Crêpes San Frontieres, is as close to an Old World Parisian crêpery as you will find in Downtown L.A. Smack dab in the middle of the Spring Arcade Building, an historic tunnel which spans from Spring Street to Broadway is just enough space to fit a tiny place, soon to be known for its delicious crêpes. Between the electronic, clothing and swap shop nicknacks, dawns an outdoor seating arrangement with plant life, and adorable furnishings. Upon entering hangs a chandelier of a light fixture encased inside of an impressive giant whisk, behind a smoky glass window showcasing the dining area, station, electronic cash register, and the tiny fridge that keeps the drinks cool. The first in a massive plan to make the majority of the Spring Arcade Building’s historic tunnel spaces fine eateries…creating a restaurant row canopied by its marvelous glass top ceiling.
La Scandinave is a crêpe filled with smoked salmon, fresh dill and crème fraiche (heavy cream) that is ready within minutes. A crêpe one hopes it should be: savory, fresh, simple.
Owner and head chef, Ruth Hudin, signed the lease for Crêpes San Frontieres a year ago and set up shop a little over a month ago as the only restaurant in the Arcade Building. “I’ve been doing this for 10 years and from the beginning I wanted to do this the right way; the way they do it in France. A lot of French people come here and they… lose the French way. People are getting it, and they like the traditional way.” Hudin was adamant about keeping what she learned in Paris over her 16-year stay alive. “I want to make crêpes the traditional way. This is not a sophisticate plate in France. It’s very simple,” she says while pointing to the modest menu of items like La Complète (a crêpe stuffed with ham, egg, and cheese) or La Parisienne (a crêpe stuffed with mushroom, cheese, onions and tomatoes) or La Bresse (a crêpes stuffed with mushrooms, tomatoes and various cheeses). The dessert crêpes are as satisfying with ingredients like banana, coconut, whipped cream or lavender blossom and I’d be remiss not to mention the tubs of Nutella on the counter and shelves throughout the restaurant.
Hudin speaks with a thick Columbian/French accent about how she ended up at the Arcade Building. “I was at Pershing Square Farmers Market and a guy would come by all the time and told me about the Spring Arcade building.” She said that she was in the area during Art Walk and fell in love with the space because it reminded her of Parisian shops.
Hudin brought a Parisian influence to her restaurant by serving crêpes for every meal, just like they do in Paris. The crêpes at Crêpes San Frontieres are different from other places because Hudin uses a more nutritional whole wheat and buckwheat flour as opposed to the typical white flour.
Along with the restaurant, Hudin also caters serving her crêpes around L.A. County in her mobile kitchen catering second meal to movie and TV sets like Seven Pounds and Lie to Me. “It takes me two hours to set up when I do movie sets, but I don’t mind because it’s work and I love it.”
She credits her partner for helping her run a successful restaurant business and for allowing her to fulfill her passion of cooking. “I have to say I couldn’t do this without my partner which is my husband, my lover. He is always here doing things, helping me a lot. He doesn’t cook, but he’s always around. We’re a very good team,” she says with a smile on her face.
Hudin insists on infusing diversity into every aspect of Crêpes San Frontieres, even down to the staff. “We want this little place to be as international as the name—because ‘sans frontieres’ means without borders. All of our crew speak French, Spanish, Italian, and English.”
The appeal of freshly made crêpes is all it takes to get all levels of foodies inside of Crêpes Sans Frontieres, but Ms. Hudin’s hospitality and genuine eagerness makes everyone inside feel as if they’re dining in Paris.