At Whisk Crêpes, a Parisian Honors His Hometown Through Food

FLUCTUAT NEC MERGITUR. The menu has been erased from Whisk Crêpes’ chalkboard, replaced by this defiant Latin phrase, written all in capital letters. It was originally the motto of French riverboat traders, and is now the motto of the city of Paris, meaning, roughly, “She is tossed by the waves, but does not sink.” These words have become a rallying cry for Paris as the city faces another storm, yet refuses to sink.

The chalkboard is a show of solidarity from Whisk Crêpes owner Julien Eelsen, a Paris native who moved to the United States in 2008. His family and friends are safe, but not everyone he knows is so lucky. “You always know someone who had a close one disappear,” Eelsen says, including a neighbor of his in Dallas. “It touches everyone.” Thus the silent tribute on the blackboard.

Whisk has been a tribute to Eelsen’s hometown since it opened in the fall, a petite slice of Paris nestled in Dallas’ Sylvan Thirty development. The chef-owner explains: “I grew up on crêpes. When you’re a kid in France you eat a crêpe like once a week.”

Whisk Crêpes is serving the kind of light lunches you’d enjoy at a French café with a cup of coffee and an hour of people-watching. Their crêpes, made with traditional buckwheat flour, are carefully formed on special cooktops and filled with classic combos like ham and cheese, along with a slate of breakfast options.

For specialty crêpes, Eelsen and his crew cheat a little bit. A prosciutto, fig, arugula crêpe comes with its ingredients piled on top like a salad. Admittedly, it is both beautifully plated and delicious. The combination of prosciutto, fig, balsamic drizzle and chopped hazelnuts speaks to the staff’s elegant tastes. But that dish is, alas, already gone: Each special is seasonal and can last a few weeks to a month. Eelsen says the menu “depends on the season, depends on our desire to create, depends on feedback from the customers.”

Some creations are inspired by “local ingredients and local recipes.” One current special combines barbecued pork and queso fresco. Even the Nutella crêpe, a European staple, is topped with chopped local pecans, for, Eelsen says, “the best of France and the best of Texas.” And twice weekly he visits his neighbors, CiboDivino Marketplace, to arrange for custom-smoked meats. “That is as local as it gets.”

There may yet be hurdles before Texans adopt the crêpe wholeheartedly. One is children: At the counter one Sunday, a mother tells her confused kids, “It’s a different kind of grilled cheese sandwich,” and the kids shout “Grilled cheese!” Another is portion size: Whisk Crêpes offers healthy plates that stop before you feel too full. Of course, at some Paris crêperies (like the divine Le Crepuscule, on Rue Amelie near the Eiffel Tower), lunch includes both a savory dish and a sweet one for dessert. There’s nothing stopping you from doing the same thing at Whisk. Nutella and pecans beckon.

The final challenge Whisk faces? The word “crêpe” itself. The French rhyme it with “schlep,” not with “tape.” But Eelsen doesn’t sweat pronunciation. No matter how you order your meal, he vows, “I’m very cool with that.” So order with confidence, dig into a scrumptious light lunch and imagine you’re at a café in Paris. The people-watching awaits.
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Brian Reinhart has been the Dallas Observer's food critic since spring 2016. In addition, he writes baseball analysis for the Hardball Times and covers classical music for the Observer and MusicWeb International.
Contact: Brian Reinhart

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