We were the ladies who lunch—minus the red hats and purple shirts, thank you—in search of good food and good company.
Miranda, Julie, Edie and I met at Café Zopé, a petite eatery located in the heart of Fourth Avenue. The hours here are somewhat limited, so lunch was the only real option.
The main focus at Café Zopé is crepes—Swedish crepes, to be exact, as the owner is from Sweden. There are also homemade scones and muffins, a daily quiche ($4.75), sandwiches and panini ($6.95 and up). The ingredients in the sandwiches seem to parallel the ingredients in many of the crepes. Omelettes ($5.95 to $6.95) are also available.
We asked the owner why he decided to open a crepe restaurant, and his answer was basically, "because Tucson needed one." He made it seem like crepes and pancakes are practically a way of life in Sweden. Supposedly, lingonberry crepes are eaten on Thursday evenings with pea soup. Who knew?
The quiche that day was filled with cheddar, mushrooms and chives. In the name of research, we opted for that. We also ordered a curried garlic shrimp crepe ($8.95), a roasted chicken and lingonberry crepe ($7.25) and an organic spinach, feta and tomato crepe ($6.95). Drinks included iced coffee ($2.50) and iced tea ($2.50).
Our crepes were started right before our eyes; the counter where you order is also part-crepe iron. A thin, creamy batter was poured onto the sizzling griddle and given a bit of a swirl so it reached the edges. The crepes cook up in no time, and then are generously filled with the designated ingredients.
Only two crepes can be made at a time, yet service didn't suffer. When there was a slight delay in getting the shrimp crepe because a new batter had to be made (a good thing), it was done with expediency and profuse apologies.
The interior here is quite small, with maybe a total of seven or eight seats. This made it hard for the four of us to sit and chat, so we headed for the patio. Wood and brick dominate outside, with enough greenery to make one feel quite at home. Cozy and well-shaded, the patio was an ideal spot for a leisurely lunch.
First to arrive were the spinach/feta and the chicken/lingonberry crepes, followed shortly thereafter by the quiche.
The crepes were done well, coming out light, tender and airy; they melted in the mouth. The fillings also impressed—and both crepes were filled to capacity. The chicken was tender pieces of white meat big enough to necessitate a knife and fork. The lingonberry preserves added a sweet tang.
The spinach/feta crepe was also packed full of baby spinach, plenty of feta (melted nicely) and tomatoes. We enjoyed it, but we all felt it didn't have the taste impact of the other one.
Both were served with a white-mushroom sauce; while it added some moisture to the crepes, it was almost unnecessary. Every dish came with a bit of greenery—baby spinach—with a sweet and savory balsamic-based dressing.
The quiche wasn't anything special; I wished we'd ordered another crepe. In all fairness, it was the last piece and was served unheated; both factors may have may have had something to do with the blandness.
While we ate, the server showed up with more iced coffee and iced tea—at no charge. Quite the rarity! Although the iced coffee was a little weak, it was still nice to get refills.
We received the curried-shrimp crepe last. There was plenty of filling to go around, like in the others. The shrimp were small, sweet and held their own against the curry and garlic. Both curry and garlic can overwhelm, but not so here. Oddly, there were bits of scrambled egg in the crepe. Nevertheless, this is definitely one I'd order again.
It was tough to choose among all the dessert options, but we went with the Nutella and banana crepe ($5.25) and the Swedish raspberry crepe ($5.75). They came with fresh whipped cream, some fresh berries and a sprinkle of powdered sugar. Slivered almonds were supposed to be a part of the Nutella and banana crepe, but it was explained that sometimes, certain ingredients just don't make it in the dishes due to availability. How do you say "c'est la vie" in Swedish?
The two crepes complemented each other nicely. The Nutella melted with the heat, which added to the yum. The raspberry crepe seemed in many ways to be the very definition of what a crepe should be: sweet, but not too sweet, with a light, airy egginess.
Come fall, the folks at the café plan on offering a wine and film club in the evenings. The movies will be those found off the beaten path, and everyone who comes is asked to bring a bottle of wine. There is a small yearly fee ($25; they figure that's about 50 cents per movie, so you do the math to see how many movies that is). There are occasional live music performances and art openings as well; call for info.
Café Zopé will certainly be in my lunch rotation. The food is good, fairly priced and truly different, and the service is beyond friendly.