Out & About: La Dominique Creperie
WHAT: La Dominique Creperie, a one-of-a-kind food cart that lures lovers of fresh, handcrafted crepes to the corner of 33rd and Market streets. The line is always long; as is the wait, but fans of the truck’s food don’t seem to mind.
AN ARTIST’S TOUCH: The owner of La Dominique is Zbigniew Chojnacki, a Polish immigrant who for many years worked as a sculptor and jewelry designer. Some of his work is in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institution. But when the economy soured and it became almost impossible to make a living as a sculptor, he decided to try his hand at the culinary arts, choosing to create crepes the way his mother once did in Poland.
ONE-BY-ONE: Speed is not an ingredient at La Dominique. Customers should be prepared to wait at least 20 minutes to get their orders filled. Chojnacki gives each crepe his full attention, coaxing the batter to a golden brown, nestling each piece of fish, meat, vegetable or fruit inside the crepe with precision, sculpting each creation into a delicious gem. “I cannot speed the process,” he says. “How can I compete with the hot dogs? There is no way.”
SAVORY & SWEET: Chojnacki says the three most popular lunch selections are the Mexican crepe (ground beef, onion, peppers, corn and tomato topped with fresh vegetable salsa); the Italian chicken crepe (chicken, tomato sauce, string beans and carrots over rice topped with cheddar cheese); and the spring crab crepe (crab, cream cheese, fresh dill, hard-boiled egg, tomato, cucumber and onion). For dessert, people clamor for the banana and strawberry crepe with Nutella spread, pralines, whipped cream and dark chocolate.
SWEETER STILL: Other dessert crepes include the Viennese, with coffee cream, fresh slices of banana and strawberry, chocolate and pralines; and the Tiramisu crepe with tiramisu filling topped with a slice of orange, powdered sugar, chocolate and coffee cream.
REAL FOOD: “The reason to start this business was to do crepes right,” Chojnacki says. For him that means using only the best ingredients, including hormone-free and antibiotic free meat, free-range eggs, fresh vegetables and quality cheese. Prices for his creations range from $3 to $8.
LATE START: Although his printed menu offers a “breakfast” crepe, Chojnacki does not arrive at his corner until 11 a.m., when he says there is usually already a line waiting for him. “I always plan to go home at 4 o’clock, but it never happens,” he says. “People come and ask for a crepe and I feel bad if I say ‘no,’ so I don’t go home until 5 or 5:30.”