• Aimee Levitt
  • More than adequate compensation for a broken crepe machine

“Cafe créme” is supposed to be one of the most difficult basic things for an English speaker to say in French. Parisians are said to be highly offended by Americans’ failure to round their lips in the exact right way for the “r.” But nobody at this shabby-chic cafe on the Bucktown boutique strip will care if you don’t get it right: it’s French in name and a few menu items only. The cafe créme is actually Viennese, supplied by Julius Meinl.

But there are macarons in many colors, sandwiches that contain brie, and a full menu of cider, meant to go with crepes. Unfortunately, the crepe machine was busted on the day I visited, so I had to settle for French toast. Which wasn’t really a gallant, self-sacrificing gesture at all: it was just crisp enough on the outside, and came smothered in caramel, chocolate, and peanut butter and garnished with bananas and peanuts. It was more American overkill than French decadence, but I was totally OK with that.

Service was slow—or, if you prefer, the staff encourages you to linger, with endless refills of hot, fresh coffee. It was raining, so I did. It’s a comfortable place, even though the music selection is like a playlist from a bad classic rock station (hello, “Hotel California”!) and is too loud to allow for serious eavesdropping.

Cafe Creme, 1721 N. Damen, 773-342-6000, cafecremechicago.com