Oregano Fresh Greek and Crepe Studio offer pockets of goodness
By Erica Wayne 08/21/2014
Looking for something a bit unusual in the way of cheap eats?
Oregano Fresh Greek and Crepe Studio offer a couple of ideas that might appeal.
First, Oregano Fresh Greek on South Lake Avenue, opened in January by owners Kelly Markus and Lucy Gan, has quickly developed a huge fan base. We dropped in at a little past noon a few weeks ago and found a line stretching from the door to the counter at the rear of the dining area. Luckily, it moves fast.
The aroma of grilling meats adds its own appeal and, fortunately, the flavors live up to the smells coming from the kitchen. Gyros are among Oregano’s specialties, so that’s what we ordered. My friend had the original ($8.48 for slices of fragrantly seasoned meatloaf with a side salad and fountain drink) and I ordered a falafel (not exactly authentically Greek but certainly Mediterranean) with a side of dolmas (stuffed grape leaves) and a drink for 20 cents less.
Both plump sandwiches — fillings swaddled in warm and fluffy pita with lettuce, tomato, onions and tzatziki — were excellent. The falafels were particularly good, crisp and well-seasoned, with four petite dolmas making a fine accompaniment.
My lunch-mate’s salad — chopped iceberg topped with pepperoncini, tomato, cucumber, purple onion, kalamata olives, a generous amount of feta and a cuplet of tart red wine vinaigrette — was fabulous. I’d order all of it again in a heartbeat.
However, the sight and smell of juicy kebabs (chicken, steak and lamb) charring on the grill beyond the counter guaranteed my next purchase to be one of the souvlaki, only a dollar or so more than the gyros, each including two full skewers of meat. We also noticed, slightly enviously, heaped portions of French and sweet potato fries gracing adjacent plates and made a mental note to try them as well.
Finally, we sized up the sweets in the display case, which included baklava ($1.95), nut rolls (7 cents), miniature cherry and Greek yogurt cheese cakes ($3.99). We shared a single powdered sugar-covered butter cookie (kourambeithe) for 50 cents. As we savored it, we read on the back of the menu that oregano translates as mountain joy and is a Greek symbol of happiness. I thought this was quite appropriate. Our initial Oregano repast brought us a great deal of happiness and it’s going to be a joy to return.
A second suggestion for “wrap-around” dining is Crepe Studio on East Union Street, a diminutive and cute-as-a-button storefront with a few tiny round tables and aluminum bucket chairs with plush seat cushions. There’s a bar facing the huge glass windows, shaded by a psychedelic orange awning that matches the face of the counter behind which the pancakes are fashioned and filled to order. Side walls are “Old Town” brick, the ceiling is high and black with wrapped ducting, and floors are hardwood. The back wall is bright mustard. Shades of the ’60s!
Crepe Studio, like Oregano, is a one-off, operated by a young woman named Sona Guloyan. The 4-year old creperie is definitely multinational. Savories ($6.75-$8.75) come filled with tender chunks of pesto-topped grilled chicken or beef, cheese, corn, onion, sour cream, black beans and spicy chipotle sauce. One of Sona’s breakfast crepes even includes sujuk (Turkish sausage) mixed with eggs and a blend of cheddar and jack cheese - $6.95. The addition of bacon or avocado is an extra $1.
Unlike Oregano, where the baked goodies don’t even rate a menu mention, Crepe Studio’s dessert crepes are as numerous as the savories and just as appealing. We started with the Mediterranean — chicken, cucumbers, black olives, onions, romaine, tomatoes and crumbled feta packed into a tender, carefully folded crepe ($7.95) — sauced with a garlicky tzatziki. Its lingering pungency reminded us all afternoon of its excellence.
Then we tried the Baja (chicken, cheese, tomatoes, romaine, corn and sour cream - $8.75). This was just as good, its tangy cilantro dressing as assertive as the tzatziki, if not as long-lasting.
Each crepe is a plateful, but we convinced ourselves the ratio of greens to meat would allow for just one of Sona’s sweet pancakes. Decisions had to be made: Berry Bean (Nutella, blueberries, coffee ice cream, whipped cream); Chocolate Lovers (Nutella, fresh strawberries, chocolate ice cream, whipped cream); or Classic a la Mode (Nutella, strawberries, bananas, vanilla iced cream, whipped cream. Each is $7.95). Finally, we chose a PB&N (Nutella, peanut butter and banana, topped with almonds and whipped cream - $6.75).
All Crepe Studio’s sweet crepes have Nutella as the first-listed ingredient. No wonder the main decorative element in the little shop is stack upon stack of Nutella jars. There’s a list of substitutes on the menu: peanut butter, caramel, sour cream, maple syrup, cinnamon, honey, chocolate syrup, butter and powdered sugar. But who other than sufferers from nut allergies could possibly reject Nutella? I was briefly tempted to ask for sour instead of whipped cream, but the PB&N was just dandy, nay addictive, as specified.
We were intrigued with Crepe Studio’s list of “frepes” — ice-blended coffees with Nutella (natch), coffee, mocha, caramel, vanilla or white chocolate ($3.55-$4.15) — and pleased with Sona’s iconoclastic inclusion of coffee ice cream in addition to chocolate and vanilla. I foresee a pleasant interlude at Crepe Studio one steamy September afternoon sipping a decadent mocha frepe with chocolate and coffee ice cream while watching Sona prepare crepes for her other clients.
Both Oregano and Crepe Studio create wonderful wraps for under 10 bucks. You might say they’ve got gyro and crepe making all wrapped up. Try them; you’ll like them. And, as for this review, well, it’s a wrap!