Are you hungry for Hungary?

DOWNTOWN OLYMPIA: Paprika Café serves up full menu of savory and sweet crepes

craig.sailor@thenewstribune.comOctober 31, 2012 

If you name your restaurant after a spice you had better have a lot of it. And make it the good stuff.

During a trip to Europe last year, Kristi Dohring brought back seven kilos of paprika, a finely ground spice made from peppers. In July she opened Paprika Café in downtown Olympia. The core of her menu consists of crepes, sweet and savory.

Crepes and paprika?

The common theme between the two is Hungary. Both are popular there and Dohring is one generation removed from that Eastern European country. Her mother is Hungarian, her father German.

Born in Olympia, Dohring first learned to make crepes at the knee of her Hungarian grandmother.

“Anytime I would go over there she would make them for me,” Dohring said.

At the cafe she uses an unbleached wheat flour (buckwheat has not been very popular) to make the thin pancakes. She then adds thyme, chives and parsley for savory crepes or vanilla extract and sugar for dessert crepes.

“It’s a nice vehicle to put almost anything inside. It’s a great alternative to bread – it’s lighter,” Dohring said of crepes. Each crepe is made when ordered. She has vegan and gluten-free versions as well.

Dohring might be new to the restaurant business but not the food business. She’s run a catering service since 2006 and has sold her crepes at the Tumwater farmers market and at the downtown Tacoma farmers market for several years.

Paprika Café offers 10 savory crepes. The menu has offerings such as sauteed mushrooms, onions in a feta cream sauce, mozzarella and parmesan and fresh spinach ($7.75) and a pesto, herbed chicken, tomato, mozzarella and parmesan ($7.75).

But there are also more offbeat items such as a crepe that marries apples, brie, prosciutto and green onions ($7.75) and a salmon, green onion, cream cheese, smoked mozzarella and tomato crepe for $9.99.

Not interested in crepes? Each of the 10 savory crepes can be ordered on bread (as a panini) instead.

The menu – and specials board – features soup, salads, goulash and breakfast items.

No creperie’s dessert menu is complete without a Crepes Suzette or the modern classic with Nutella spread. Dohring has them both.

But she also has a chevre cheese with seasonal berries and honey version for $6.50. The cafe offers shakes and fresh fruit smoothies.

Dohring splits her time between the cafe and her catering business. She has a chef at the cafe, Steve Hardee, with 20 years of experience in the business.

Besides the crepes Dohring also learned to make Hungarian goulash from her mother and grandmother. It’s one of her best sellers, she said. Her recipes uses onions, peppers and tomatoes in a paprika base and includes pork, beef and more vegetables.

On Friday’s Dohring makes Chicken Paprikas at the cafe – tender pieces of chicken slowly cooked in a paprika crme sauce and served over homemade noodles (the Hungarian version of the German spaetzle.)

Dohring has started a brunch service on Sundays from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. It features eggs Benedict made to order, potatoes, bacon, sausage, fresh fruit, omelets and other standard breakfast options for $12.99.

The paprika Dohring uses in her cuisine is top grade. On her trip to Hungary last year with her husband she tried some of 38 varieties of the spice ranging from sweet to spicy. “It’s the national spice of Hungary,” she said. “You can just smell the paprika in the air it’s so prominent.”

Mesh bags full of drying peppers hang from house eves in Hungary, Dohring said. She made good contacts there who keep her in good supply, she said.

Dohring knows the location for Paprika Café has seen one restaurant after another come and go but she’s determined to break the chain of turnover that has plagued the corner of Franklin and Fourth Streets.

Dohring remodeled the space to give it a warmer, homier look and she has approval to install glass garage doors that will alloy dining in the building’s entryway.

Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541

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