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Scene in South Bend: Smoothies, Crepes & Coffee

| Thursday, October 30, 2014

Scene in SB WEBMarc Drake & Mary McGraw
According to the 2013 Open Doors Report released by the Institute of International Education, Notre Dame ranks fifth in percentage of undergraduates studying abroad. For many students, studying abroad is a chance to not only explore areas of the world for prolonged periods of time but also to familiarize themselves with styles of cuisine that might be unfamiliar to them. Students looking for their fill of French cuisine need to look no further, as South Bend’s Smoothies, Crepes & Coffee offers delicious crepes for every aspiring Francophile.

Located at 121 S. Niles Avenue in South Bend, inside the East Bank Emporium, Smoothies, Crepes & Coffee provides a variety of high-quality crepes to patrons that may not be able to obtain them otherwise.

“One of the main things was to find something that was not already represented in South Bend or in this surrounding area,” manager Hannah Jensen said about the decision to open the restaurant. “I think that was one of the appeals, to do something that was a little bit different.”

Situated between the Downtown Comedy Connection comedy club and the East Bank Emporium, the restaurant offers an open space for individuals to congregate at all times of the day, whether it be for a bite to eat at lunch or a quick cup of coffee in the late afternoon.

One of the most notable features of the restaurant is that it is continuously updating its menu and the dining space, providing a novel experience almost each time a patron visits. Menu staples such as the Organic Strawberry Crepe and Velvet Presley smoothie, a mixture consisting of banana, peanut butter and chocolate created after Elvis Presley’s professed favorite sandwich, share space next to specialty items such as the Zesty Mexican Crepe, Vegan Crepe or Ham & Bean Soup.

“We’ve been trying to change them [menu items] pretty frequently. Within at least a week, or less, we have a new crepe,” Jensen said regarding the consistently updated menu. “Some people like the same things over and over, but we figure it’s good to give people other things to try”.

Heeding Jensen’s advice, I branched out from my typical order and decided to try the savory customizable pizza crepe, a decision that I won’t soon regret. Featuring fresh spinach and organic sausage locally sourced from the Purple Porch Co-Op, this savory treat provides the perfect mid-afternoon snack for those seeking a spin on a traditional favorite.

Although it specializes in a cuisine that is not distinctly American, Smoothies, Crepes & Coffee strives to engage itself with the local community and sustainable practices.

“We get the majority of our ingredients from Purple Porch, which is a block away from us,” Jensen said. “Over half of our stuff is local, and the rest is at least organic, ideally regional. The things that we can’t get from the Purple Porch, we get from the [South Bend] Farmer’s Market. So that’s a big part of things, staying in the community and giving profits back to the community.”

When not economically supporting the community by purchasing local supplies, the staff at Smoothies, Crepes & Coffee listens to community pleas on how to improve its space usage. Between jokes about compostable wooden cutlery and the lack of waste products created by the restaurant, Jensen recounts the story of how the restaurant recently bought beanbag chairs after listening to a request from two high school patrons.

Aside from crepes and smoothies, the restaurant offers Intelligentsia coffee, with each cup of coffee made to order using the pour-over method of brewing.

“We don’t get the coffee until we order it,” Jensen said. “So we order the coffee, then they roast it, and then they ship it to us. So we usually get it within one to two days of it being roasted, so it is as fresh as possible.”

Mirroring the locally-minded mantra of Smoothies, Crepes & Coffee, Intelligentsia focuses on direct trade with their farmers and ongoing relationships with each farm.

“[Intelligentsia] kind of feeds into our whole mission about sustainability and transparency,” Jensen said.

Though Notre Dame students may consider themselves connoisseurs of crepes due to their usage of the crepe bar in the dining halls, Smoothies, Crepes & Coffee will have students thinking twice about their expertise. With a menu that is constantly being updated to include delicious and locally-sourced new items and a potential name change on the horizon, one thing at the restaurant will certainly remain constant: well-produced crepes and smoothies with expertly brewed coffee.

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