French fare, creperie, coffee house, gluten-free & vegan options, breakfast, brunch, located in the historic Summit Theater
Century old brick homes sit alongside minimalist modern houses in the Westside neighborhood along Summit Street. Just down the street from the Blue Bird Bistro and the Westside Local, and nestled in an 100-year-old brick and stone theater, you’ll find Kansas City’s own piece of Paris: Chez Elle Creperie and Coffeehouse. The massive old theater building is still inscribed with its original name “Summit.” The art deco-esque exterior and red-brick façade give the grand building a beginning-of-the-era look, juxtaposing its neighboring buildings of white concrete. On any given warm, sunny day in Kansas City, the front doors of Chez Elle are wide open to let fresh air flow throughout the building. The red patio table umbrellas add a bit of color to the washed-out sidewalks. A group of 20-somethings sip glasses of wine while casually eating strawberry crepes close by. The black, rounded French-style awnings adorn the front, while a line of people flood out of the front door waiting to order a homemade, fresh crepe filled with their favorite foods and toppings.
Owner Ellen Trakas first fell in love with crepes while living in France during college. Every corner had a crepe cart. When she opened Chez Elle, which translates to “over at her house,” a little more than five years ago, she wanted to give a welcoming, homey Parisian eatery to the Westside. The neighborhood, Kansas City’s oldest suburb dating back to the mid-1800s, is home to a wide variety of ethnicities and cultures. Diners can find anything from Chicharrones Tacos at the Los Alamos Market y Cocina or Tapas Calientes at La Bodega to the infamous Cheese Slipper from Fervere Bakery and Bread Studio. Chez Elle found a perfect home in the Westside, adding to its vibrant array of food establishments.
When Summit Theater opened in 1914, it played only black and white, silent films. “Talkies” didn’t come around until the late 1920s. The Summit Theater building was home to many other companies. Trakas said the theater closed in the late 1950s when it turned into a printing shop, then years later into an antique store until she bought it. The building had been renovated and changed before Trakas acquired it, but you can still see where the old box office was located in the lobby area. Inscribed in a pink, floral spiral notebook deemed “guest book,” and in between praises for Chez Elle from various guests, Robert Wehner wrote in an elegant, slanted cursive hand writing that only a grandparent can have. He recalled his visits to the Summit Theater most Saturdays when he was young in the 1930s to catch two movies and four cartoons for 10 cents with popcorn at a whooping three cents a bag. He also noted that every Friday there would be a spin-the-wheel game to win a box of cookies. The theater usually played second-rate movies, or “old westerns” after the big theaters no longer played them.
So what exactly is a crepe? In the most ‘merican description possible, it is a thin pancake omelet. A slightly sweet batter is poured over a “krampouz” crepe maker, essentially a circular griddle, until it is lightly cooked, then meats, veggies, fruits, sauces, chocolate, pretty much anything but the kitchen sink are tossed on top. Chez Elle has more than 30 flavors of crepes ranging from the savory and traditional Jambon (Black Forest ham, pesto, spinach, mozzarella cheese) or Tour Eiffel (smoked salmon, herbed cream cheese spread among other veggies) to the sweet Paris crepe (banana and Nutella) or the Au Chocolat (chocolate, le duh). Trakas said she uses more than a 100 pounds of flour to make thousands of crepes a week. They can make gluten-free or even vegan by using buckwheat flour, soy and oils instead of milk and eggs, per request. The most popular crepe, the Chez Elle, consists of roasted chicken breast, fresh sautéed mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, crisp spinach, mozzarella, homemade pesto and topped with marinara sauce. It tastes just a heavenly as it sounds—light and fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth goodness. If you’re not a crepe person, Chez Elle also offers a mix variety of salads, soups and baked goods and coffee.
Trakas proudly boasts that Chez Elle is the only creperie in Kansas City. Should another creperie come to our fair city, they’d be no competition for Chez Elle. Get on over to her house and see for yourself.