Crepes at The French Press Cafe and Creperie

French Press Cafe Albany exterior

By Deanna Fox

On some of the oldest real estate in downtown Albany -- Clinton Square -- lies a small piece of France. A French cafe, in fact, that churns out classics of French cuisine, like baguette sandwiches, cafe au lait, and crepes.

A taste of France in this area is nothing new: French fur traders were some of the earliest Europeans in the Albany region. Throughout history, France and America have traded barbs are readily as they've supported each other when Le Merde hits Le Fan; regardless, we've embraced French culture and perhaps appreciate it best through food: Croissant, macarons, boeuf bourguignon, wine. Romantic notions of what France is draw American visitors regularly to the country, though experiencing it first-hand is a mere Gene Kelly-esque pipedream for those of us with wanderlust bigger than our bank accounts.

But thankfully, on the cobblestone promenade just west of the Hudson River, we can find a budget-friendly glimpse of France at The French Press Cafe and Creperie, where we can linger en plein air on wrought iron bistro seating, sip our coffee, and indulge in that wonderful French creation: The crepe.

French Press Albany crepe

Crepes are the French-style, wafer-thin pancakes that epitomize "fancy" brunch and are versatile enough to go from sweet to savory. The crepe itself, which certainly can be enjoyed straight off the griddle, is often viewed as little more than a vessel for the array of flourishes one chooses as accompaniment.

Simply prepared and thoughtfully paired, the crepe fillings at The French Press include "The Holy Kale," a combo of sauteed baby kale, garlic, mushrooms, and Swiss, and "It's a Wonderful Life," where apple slices soften in melted butter before partnering with cinnamon, sugar, brie, and graham cracker crumbles. Other fillings re-imagine classic sandwiches, like the breakfast stalwart of ham, egg, and cheese, or a Tuscan-inspired spin on chicken, pesto, and fresh mozzarella.

I opted for "El Duque" ($9), a take on the Cuban sandwich. Pulled pork teamed with ham, Swiss cheese, mustard and plenty of pickles for a piquant and slightly spicy adaptation of the classic crepe. It was filling and delightful, and with the proper foil wrapping, could easily be portable. Each bite was tender and flavorful, and the pork wasn't sopping with juices which would completely undermine the entire structure of the dish.

french_press_cafe_albany_el_duque_crepe_closeup.jpg

The filling never worked to outshine the crepe itself, only in tandem with it. And that crepe shell maintained its own identity, with lacy edges carefully tatted by the cast iron griddle, shattering under the gentle pressure of a fork. It took a while to come from the kitchen, but only because each crepe is made to order. (It shows in the lovely execution.)

I doubled-down on a sweet crepe, as well. "The Palace" ($8), smeared with Nutella and bananas, was the perfect ending to the meal. It is hard to mess up two simple things like Nutella (a chocolate and hazelnut spread) and sliced banana, but if the crepe was subpar, the dish would inevitably suffer. Included was a generous dollop of house-made whipped cream so thick, it was nearly sweetened butter.

french_press_cafe_albany_nutella_crepe.jpg

Each crepe comes with your choice of salad, fruit, or breakfast potatoes. Coffee comes from Capital City Coffee Roasters. And btdubs... it's BYOBs. (Bring Your Own Breton Stripes.)

The mission statement on The French Press Cafe and Creperie's website is this: "We believe that your food, coffee, or tea is one of the most important parts of your day." The concept of importance extends not only to sustenance but the meaning conveyed from it. Food is a way to extend understanding, evoke emotion, state political sentiments, and transport the eater to another place or time. Then again, sometimes it is just a meal.

Whichever way you decide to approach it, lucky us that The French Press Cafe and Creperie allows us to mill it all over while enjoying such a fine French delicacy.

Deanna Fox writes about many things, mostly about food. More can be found on her website, Twitter, or Instagram.

More Eat This:
+ Avocado Fries at Slidin' Dirty
+ Roast beef at Wm. H. Buckley Farm
+ Baklava at Athos
+ Polish food at Muza

Find It

French Press Cafe & Creperie
5 Clinton Square
Albany, NY 12207

Comments

I LOVE CREPES!
Don't drive , but will have to convince one of my friends to go to your delicious sounding place.

Plastic utensils and paper plates? --- say it ain't so

Sounds wonderful but come on paper plates and plastic forks. That would never happen in France.

I love crepes! Look forward to trying these, however.... Paper plates and plastic ware, tres collante!

I've been meaning to check this place out!! Looks delicious.

Oh my God these things are decadent.....sooooo good! Only thing that's bad about this place is that it's closed on Sunday! Everyone who likes food should eat here!

The paper plates broke my heart a little bit. For so many reasons. I haven't been back to confirm is this is the norm or not, but I hope it was a one-time thing.

Had the Holy Kale today and it was amazing. Excellent (strong!) coffee too. More than makes up for the paper plates!

They had plastic and paper the day they opened and I hoped it was growing pains. But obviously it is non-respect for their customers. It does appear now that they have ceramic cups for their coffee, that is an improvement so they have dis washing capability.

There is no value there, Look at the salad!

I have tried several times and wanted to like it but it is not a a destination.

Try googling crepes and see what good ones look like.

Hint Hint - I so wanted this to be a sucess and a good place.

> But obviously it is non-respect for their customers.

Dramatic much?
Really guys, paper plates and plastic forks, that's the deal breaker?

I've been there a few times, including the first week they opened, and they have improved a lot. There aren't a lot of crepe places around here anymore, and while Ravenous in Saratoga Springs reigns supreme, the French Press is very good *value*. I can't claim being French makes me an expert, but you can buy a quick crepe every other block in Paris -- it's more street food than gourmet dinner.

If you're going to a restaurant for the quality of the plates, you're doing it so wrong you might as well stay home. (And, for the sake of the rest of us, please do.)

For those of you who care more about food than flatware, do yourself a favor and stop in. The crepes here are delicious! Even better: On a nice non-work day, stop in here for a savory crepe, then go next door for a beer at McGeary's and sit outside to combine the two! (This idea may need to wait until spring.)

I'm sorry to say that the paper/plastic plates forks etc. are the deal breaker for me and they're why I haven't written a lot about this place. I can't get over using disposable (landfill clogging) dinnerware as the default. Plus, trying to eat with plastic utensils is a bummer. It just is. I was SO HOPING that they would change to real dinnerware when they got established, and I'm so sorry that they have not done so.

Ha, you are correct S. Most crepes in France come wrapped in wax paper, much like hot dogs or giant pretzels in the US.

The French Press is definitely decent. It is a counter service place.

I've been to the French Press a few times and have never been disappointed. From the crepes, to the breakfast bagels, to the dessert creations I am blown away by the flavors, the decadence and the deals.
What I'm so surprised about on this forum is the snobbery on display due to utensil options. Maybe everyone should focus more on the flavors and the food and less on the meaningless things like plates and forks.

It's not like this is the first time.

Perhaps the concern is the wastefulness of using disposable plates and utensils at an eat-in establishment.

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