When I was in college, crepes were one of my major food groups, thanks to a little crepe truck on campus that fed me morning, noon and night. I guess I was a wannabe gourmand even back then, as I thumbed my minimum wage-earning nose at Burger King in favor of more palatable options.
It's been a while — maybe even close to a decade now — since I've enjoyed the delicate delights of a well-made crepe. It wasn't until I heard about Galette 88, the almost 2-year-old creperie in the Financial District, that I even remembered my years-long love affair with crepes.
Galette 88 offers a selection of savory galettes made with buckwheat flour, sweet crepes made with wheat flour and cider to wash it all down. All very traditional, very French, very Breton.
It only took one bite of The Complete — a buckwheat galette filled with melted Emmentaler cheese, thin-sliced ham and topped with a soft, runny egg — for me to realize that the crepes that had fueled my college years were sub-par.
This was a different animal entirely. The buckwheat galette itself, thin but just weighty enough to hold up the fillings, had an earthy rustic flavor and an elastic chewiness that strangely, but pleasantly, reminded me of Ethiopian injera.
Rather than being rolled, these galettes are folded into rectangles, with the center left open-faced and the corners thick and crunchy. Atop each is a small pile of subtly dressed fresh greens.
The fillings are hearty and generous, making each galette a surprisingly satisfying lunchtime meal. These are definitely knife-and-fork operations, especially if you're eating one crowned with a yolky egg (and you can, and should, add an egg to any and all of them).
After trying as many galettes as possible (no easy task, considering the nearly endless combinations), a few favorites emerged that surprised me. Normally, I gravitate toward ultra-savory, ultra-rich options on a menu, and while I enjoyed Galette 88's many sausage, cheese and potato-laden choices, some dark horses leapt over the finish line at the last minute and stole my heart.
The spectacular Bruce's Choice — a salty, creamy concoction with meaty hunks of smoked Atlantic salmon, sharp capers, soft caramelized onions and creme fraiche flavored with lemon and chives — is the one I keep coming back to. It's airy yet rich, with a lively balance of flavors.
The Bleu Velvet was another galette that unexpectedly earned my affection. This may be the richest option on the menu, with its creamy piles of melted bleu d'Auvergne, a cow's milk blue cheese from south-central France. Toasted almonds, honey and tender cooked apples round out this elegant cheese plate in galette form, with a little arugula thrown in to balance out the lushness.
I'm not normally drawn to dessert, but once again, Galette 88 changed my preconceived notions about myself. For dessert, the utterly simple When Life Gives You Lemons features the sweet crepe — made with milk, eggs, wheat flour and sugar — and adds only the barest of toppings. Butter, sugar and lemon juice meld together to tartly, daintily accent the delicate texture of the crepe.
The chic, modern dining room is often crowded during the rush and bustle of the FiDi lunch hour, but once you sit down and dig into your galette, time slows down.
Location: 88 Hardie Place, S.F.
Contact: (415) 989-2222, www.galettesf.com
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Mondays-Fridays
Price range: $5.50 to $11
Recommended dishes: The Complete ($9.50), Bruce's Choice ($11), Bleu Velvet ($10.50), When Life Gives You Lemons ($6)
Credit cards: All major
Reservations: Not accepted