a shared dessert crepe ($6) -- like the crepe de Bretagne, with sauted apple, rum-soaked raisins and toasted almonds.
Dieters can order small portions of most of the appetizers, including steamed mussels and smoked salmon with aioli, and small non-crepe entres as well.
We ordered a small (4-ounce) steak au poivre ($16), a La Creperie classic, and trout Grenobloise, pan-fried with lemon and caper sauce ($14). We shared a bowl of the luscious lobster bisque ($7), then indulged in a single order of crme brle with fresh berries ($5.75).
As both of us had eaten at the downtown restaurant hundreds of times, we were relieved to note the reliable flavors of our dishes, including the plump, whole-grain brown rice and herbed au gratin potatoes on the side.
Another night, I dined solo at the Eighth Street La Creperie bar. Sneaking peeks at the World Series on an unobtrusive small television, I sipped a cup of divinely sweet and buttery butternut squash soup ($2.75) and enjoyed a garlicky scampi of tiger shrimp, scallops and mussels ($16) with bright green, crisp-tender haricots verts on the side.
The dessert of crme Anglaise with blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries ($6) made the Astros' humiliation go down a little easier and sent me home as happy as any White Sox fan.
I don't think I'll wait another year and a half to go back.
-- Kathryn Eastburn
La Creperie Bistro at Eighth Street
1606 S. Eighth St., 477-0388
Hours: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.