by Eric Ginsburg
I looked over at my friend Ruth as we scrunched on stools by the front window, a strawberry drizzled crepe covered in powdered sugar and topped with blackberries on the counter between us, and saw a huge grin overtake her face.
“I’m so happy right now,” she said, or at least I’m pretty sure those were the words she tried to form with a large bite still in her mouth.
Crepes earned an early spot among my favorites, thanks to my Belgian next-door neighbors and my mom’s ability to make the thin pancakes. But even without any sort of personal tie, the sweet treats figure prominently in our collective dessert fantasies, probably thanks to widely accessible filling options including a magical chocolate spread known as Nutella.
Yet there’s only one institution in the Triad that is wholly dedicated to crepes, and it’s in one of the least likely places.
The fact that Penny Path Café is open — and is growing, even — in downtown High Point, an area that mostly forgets how to breathe except for two weeks a year, is no small feat. That’s why, when WFDD host Neal Charnoff asked me what’s exciting about High Point restaurants in an interview that aired last week, I immediately offered up the crepe joint.
And that’s when I realized: I’ve been so focused on discovering new places in the Third City that I had never actually been to Miro Buzov’s restaurant.
Plenty of other people have been going; as 1 p.m. approached on Sunday, a small wait assembled just as someone turned on some music and a funk groove kicked in. Part of that is due to the public radio shoutout, Buzov said when he took a break from the kitchen to introduce himself after a loyal customer pointed me out. But Penny Path does steady business anyway, especially on weekends.
It’s has been around for two years already — that’s about how long it takes for news to trickle out of downtown High Point and into the surrounding cities. And Buzov is planning to expand into a small adjacent storefront to allow for a full kitchen and more booths.
Winston-Salem has been trying to recruit him for about eight months, Buzov said, and this week he’s going to check out a space downtown he’s been eying. If it works out — and it’s clear Buzov really wants it to — there will be a second Penny Path location, identical to the first. And hopefully one day, he said, a third crepe shop in downtown Greensboro.
The whole menu here is crepes, including a handful of savory options including a brie crepe and a pizza crepe. The magnum opus on this side of the menu is the Kitchen Sink, a cacophony of every ingredient in the house — we’re talking artichoke hearts, corn, mushrooms, hummus, and so on.
It’s the most expensive item on the menu at $8.75, and is substantial enough to be a standalone entrée.
The crepe itself, normally a fickle beast, is a little thicker here than I’m used to, meaning that it’s possible to actually pick up the Kitchen Sink and eat it with your hands without worrying that the shell will crack or spring a leak.
Even before Buzov offered to whip up an off-menu sweet crepe for us, our eyes had drifted to the sweet side of the menu. Nothing against the Kitchen Sink — several people around us, sitting at the long bar and three booths, ordered it as well — but the separate pages of the menu might as well be different worlds.
There’s the Sweet Special: white chocolate macadamia nut, cookie dough, cinnamon, candied almonds and Nutella. Peaches, Suzette butter, Mandarin oranges, fruit cheesecake and apples come in others. Or there’s one, the Plain & Fancy, for just $3.60.
None of the crepes have eggs; go somewhere else and order a breakfast burrito if that’s what you’re looking for. The same goes for meat. But who needs it?
There are more than enough sweet and savory options to come regularly and switch it up, but try asking Buzov to make whatever he wants. In this case, the server arrived with a stuffed crepe, oozing with Biscoff European cookie spread and packed with strawberries and chocolate.
Ruth slapped her knee for emphasis as we took turns trading bites, and she was right — this stuff is fantastic. Everything else I ate for the rest of the day just felt like a cruel joke.
Analyzing credit-card data, Buzov says he can tell that many of his customers drive in from out of town: first Winston-Salem and then Greensboro, followed by outlying towns, each one accounting for more sales than those from people living in High Point ZIP codes.
But he isn’t just pulling from one demographic — say the Emerywood or Irving Park residents of the world, or hip twentysomethings, or a European immigrant community. The crowd is diverse in every meaning of the term, eclectic even, which makes sense: Crepes are a common denominator.
That’s why it isn’t surprising that Penny Path survives, like a crack in the pavement ushering new life, in the doldrums of downtown High Point.
Visit Penny Path Café & Crepe Shop at 104 E. Kivett Drive (HP) or call 336.821.2925.