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Restaurant review

French Twist Cafe serves up crepes, coffee, charm and language lessons

The Baltimore Sun

There’s a lot to be said for simplicity.

Just as cable companies overload you with way too many TV channels (I’ll bet a lot of you, like me, only watch a handful) some restaurants cram more categories onto a menu than anyone really needs. At French Twist Cafe in historic, ever-picturesque Sykesville, the menu pretty much boils down to just two attractions — crepes and coffee.

Sure, you can get soup and salad. You’ll find tea and smoothies, beer and wine, too. But crepes and coffee, that’s what it’s all about here. And that’s more than enough, especially since the flavor has an authentic accent.

The cafe, which fills up a bright blue 19th-century house that underwent various uses over the decades, is the brainchild of French-born Sykesville resident Helene Taylor. She found this an ideal outlet for her love of cooking, a cozy spot for folks to meet and linger.

The first floor holds a counter and a compact kitchen, along with some retail displays and a few tables. Upstairs are more tables, along with cushy nooks for reading (French publications are provided) or playing games. In good weather, the front porch offers additional seating.

French Twist’s broad selection of coffee items includes artistically decorated lattes. I’m a tea person myself (they serve a robust iced tea), so I can’t offer a first-hand report. But folks I trust speak well of the coffee quality.

As for the crepes, there are savory choices tailored for breakfast, lunch and early dinner (closing time is 5 p.m., except on Fridays). The sweet crepes, of course, would be good any time of the day.

My all-time favorite crepe memories are associated with a Fort Lauderdale restaurant where they used a method that produced a wonderfully crisp texture. I haven’t encountered that kind again, but I found much to savor in the soft crepes sampled at French Twist, each made to order in full view behind the glass counter.

The breakfast-oriented “La Francaise” crepe we tried — egg, ham, Swiss cheese — was enjoyable. But the egg was hard to detect, having been beaten lightly and spread across the crepe for cooking. We learned later that some customers request sunny side up or order an extra egg to get more flavor; we’ll try that next time.

Sticking with a French theme, we also sampled “La Parisienne,” which tucked a satisfying combination of goat cheese, walnuts, dried cranberries, spinach and a robust pesto into the crepe.

In a European Union-friendly touch, savory crepe choices also include Greek (feta, olives, peppers, etc.), Italian (mozzarella, tomatoes, etc.) and Spanish (salsa, avocado, etc.). And for Marylanders, there’s a version with — what else? — crab and Old Bay.

When it comes to the sweet crepes, the one with just honey and salted butter is a little gem of elegant flavor and proportion (the value of simplicity, again).

The Nutella-fancying member of our party thought the hazelnut spread was overpowered by the abundant banana slices in the crepe. I would have welcomed a richer chocolate sauce than the thin one coating strawberries inside another crepe. But those were minor quibbles; those choices still proved enjoyable.

Speaking of quibbles, I was disappointed to hear common old American rock playing in the cafe. Wouldn’t French pop music be more fun? (I’d be happy to lend them my prized Yves Duteil and Julien Clerc collection.)

On the other hand, there’s a free French club open to all on the first Friday of the month. You get a language lesson from a French teacher, plus opportunities for games, French movies and more. That’s pretty cool — I mean, c’est chouette.

French Twist Cafe

732 Oklahoma Ave., Sykesville

443-920-3151, frenchtwistcafe.com

Cuisine: Crepes

Prices: Crepes $4.35 to $12.75; salads $8.25 to $9.25

Ambience: The cafe is welcoming and super-casual (paper plates and plasticware).

Service: Customers order at a counter from very friendly, patient folks. Your name will be called out when it’s time to pick up your order.

Reservations: No

Parking: Street, lot

Special diets: Gluten-free crepes available.

Wheelchair accessible: Yes

tim.smith@baltsun.com

twitter.com/clefnotes

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