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Nu Crepes 'Shaking it Up a Bit' on Schiller Court

No need to travel overseas to France, or back in time to Magic Pan, to find a healthy alternative any time of the day.

They thought they could pull a fast one, but we caught them.

Celebrating a "soft" opening last week, with little more fanfare than a Facebook post, a brand new restaurant opened in Elmhurst in a location that's quaint and off the beaten path, at 115 W. Schiller Court.

And you won't find anything else like it in town.

Nu Crepes has cornered the market on—you guessed it—crepes. Delightfully light, a little bit like a tortilla but nothing like a pancake, some locals may have fond memories of crepe deliciousness from Magic Pan, a popular restaurant chain in the '70s and '80s.

But some of the family members who own Nu Crepes in Elmhurst are too young to remember Magic Pan; they have put their own spin on this French treat.

"Certain people have this nostalgia about crepes," said co-owner Niall Martin, 25. "It takes them back to where they had one last, whether it's France or Magic Pan."

Niall, his brothers, Dylan and Connor, and his mom and dad, Diane and Brendan, are really the model for entrepreneurial families. Elmhurst residents since 1996, they've all worked together to bring the restaurant to fruition.

Niall earned a degree in finance from Bradley University in 2009, and within 16 days decided he wanted to open a creperie.

"I was going through the throws of 'What did I just do for the last four years?' " he said. "I don't want to wear a suit."

On a trip to Dublin, Ireland, of all places, he tasted a crepe that would set his future course.

"I loved it," he said. "It just clicked. One thing led to another. Each day I slept on it, and it grew on me a little more. I came home and told my parents I wanted to open a creperie. They were, needless to say, a little shocked. But from the beginning, they were very OK with it. They said, 'Let's see what we can do. Why don't you start making them?' "

So Niall did some research and made his own, signature batter. They started checking out competition and found there wasn't much. They tested their creations by making them at the Downers Grove farmers market Saturday mornings while still working their part-time jobs. Niall was a personal trainer at the YMCA, and his mom worked at Elmhurst Public Library.

"We like to cook. We all love food … and we just somehow found a niche," he said. "The beauty of a crepe is that it lends itself to everything."

They started with a ham and cheese crepe, and from that, the sky has been the limit. Nu Crepes' menu includes three categories: sweets, like Nutella, s'mores and lemon curd; savory, including barbecue chicken, veggie and maple-ginger sausage; and breakfast crepes, with eggs and anything you might find in an omelet.

"The crazier we get, the better flavors we find," Niall said. "The Campfire (s'mores) is better than the real deal, without the smoke."

And all the ingredients are fresh, locally sourced and, wherever possible, organic, Diane said.

"I would hear the stuff he was eating in college and oh, it was horrible," she said. "He used to call me up and ask, 'Mom, how do you make this and how do you make that?' He just jumped in and cooked for all the guys, and here we are."

With Elmhurst College nearby, she wants those students to have a healthy alternative, too. And with all crepes priced between $3 and $6.75, it's affordable, she said.

The idea is not "fast food," but rather a place to take a seat and slow down for a few minutes.

"It's fairly quick food that doesn't take long to make, but we want people to slow down, take a second and appreciate where you're at," Niall said. "It's a socially engaging environment, so while you wait the 5 or 6 minutes, you might talk to someone you wouldn't otherwise."

Adding to the charm is the major transformation underway at Nu Crepes' Schiller Court location. What used to be just an alleyway between York Road and Addison is being redefined as a small, retail row. The city of Elmhurst has refurbished the exterior with flower boxes and enticing entryways to potential businesses reminiscent of something you might see in San Francisco. The rest is up to the businesses.

Nu Crepes is the first business to take up residency here.

"We are the pioneers," Niall said.

It took a lot of work to build-out the space, which is below ground from the alley entrance.

"It was a complete build-out," Niall said. "It was awful in here, but we saw a lot of promise. Where some people saw fear and wanted to run, we jumped on it and went full steam ahead. It really turned out beyond our expectations—definitely not without a lot of hard work, and a lot of pain and suffering."

Continuing with the family theme, Brendan Martin even made all the wooden tables, benches and countertops by hand.

"Our dad is very crafty," Dylan Martin, 29, said.

There is a balcony on one side they hope will serve as a spot for live music. They also plan to rent the restaurant for private parties.

Nu Crepes, with its regular staff of four, is open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. The official grand opening will be this Saturday, Sept. 15.

"Crepes are good, but they shouldn't be taken too seriously," Niall said. "We don't have the credentials and professional training to back up a grand chef rating. We want to give something different to Elmhurst. We want to shake it up a bit. We're here to give you a completely fresh, new thing that you haven't seen."

Renee Gough September 12, 2012 at 03:38 AM
Fantastic! Congratulations to these young men who are creating something unique without a franchise. We are lucky to have 'em! Let's get out there and support these small business owners in Elmhurst.
Kevin O September 12, 2012 at 12:59 PM
I tried the crepes last week, they have a wide selection on the menu and everything was very tasty...reasonably priced as well. Good luck to this new business.
Silvia Maino September 15, 2012 at 09:27 AM
Congratulations! I'll be in today to try one of your famous crepes. Everyone here at Topiary Floral Designs in Elmhurst wish you all the best and thank you for the wonderful space you've created in the neighberhood. Silvia Maino
Kevin Martin September 15, 2012 at 07:10 PM
The breakfast crepes-chorizo and maple sausage- were delicious and huge. The Nu coffee is a real surprise and free with the takeaway crepe on the way to the train in the am. At 9 am on Saturday every table filled and people waiting, a true sign that this local hit is worth driving from the lakefront
Judy Jeske September 18, 2012 at 12:35 AM
I love crepes and these are very good. Foodies, try La France Café & Crêpes in Lombard for a more refined palette. The more creperies the better!
abe lincoln September 21, 2012 at 04:49 AM
Man I love this place. The Chicago Smog and the Veggie crepe are killer.
D L September 28, 2012 at 10:56 PM
Went to Nu Crepe's this afternoon. Awesome crepe's and very friendly family owners. Will visit often. Wishing them well and will tell everyone about it.

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