Stirring the pot, raising hell and rearing children in the Bay Area

The Creperie That Wasn’t

Posted on Sep 15, 2009 in Family, Friends, Rants and Raves, Food |

If you’ve wandered the streets of Paris, or heck, anywhere in Western Europe, you’ve seen — and hopefully tasted — the incredible street food at-the-ready. The cooks are unsung heroes of real food. I’ve had kebab in Cairo that I went back to eat three days in-a-row; Lucky’s Souvlaki made Gyros in the city of Fira, Greece that left me addicted, even with the parasite it gave me (and continued to give me for three months); I’ve had a pretzel in Manhattan near 5th Avenue on the south side of the street that was my good luck charm for years. Oh, and the churros con chocolate in Alacante, Spain where the smell still stays with me years later.

In the US, there are hot dog stands. That’s it. Some cities like Portland, Denver in the summer and of course, New York (screw weather, gimme a ‘dog), go beyond the basics, but still, our understanding and respect for street food is minimal, if not downright lame. In the hopes of bringing the spirit of Lucky and his comrades to the Bay Area, I’ve been investigating a crepe stand.

The idea was to draw in the already booming community with low-priced, healthy street food made with love. I envisioned a half-dozen people standing around waiting for their fresh crepe, wrapped  in savvy (kiss my ass Martha Stewart) parchment.  I had a mindset of catering to all the local crowds: the morning mamas, the teachers at Noon stopping by for a quick bite of culture, the post-dinner sweet teeth. As the idea developed, the game was to stay as basic as possible, stay true to basic ingredients (buckwheat a must, Bisquick a never), the basic concept (no, I don’t do sandwiches) and,  most importantly,  the basic philosophy that food made with care, one at a time is better than any grand concept I could conjure.

But the Creperie was not to be. In the end, street vendors are prohibited in San Jose towns. They’re not outlawed, per-se, but they are boxed out by pages and pages of regulations that prevent them from being a part of small towns like ours. I get it, really, I do. The businesses that pay hefty leases don’t need a street vendor outdoing them, the parking lots are sparse and, the taste of street vending is fulfilled already with the weekly Farmer’s Market. Leases are pointless, the number simply don’t work. I’ve run the numbers, talked to the health department, the police department and the (very cool and helpful) department of environmental health. Simply, there are not enough crepes to be eaten daily to justify a rent and all the crap that goes with rent and not enough room in town for a trolling vendor, even if it is cool, cultural and community oriented.

So another idea goes by. In four years, someone’s going to be incredibly popular with this. It’s how it rolls with me. A bit ahead of our time in a town that’s trying to just stay with the times in an economy that’s just trying to stay afloat. I’m disappointed. But I’m satisfied that we looked at the idea every which way and it just ain’t happenin’.