The Le Marais team is finally opening its new creperie within the Ferry Building on Wednesday, March 9, which is news that will surely charm pancake fans. Since the much-mourned departure of Ti Couz more than a decade ago in the Mission, there haven’t been many great crepes in San Francisco, at least not Brittany-style buckwheat crepes layered with good ham and gooey cheese. But Grande Creperie intends to satisfy the craving, serving a combo of sweet and savory crepes with views of the Bay Bridge and ferry boats. It’s a refreshing waterfront spot to have a breakfast crepe with a cafe au lait or a happy hour crepe with a glass of dry white, and you know the Le Marais family has other sweets in store.
Owner Patrick Ascaso may be known best for his croissants, but he says crepes were also a childhood favorite. He grew up outside of Paris but says the best crepes hail from Brittany, where he snacked on them during summer vacations to the coast. He says he and his wife Joanna Pulcini-Ascaso have wanted to open a creperie for years but were too consumed with running the bakery. “We’ve been talking about this for more than a decade,” Ascaso says. “Crepes and champagne are the perfect marriage.”
Originally, he was hoping to partner with star pastry chef Gontran Cherrier, but with pandemic interruptions, Cherrier got pulled onto other projects. Fortunately, Ascaso was still able to call in a pancake pro: Emanuelle Condessa of La Bara-K, a seaside creperie in Saint-Nazaire, flew in to help develop the batters. It was an effort to source the right buckwheat, as French flours have a distinct flavor, so they’re starting with flour from an American mill, but plan to eventually import from Brittany to get just the right toasty flavor and color. Condessa also schooled the team on technique, as there’s a trick to ladling and spreading batter on the round pans to ensure the crepes are thin and lacy with just the right “crispiness” at the edges. Condessa likes to watch the edges lift — she doesn’t believe in any flipping.
In the traditional Breton style, there are two batters, one sweet and white and one savory and buckwheat, the latter naturally gluten free. There are nine crepes in each style, for a total of 18 crepes across the full menu. Given the proximity, bien sur, Ascaso says he’ll be sourcing from the farmers’ market, where he and his family have been regular shoppers for a dozen years. His daughter Aurelia rolls in on the cart at 7 a.m. on Saturday mornings, happily accepting strawberries from farmer friends — she’s cool with Poli of Yerena Farms. Ascaso is also stereotypically very into cheese, and he’ll be featuring a mix of French gruyere and comte plus California locals like goat cheese from Adante.
The savory crepes include a classic ham and cheese, completed with a sunny egg folded into the center; fishy types laid with smoked salmon and piled with Dungeness crab; and veggie variations smothered with wild mushrooms and broccoli di ciccio. The sweet crepes counter with all housemade ganache, Nutella, caramel, and marmalade, as well as fresh strawberries and spiced pears. Beyond crepes, there’s a simple salade verte and a selection of favorite pastries from Le Marais, should you require an almond croissant. Ascaso is also getting into gateaux des enfants, or childhood cakes, including traditional Breton cakes that may be simply sugar glazed or spread with jam. And a seaside vacation calls for ice cream, in this case extra creamy French vanilla soft serve pumped into a buckwheat waffle cone. Espresso comes from local Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters, and once they sort out the liquor license in a couple of weeks, dry white wines will hail from France and Austria, and cider will be another treat from Brittany — dry and effervescent, it pairs beautifully with crepes and cheese.
Grande Creperie has moved into the former Frog Hollow Farm space in the Ferry Building, just across from canelé legend Boulettes Larder. It’s a smaller storefront on the east side of the building, but it opens out onto big bay views. Diners can order at the counter indoors and snag one of 10 seats inside, or step outdoors to 30 bistro seats on a heated patio. Of course, in addition to being a historic food hall, the Ferry Building is also a transit hub, and the design of Grande Creperie took inspiration from French train stations. A big clock stands guard in the shop, for any commuters keeping an eye on the time. But the space is also washed with ocean blues, whites, and cheery tiles, if you want to embrace the seaside mood and linger a while.
Croissant fans were up in arms when Le Marais was forced to close its original Marina location in fall 2021 due to unresolved landlord issues. But Le Marais still has three locations in Mission Dolores, Polk Gulch, and Mill Valley, in addition to the new Grande Creperie.
Grande Creperie opens in the Ferry Building on Wednesday, March 9. Opening hours are Wednesday to Sunday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., with plans to extend through dinner hopefully before the end of the month.