Restaurant Reviews

Tasty Crepes

The recipe for successful crêpes is easy: eggs, milk, flour, a little butter or oil. Cook in a nonstick skillet or one of those odd-looking French crêpe pans that resembles an upside-down pot.

The recipe for a successful crêpe restaurant ... well, that's a little more complicated.

French Box Café, a small, extremely modest crêperie with a Euro-hip vibe on a charmless, concrete-bound stretch of NE Second Avenue, had approximately the half-life of bacteria. Crêpes & Co., a tonier and more ambitious purveyor of the lacy little pancakes in Coral Gables's restaurant ghetto, didn't last much longer, despite a pleasant ambiance, pretty good food, and blessedly reasonable prices.

So if you're a fan of what might be called tortillas with an ooh-la-la, which I am, you have to hope that Sun City Café has better luck. In location and appearance, it's somewhere between French Box and Crêpes & Co. — not nearly as funky as the former, not quite as posh as the latter. But it, too, has a pleasant ambiance, pretty good food, and blessedly reasonable prices — plus a pair of charming owners, George and Marisol Pardillo.

Sun City occupies a newish strip mall on upper Biscayne Boulevard, across the street from Florida International University, making it a worthy destination for starving students in search of a tasty, filling, relatively healthful meal for as little as five bucks. Because crêpes can be whipped up in practically no time, it's an easy candidate for take-out. And because it's open for late breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you can feed whatever mood you're in, whether for bacon and eggs, mozzarella and tomatoes, or jerk chicken.

Sun City's crêpes are the basic recipe, as big around as a basketball, not too thick or too thin, a pleasing combination of crisp and chewy. In a bit of a novel twist, they're folded into a triangle around a couple dozen different fillings and then wrapped in paper and stuck into a conical paper cup, so they eat rather like a flattened ice cream cone. You can also get any of those fillings as a sandwich or a wrap, but hey, you don't go to a steak house and order fish.

The fillings aren't terrifically original, but they are flavorful and substantial. Jerk chicken is mildly spicy, bulked up with red onion, red pepper, tomato, cilantro, and cheese. The Havana is a Cuban sandwich in a crêpe; lots of tender shredded pork make it a hearty meal. The "Leo" (lox-eggs-onions) breakfast crêpe — stuffed with smoked salmon, softly cooked egg, scallions, and tomatoes — is haute fast food and as good for lunch or dinner as it is in the morning.

Caesar salad adds chicken and mozzarella to the requisite romaine and purchased (but good-quality) caesar dressing. There are a handful of real salads too: spinach, cobb, and Oriental — the last with a sneakily incendiary Thai-style vinaigrette.

Dessert crêpes are even more fun. The "nutty apple," packed with fat chunks of cinnamon-dusted apple, chopped candied walnuts, and dulce de leche, is large enough to share. My fave, though, is more elemental: a thick smear of guava paste and cream cheese — a sweet-tart-creamy combination that's more luscious than something so simple has any right to be.

With the crêpes comes a small selection of beers and wines, sodas and smoothies, and espresso drinks, all of which you order at the same counter where you order your food. The room is clean, colorful, and stark. The minuscule kitchen is in full view behind a low counter. Utensils are plastic, as are plates and bowls.

There's nothing fancy about the operation. But Sun City Café just might have the recipe for a very successful crêpe restaurant to go along with its very successful crêpes.

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Bill Citara