Wednesday, August 10, 2005


oh snap.

so i hopped off the circulator bus and was walking down the quiet canal roads of lower Georgetown in the Loews Theatre part of town, conveniently in my favorite forgotten neck of the woods with some time to spare. it was a dreary summer dc afternoon, perfect day for some comfort food and hospitality when all of the sudden, as if it heard my request, there it was..

a creperie meets bubble teahouse named snap came to the surface of the red brick alleyway. the sterile white paint job, beaming lights and charming lowercase font were almost as striking as its innovative combination. how come we didn’t think of this before? the menu contained both “savory” and “sweet” crepes with a diverse line-up of fillings—chicken guacamole, spicy thai tuna, white chocolate peanut butter, red bean paste, mint chocolate chips, surely unique enough to wow even the French.

the well-lit ice cream parlor set-up and plastic plates makes snap approachable and funky, inviting and exhilarating all at the same time. something about its novelty or perfect location just opposite a retired but still-floating Georgetown canal ferry, makes it an unavoidable distraction. it has an attitude all its own-- something about it screamed, "step aside world and make way for me."

at this point i realized that as a washingtonian, georgetowner and, above all else, a foodie, it was time to act responsibly--to notify the masses of this hidden gem and realize that for at least now, it was my role to share with the dc world the softspoken cuisine that exists all around. these places--large and small, here or there, young and old, spunky or traditional— have details and intricacies that must be explored.

aptly titled snap, the crepe and bubble tea shop is a bit of a surprise in the enchanting lower-M Street canal land of Georgetown. it hits you out of nowhere, or more like taps you, and sits in the midst of nouveau office buildings and brick facade townhouses. just like a snap, it's petite yet rousing, sure to grab the attention of any daydreamer with it's quiet yet abounding spark.

a freshly-typed "now hiring" sign decorates the window and an inviting but enigmatic glow bleeds from the open door. i finally come to my senses and realize that i have been entranced by the menu from the sidewalk long enough for them to notice. the owner carries cheeses just picked up from Costco, welcoming me inside as if it was her home. i place my order and the eleven-year-old son manning the cash register asks for cash or credit, with maturity and an enchanting European accent. two smiling high-school girls from The Field school begin making my dessert crepe with orange marmalade, fresh to order.

the crepe fillings are anything but boring--from the somewhat predictable nutella to the more glamorous date and pistachio spread-- and the bubble tea is just what this hotspot neighborhood needs. the big straws and at first, frightfully large and slimy tapioca balls, make the dining experience more of a childhood game than a chore, just the way it should be. the shotgun style former townhouse allows for an open backyard twice the length of the indoor shop. dressed with overgrown ivy and metallic silver tables that would go perfect with Christmas-style twinkle lights.

the menu is pretty straight-forward-- french pancakes and tapioca bubble tea-- but each item contains multitudes. the best of orange marmalades, dundee brand of course, and the finest of vegetables in the veggie and cheese crepe-- grilled onions, asparagus, spinach and mushroom. the bubble teas are equally as creative with choices like almond and taro milk tea (coffee latte is the son’s favorite), green apple or honey flavored teas and even bubble smoothies in strawberry, mango or kiwi. if that’s not enough, topping options include coffee, green tea or mixed fruit jellies and one more, mint syrup.

take pleasure in the fact that so much innovation and creativity was put into every bite-- only the finest of ingredients like imported jams in the sweet crepes and Italian sodas fill the cooler. the chestnut spread is still unavailable because the Brooklyn supplier doesn't have a shipping truck available, but settling for second best isn't in owner Margarita's vocabulary. she’ll wait but asked me just in case, “do you know anyone heading back from that direction?” she's giving the tuna nicoise crepe another go even though it hasn't picked up just quite yet, and she's giving this project a brave new start even though Georgetown hasn't seen anything like it, at least not during my two year history.

i always wondered why georgetown didn't have a bubble teahouse before--for those unfamiliar, bubble tea consists of sweetened teas or fruity drinks with black gummy balls called "pearls" or "bubbles" that sit at the bottom of the cup, usually 7 millimeters in diameter.

california jumped on the bubble tea bandwagon long ago, especially in neighborhoods surrounding the UC schools. most youthful districts have a bubble teahouse or two, but Washington seems to be slow-moving on this trend. the only place in Georgetown selling bubble tea to my knowledge is Grace Bamboo, but the pricey Chinese restaurant does not cater to frugal students looking for happening hang-outs and caffeinated beverages to match.

the same goes for a lack of quick creperie shops. nothing wrong with Cafe Bonaparte—it has the whole flower pot sidewalk parisian café charisma, but it's a bit less welcoming and well, a bit more traditional. you give your waiter the order, they disappear into some backdoor kitchen abyss and conversations later, the mystical creation appears Big Bang Theory style. it lacks the made-to-order walk-up appeal that Chipotle and snap can offer, and more than that, it lacks creativity or spunk.

perhaps this will lose me some foodie points but the truth is, i am a chipotle nut. on average, we're looking at about 3 chicken bowls per week and it never veers from The Order– chicken, black beans, grilled peppers, extra tomato salsa, extra corn salsa, lettuce, and guacamole if I’ve been good—but this weekly ritual is another entry in and of itself.

point is, chipotle is a comfort food partly because there is control over what goes into the order. people like watching their food be prepared in front of them—maybe we're all control freaks, want to gauge the freshness, or ensure that no one spat into our food. part of chipotle’s charm is being able to follow your personalized concoction as it travels behind the glass and into your hands faster than you can say, “$1.50 for quac?”

snap is a goldmine waiting to happen. every college town has their quiet yet buzzing alternative hang-out spot, but georgetown seems behind in this department. it's the kind of place you show off to visiting friends and it's charm and attention to detail bring you back time and again. it’s not overly priced (in this case, just $4-5.50 for “savory crepes,” $3.50 for “sweet crepes” and $3.75 for bubble teas) and it’s just enough to qualify as a "meal" or "snack." whether you're in the mood to soak in the backyard luster of rising fireflies or have your foil-wrapped steaming pancake on-the-go (in-a-snap?), this young creperie meets bubble teahouse is nothing but magical.

snap is located at 1062 thomas Jefferson, NW, the first right after M Street’s Barnes and Nobles, halfway between Georgetown and George Washington University.


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