Crepe Shoot

When Christopher Hoffman took a flyer on a tasty little vening venture, he knew it would be tough. But he never dreamed it would turn out like this.

Lee, who has the authority to determine vending locations, did not return several phone calls seeking comment for this story.

For his part, Christopher Hoffman disputes most of Gray's claims. Sure, he admits, the sidewalk was dirty, but much of the litter was left by pedestrians who didn't stop at his cart. Further, he maintains, a nearby storm drain often clogged when it rained, flooding the sidewalk and depositing dirt and oil from the street. Finally, according to Hoffman, food droppings were never a problem. "We just use a little batter to make the crepes and whatever spills we immediately clean up," he says. And to his knowledge, the scent of batter on the griddle certainly never made anyone sick. "I've never heard anybody complain. Those who say anything say the crepes smell delicious."

Hoffman doubts that the spot is much cleaner in his absence. "I ask myself who'll clean it as often as I would have," says the crepemaker, standing on West Flagler Street at the southeast corner of the Dade County courthouse, the new home of the cart that was banned on Biscayne. Indeed, a cursory comparison of the abandoned spot and the new one reveals that they look much the same -- two stretches of scuffed sidewalk with a small quantity of typical urban litter scattered here and there. If anything, Hoffman's current location looks slightly cleaner.

With two gloved hands, Hoffman folds a crepe, nearly translucent in the morning sun, around a slice of turkey sprinkled with cheddar cheese. He wraps it first in aluminum foil and then in a napkin, and hands it to one of three customers waiting in line. "The holidays were slow but now things have picked up again," he remarks, his curly red hair peeking out from under a white chef's hat. These days each cart is grossing about $200 a day, five days a week. Many of his old customers, some of whom work in One Bayfront Plaza, still make the occasional walk to the courthouse to buy a crepe, Hoffman reports.

Urana Gray doesn't dispute the popularity of the crepeman's creations among her building's tenants. "I don't know if every employee of every tenant agreed with me," she says. "I did not go around knocking on doors taking votes. I simply did what I had to do to preserve the beauty and integrity of this building." Did she ever personally sample a crepe? "I don't eat anything for lunch except a fruit or vegetable salad," she replies.

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