LAKEVIEW — Some 1½ years ago, brothers Marius and Peter Toader decided to take the first steps toward a dream they'd had for a long time: opening a coffee shop.
But the more they thought about it, the more they wanted to offer something extra.
"We've always wanted a coffee shop, and we grew up on crepes," Marius said. "In our families, Peter and I are the ones who do the cooking. So we decided to not just do another coffee shop, but offer something a little different."
So they opened The Crepe Shop, an intimate and hip "hole in the wall," as Marius calls it, inspired by the street food of Paris. Patrons can dine in with family-style seating for about 20, or they can order crepes to-go, which they'll be given in wax paper for easy one-handed consumption or in a box for those who want to enjoy the crepes later.
The Crepe Shop offers sweet and savory crepes with dine-in and take-out options. [DNAinfo/Jessica Cabe]
The Toader brothers did not go to school to study cooking, and neither did anyone on their staff of five.
In fact, the first time they ever made a crepe on a commercial griddle was when they bought one for The Crepe Shop. It took them and their staff literally hundreds of tries and lots of YouTube videos before they got the crepes just right.
"They make it look so easy on the YouTube videos!" Marius said with a laugh. "It's really not easy at all, but we've got it down now."
The Crepe Shop's menu is still evolving based on customer feedback, but the general philosophy is to offer variety while keeping the menu short. The brothers want patrons to be able to make a quick decision and not be overwhelmed by options. So far, the crepes range from sweet (Nutella) to tart (lemon curd) to savory (ham and cheese), and there are about 10 options overall.
After demand from the neighborhood, they will soon add gluten-free options, though these crepes will be prepared on the same griddle, so they're intended for those with mild celiac disease or those who just prefer to eat gluten-free.
Marius said they've had a few French customers stop in during slower times of the day and make special requests for more "authentically French" crepes, and the brothers are happy to comply.
"We're definitely always open to suggestions for how to make our crepes better," he said.
The Crepe Shop opened on Sept. 14 at 2928 N. Broadway, which has been vacant for a year after The Budlong closed in September 2016. [DNAinfo/Jessica Cabe]
This is the first restaurant the brothers have ever owned, and their goal is to open another location within a year, and more from there. That is also a factor in molding their menu.
"We always said if we're going to have multiple locations, it has to be complex enough that people are going to love it but simple enough that we can replicate it."
For now, the brothers are focused on hiring for the Lakeview location so they can stop working 100-hour weeks.
"So far business is going great," Marius said. "The neighborhood loves it."
Before The Crepe Shop opened, the storefront at 2928 N. Broadway sat vacant for a year when The Budlong closed in September 2016 after only four months in business. Before that, the bakery Bunny occupied the spot for a short time before abruptly shuttering.