Just west of Albuquerque’s intellectual bellybutton—that would be the 400 block of Downtown Central, obviously—The Market @ 610 opened in November. It’s the sort of flea-market-style mall you find east of Nob Hill’s summit. The large space is about half-full of independent contractors hawking everything from incense sticks to furniture.
If you take a left at the cashier and go past a collection of tanning beds waiting to be installed, you’ll see a man standing behind a waist-high counter looking a bit like a casino blackjack dealer. That’s Christopher Raven, the chef and owner of Crêpe Central. Before him are two crepe griddles.
Crepes, for their simplicity, offer nearly limitless possibilities. Raven has two batters, and dozens of sweet and savory sauces and fillings. His operation is so elemental that it could probably fit on a bicycle-drawn cart, and it makes his closet-sized kitchen seem roomy in comparison. Raven learned about crepes in Paris a few years back while helping his parents set up a string of Tex-Mex restaurants there.
You’ll see a man standing behind a waist-high counter, looking a bit like a casino blackjack dealer. That’s Christopher Raven, the chef and owner of Crêpe Central. Before him are two crepe griddles.
I ordered two crepes, one savory and one sweet, making use of the build-your-own option in both cases. There are several recommended formulations on the menu as well. My main course was a wheat batter crepe with spinach, bacon, olives, red peppers and harissa. When the batter was set and golden, he folded the crepe’s four sides into a square, cut it in half, and voilà: an elegant but unfussy presentation.
The batter is thinner than at other places around town, which shifts the emphasis to what’s inside. My crepe came together beautifully and was quickly devoured. If I were to do it again, I would have added some of Raven’s béchamel sauce, which I sampled after the fact. It was thick but light, with an ethereal touch of nutmeg.
For dessert, I chose a gluten-free buckwheat batter, filled with banana slices and maple syrup and drizzled with a house-invented apple cider vinegar reduction. The buckwheat pancake had more flavor and fiber than the wheat, and the body was less silky. And then it too was gone. Together, the crepes set me back $11 (cash-only), and they kept me full for a good while.
While Raven runs a lean operation, he tries not to cut corners where it matters. Much of his dairy and some of his fillings are organic. Everything would be, he told me, if his customers demanded it. An aspiring backyard chicken farmer, he used to offer an organic egg option for 50 cents more. But he didn’t sell a single one, he says.
Business on the whole has not been brisk, he told me. He’s counting on vendors to bring in traffic. Here’s hoping his lighter-than-air béchamel sauce can keep the fledgling market afloat.