Irina’s Crepes Café bridging cultures and cuisines in Glen Burnie

Correspondent

Consider this cultural juxtaposition: a mother and son from Russia are putting their own spin on classic French crepes in the middle of downtown Glen Burnie.

And, like the filling in my Tuscan Chicken Crepe, it all melds and melts together wonderfully.

Irina Graco, the mom, and Pavel Semenyuk, her son, poured their passion for cooking into Irina’s Crepes Café when it opened in October 2015. Their quick cuisine with a European flair is a nice alternative to the typical fast food joints lining the highways between Annapolis and its north county neighbor.

Their bright and colorful little cafe is tucked behind the Food Lion at a crossroads for state and county workers, community college students, hospital staffers, locals, and international travelers coming and going through busy BWI Thurtgood Marshall Airport.

I raced inside, 10 minutes late for lunch, clothing, hair, et cetera, askew as usual, to see my friend Randy waiting, relaxed, sipping a beverage. He’d arrived 10 minutes early from even further south than me. Typical. Oh well; taking the average, we were right on time for our noon meeting.

Behind the counter, Pavel (who goes by Paul) was doing it all — running the register, answering the phone, taking orders, making crepes. I asked him, what’s the most popular of the savory crepes? That’s how I got to the Tuscan Chicken ($8.95).

Good choice. Everything I like is inside: pesto, mozzarella, onion, sun-dried tomato, spinach. And chicken, although I didn’t run into too much of it.

Randy chose the “make your own” option ($8.25) with ham, turkey bacon, provolone and swiss cheeses, and spinach. He liked mine best; I thought it was a toss-up. While it was a bit too spicy for him, I thought the spicy mayo served alongside his crepe gave it a nice kick.

One of the best things about Irina’s was watching Paul make the crepes. The machine is right up against the Plexiglas partition separating the kitchen from the dining area, so you can see him ladle the batter onto the hot griddle and spread it around with a small wooden tool for wafer-thin consistency.

My French friends emphasize the importance of fresh ingredients and careful attention to presentation, and Irina’s scores on both fronts. My plate was decorated with loops of balsamic glaze that looked pretty and added extra zest to the dish.

We couldn’t leave without sampling the sweet side of the menu. That would have been just plain wrong. (Plus, Randy has a big sweet tooth.)

After some deliberation, we settled on the Cherries and Cream Cheese crepe with a lemony glaze ($7.50) and a sweet waffle with chocolate chips ($6.50). A dusting of powdered sugar and dollops of whipped cream signaled we’d switched gears from savory to sweet.

Both were tasty and ample and delightful with a mug of coffee. Half the waffle went home with me for breakfast the next day.

On my next visit to Mas du Biaou in Provence, I’ll drill down on the subtleties of crepe cuisine with the Bidault family proprietors: What’s more important – the crepe itself, or the filling? Should the crepe be uniformly soft, or is there a crispiness that’s desired? The answers are in their DNA.

With just two of us eating, I didn’t get to range around the menu as much as I’d have liked. There’s more I want to try at Irina’s – the Reuben crepe ($8.95) sounds intriguing (roast beef, not corned beef? Hmm.). Smoked Salmon with chives, dill and lemon zest sounds good ($9.75). Some are out of the box, like the “Fancy Fried Chicken” crepe with cheese, onions, tomatoes, jalapenos and roasted red peppers ($9.95).

There are also savory waffles on the menu, including Chicken and Waffles ($9.95) and Bacon Cheddar ($7.50).

I’d like to sample all the sweet crepes – from the traditional Crepe Suzette ($6.50) to S’mores ($7.95). Heartier eaters might like the Banana Split Waffle, served with ice cream and the traditional toppings ($8.95).

Irina’s runs regular specials – the “Yellow Eye Galette” was featured when we were there, with sunny-side-up eggs inside a pastry nest. Drinks are reasonably priced, at $1 to $2 for everything: tea, coffee, hot chocolate, juices, milk and soda.

Vegetarian? Gluten-free? They can accommodate you. They also do take-out and catering.

That double-crepe meal carried me through the rest of the day, happily satisfied and on a pleasant sugar high.

Next time, I’ll sit outside at a table or on a bench in the adjacent courtyard and write my packing list. Maybe it’s not the Champs-Élysées, but at Irina’s, you can have a near-French experience in the heart of Glen Burnie, thanks to a Russian family. Vive l'Amérique!


Irina's Crepes Cafe

111 Crain Highway N, Suite 3, Glen Burnie / 410-553-0955 / www.irinascrepescafe.com

HOURS: Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Sunday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

HEAD CHEF: Irina Graco

SAVORY CREPES, WAFFLES: $6.50 to $9.95; SWEET CREPES, WAFFLES: $6.25 to $8.95 RESERVATIONS: Not necessary, but you can call ahead and they’ll hold a table

CREDIT CARDS: All major cards

ACCESSIBILITY: Yes

NOTE: Gluten free? Call ahead - they’ll make a fresh batch of gluten-free batter for you.


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Note to readers: Diane is taking time off from writing this summer for family matters (all good). Think of her when you’re eating out and send your suggestions for fall reviews to her at: diningoutdiane@gmail.com. She wishes everyone a happy summer – and bon appetite!

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