Think French cuisine is defined by moldy cheese, snails, and bottles of wine with unintelligible names? Think again. Chris’s Crepes and Coffee Co. at the Broad Street Market, Harrisburg, is rethinking one classic French concept: the ultra-thin French pancake known as a crepe.
In France, crepes are traditionally made while you wait, folded with simple ingredients, and sold in small shops called creperies. Recent trends have pushed these soft golden disks onto menus in Europe and abroad, where the crepes act as canvases for sweet ingredients like Nutella, powdered sugar, or fruit; or savory ingredients like scallops, asparagus, and cream.
However, at Chris’s Crepes and Coffee Co.—opened in June 2011—the crepes are all-American: stuffed like breakfast burritos, smothered in peanut butter for a dessert, or folded with chicken and bacon as a lunch wrap.
“A crepe is basically a French tortilla, just 100 calories less,” owner Chris Kiley explains. “It’s incredible versatile and customizable.”
Hearty, elegant, and accessible, the fillings of Kiley’s crepes range from yogurt, seasonal fruit, and granola for breakfast to melted ham and Swiss for lunch. When wrapped in a still-warm, slightly springy crepe, even ho-hum fillings get new life: the cool lettuce of Kiley’s chicken Caesar crepe seems crisper. The textures of his Chocolate King crepe—a crepe folded with peanut butter, banana, chocolate syrup, and whipped cream—feel richer, like a molten peanut butter cup.
“We wanted to make a food that could either work as a snack or a meal, something that you could eat while walking,” Kiley explains.
Kiley’s cooking experience began in Central Pennsylvania when he was in high school. He worked first in the kitchens of local eateries, such as the former Giagantes on St. John’s Church Road, Camp Hill; Kosta’s Fine Cuisine, Camp Hill; and T. Jimmy’s Place, Mt. Holly Springs. Then, after earning his degree at Shippensburg University, Kiley moved to Maui, Hawaii, where he worked for six years as head chef at the Basil Tomatoes Italian Grille on the Kaanapali Resort.
“I’ve just always enjoyed cooking,” Kiley explains. “I like the creativity.”
Kiley and his family became familiar with crepes when his older brother, Mike, worked in Paris from 2001-2003. “My parents would visit me in the winter and Mike in the summer,” Kiley explains. “It was my dad’s idea to start a crepe stand in Pennsylvania.”
Kiley returned to the mainland in 2006 when Mike was diagnosed with cancer and needed a bone marrow transplant. Kiley was found to be a match. “It was time to return to my roots,” he says.
Today, Kiley now runs Chris’s Crepes and Coffee Co. with his mother, Mary Ellen, and his father, Pat. His brother Mike now works in Washington, D.C.
The stand serves breakfast, lunch, and dessert crepes as well as bottled drinks, iced tea, lemonade, and 100% Hawaiian-grown coffee. Kiley hopes to expand his business by offering daily specials and catering options.
“Once you try a crepe, you’ll love it,” Kiley says.
Chris’s Crepes and Coffee Co.
Broad Street Market
Brick Market Building
1233 North Third Street
Harrisburg, PA 17102
First published in TheBurg, September 2011. Click here to visit TheBurg’s website and download the latest issue.