Longtime UWS Bistro Tries to 'Reinvent' Itself With New Crepe Menu
UPPER WEST SIDE — After 15 years of a tried-and-true menu, French Roast is spicing things up and re-energizing its regulars by offering new twists on the traditional French crepe.
The 24-hour Upper West Side bistro on Broadway at West 85th Street offers French staples like onion soup, steak au poivre and croque monsieur.
But crepes were not part of the menu, said Chef Frederick Piccarello — an omission that left some customers shaking their heads.
"How can we create life at a restaurant that's been here for 15 years?" Piccarello recalled thinking.
Rather than just adding a crepe or two to his playbook, Piccarello has created a whole night devoted to crepes. He said he saw it as a way to get people talking and having fun on a Monday — a night that tends to be slow at the restaurant.
On Mondays only, French Roast dishes up a special menu of 10 crepes, all of which can be made gluten-free with buckwheat flour.
The Moroccan lamb crepe with harissa has been a hit, Piccarello said, as has the espresso and chocolate layered crepe, which stacks layers of cocoa crepes with chocolate-espresso cream.
For a chef who knows his menu in and out, the night offers a chance to flex his cooking muscles, he said.
"Let's switch it up," thought Piccarello, who has been at the restaurant for 11 years.
Piccarello added that he enjoys showing customers that many ingredients can go into a crepe, not just the usual Gruyere or berries. Crepes, he said, also can be folded in a variety of ways.
One customer said his crepe looked like a burrito, Piccarello recalled, a comparison that drew a smile.
Crepe prices range from $8.50 to $12.75.
French Roast's general manager, Jason Eisen, also designed a new list of signature cocktails to pair with the crepes.
"We had a cocktail list but it wasn't selling very well and it had been around for a few years," said Eisen, adding that the new drinks prioritized fresh fruit, a must-have for summer.
The following cocktails are now available Mondays: "Gin Lucky," organic lemonade and gin; an "Idol Martini," grape vodka with a grape garnish; "Blackberry Caipirinha," and a non-alcoholic "French Soda" with cream and strawberry syrup and club soda.
In the coming weeks, Piccarello hopes to make his crepes right at the bar to create additional theater for diners.
"This is one of the ways we reinvent ourselves," he said.