Detroit has several French connections, and now it has another — a delightfully unexpected little crêperie in downtown Detroit
Torya Blanchard stands at her electric crêpe maker, pouring batter onto its hot surface, then spreading it with what she calls her “rake,” a wooden tool that swirls the batter into a perfect 12-inch circle.
She flips the crêpe to its other side, then drops in a handful of fresh strawberrries and blueberries, folds the crêpe over the filling, squirts on some whipped cream, and voila! She’s produced a “Cora,” which she turns onto a paper plate atop a sheet of waxed paper and hands to a waiting customer.
All 20 crêpes on Blanchard’s menu have names. There’s the Katie, the Melinda, the Vera — friends and family of the Detroiter who loves Paris and is creating a tiny corner of it in her hometown.
Blanchard’s domain is a minuscule 48-square foot space with a window that opens to the downtown Detroit sidewalk on John R just east of Woodward where patrons walk up and order, which is a common arrangement in Paris.
Good Girls Go to Paris, the crêperie she opened in July, serves its repertoire of $3 to $5 savory and sweet crêpes to an eclectic audience of business people, construction workers, and often-surprised passersby, who eat them just as they would a hot dog or a hot pretzel from a street vendor.
It takes just about three minutes to produce a finished product, and Blanchard makes it look easy, chatting with the customers as she works.
The crêperie is about as unexpected in Detroit as a Coney Island stand would be in Paris, where she learned to love the dish. She had gone there in 1998 as an au pair to look after two children in the ninth arondissement, despite her pretty shaky French, mostly because, “It was a free trip” and she was unsure of what she wanted to do as a career after studying engineering for a while at Michigan Tech.
When she returned after two years, she got serious and studied French at Wayne State University, and then taught the language for five years at Consortium High School, a Detroit charter school.
But the idea of bringing the kind of fresh crêpes she had enjoyed in Paris to the downtown audience was always in the back of her mind.
When she happened to pass by the space on John R and saw a for-rent sign, the concept of Good Girls Go to Paris began to take shape.
Besides the electric crêpe maker, there is room only for a small refrigerator, a sink, and a few shelves. Fresh produce and cheeses for savory crêpes, such as the Sarah (mushrooms, chèvre, spinach, and red pepper) come from the Eastern Market, often picked up for her by her husband, Rick.
Eastern Market is also where Blanchard intends to open a second crêperie, if all goes according to plan.
2 John R, Detroit; 313-964-2023.