You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myAJC.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myAJC.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myAJC.com.

Review: Pauley’s Crepe Bar wins only on nostalgia


College towns are the best at taking something random and making it an institution, especially when that randomness is edible.

Take a place called Pauley’s, which took Athens by storm in 2008. It stayed open until 2 a.m. and had a 10-yard-long local beer list.

The food at the heart of this joint’s menu? Crepes. And not some crispy, handheld, might-as-well-be-a-pizza-slice crepe either, but a super-stuffed pancake, fetchingly folded, sauce-drizzled and demanding of plate, knife and fork.

A crepe seems about as likely a post-kegger nosh as escargots, but, sure enough, Pauley’s Crepe Bar caught on. Eight years later, it seems University of Georgia grads get all misty-eyed when they reminisce about their late nights there.

So it makes perfect sense that Pauley’s has opened an Atlanta outpost in west Midtown, where it’s likely a fair number of those grads are slaving away at their starter jobs.

Despite its vast, slick, modern interior — vertical subway tile, floor-to-ceiling windows and flashing flat screens everywhere — nostalgia is Pauley’s driving force. Our server on a recent Saturday evening was a young UGA grad who described for us an iconic dip spiked with the Athens-brewed Terrapin beer.

“The chef tried to make it with an Atlanta beer,” she said, “but it just didn’t taste right, so we had to go with the Terrapin.”

This story, alas, was more charming than the dip itself. The thick, pale pink dollop of cream cheese tasted like … cream cheese. And nothing else. There was nary a hint of beery depth or any other seasoning.

As it turned out, that blah dip was one of the best things we ate that night.

The Cuban sandwich was pretty good. It didn’t have the elements that I think make a Cuban great. It wasn’t melty and melded and smoke-scented and bright. But all the components — yellow mustard, pickles, loosely layered meats — were just fine. The bread was a ciabatta, which is sacrilegious with a Cuban, but it was tasty. And we loved the crunch of the shoestring potatoes tucked into the sandwich.

But, now, to the crepes. We tried several different flavors. Each was unhappy in much the same way, built as it was on a foundation of thick, chewy and tasteless pancake. In one case, the crepe was composed of cornbread, but that didn’t help matters. What could have been a clever Southern variation was as dry, bland and pointless as its white-flour counterpart.

Of course, crepes are really defined by their innards. But, at Pauley’s, those were often worse than the shells.

That cornbread crepe, for instance, was stuffed with immense cubes of ham that were dry and flavorless. Along with these unappetizing chunks were small shrimp, which were fine, a few jalapenos that added a little kick, and a thick layer of melted Swiss gluing it all together. The peppers and shellfish couldn’t save this ship, nor could the large cup of more-sugar-than-spice jezebel pepper jelly on the side.

Overcooked chicken chunks came inside the Buffalo chicken crepe. It takes more than a bath of bright red hot sauce to earn the “Buffalo” moniker, but that’s the only effort that Pauley’s put into this dish beyond a drizzle of ranch that was lost in all that one-note heat.

In the smoked brisket crepe, we finally got some flavor — a hint of smoke and a sweet heap of caramelized onions. But the beef was scanty and so larded that some bits were nothing but fat. With it came another nonsensical sauce: “horseradish barbecue,” which tasted exactly like cocktail sauce and might have been better suited to the shrimp crepe.

Even our s’mores dessert crepe fell flat. Piped full of marshmallow fluff, drizzled with chocolate “ganache” that had a bottled-syrup cloy to it, this was a dish that needed its pancake to be sweet and light and crisp-edged. It didn’t get it.

But Pauley’s is a watering hole at heart. Every table is a high-top and the wraparound bar is stunningly long. So, maybe the trick here is to lighten up and stick to apps? We ordered the veggie meatballs because our server gushed about them. They were a breadcrumby mush nested in overly acidic tomato sauce.

We had already sampled lemon yogurt-accented red bean falafel in a crepe, but the falafel also comes as a starter. Like the meatballs, it was mushy, this time with beans that added more bitterness than flavor. (This dish actually tasted best in crepe form, when the falafel was masked by a nice heap of fresh veg and feta.)

So, why go to Pauleys Crepe Bar? Go for the social swarm of happy hour. Go for the swanky real estate that makes it an automatically hip hangout. Go for the expansive list of local beers. And, if you went to the original Pauley’s as a student, go for the those-were-the-days nostalgia. Let’s not forget, this neighborhood down the road from Georgia Tech is a college town, too, where new Pauley’s memories are ripe to be made, regardless of the grub.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Food

Good food in economy? Six airlines are making it happen
Good food in economy? Six airlines are making it happen

Is it really possible for economy passengers on long-haul flights to look forward to the in-flight food? Now, on some airlines, that answer may be a “yes.” While back-of-the-plane cuisine doesn’t exactly have a reputation for being appetizing, and amenities for economy flyers are increasingly few and far between, several carriers...
In Miami, working fresh local ingredients into Indian dishes
In Miami, working fresh local ingredients into Indian dishes

To eat Latin American or Caribbean food in Miami feels utterly natural, not just because South Florida is so deeply infused with those cultures but also because the flavors and ingredients in those cuisines are a perfect fit for the region’s tropical environment. Niven Patel, a chef and Florida native, aims to add another cuisine to those, one...
Plugging a watermelon with vodka ruins both. There's a better way.
Plugging a watermelon with vodka ruins both. There's a better way.

A friend of mine recently told me about a time in college when she and her buds decided to throw an end-of-year party in the picnic area near their dorm. Most of them were still slightly underage, so openly bringing six-packs of beer was a recipe for trouble. But they were college kids, majoring in liberal arts and minoring in high jinks. There was...
A blackberry farm chef goes for a broader audience
A blackberry farm chef goes for a broader audience

A big smile broke out on the chef Joseph Lenn’s face when an elderly woman with a cloud of platinum hair burst through the door and waved excitedly at him. “That’s Mary Evelyn,” he said. “I’m pretty sure I’m related to her. I’ll have to call my mom later and ask her how.” Lenn, 40, has been cooking...
McDonald's ends four-decade Olympics sponsorship
McDonald's ends four-decade Olympics sponsorship

Citing a decision to "focus on different priorities," McDonald's announced on Friday it will no longer sponsor the Olympics. "We have been proud to support the Olympic Movement, and we thank our customers and staff, the spectators, athletes and officials, as well as the [International Olympic Committee] and local Olympics Games organizing...
More Stories