Dining Out: Mon Ami, the crepe shop around the corner

Uptown Village eatery is a friendly, informal spot

By Courtney Sherwood, Columbian freelance writer

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Why: You could drive across town to Mon Ami for its Stumptown coffee and crepes, and you’d come away with a satisfied palate.

But that’s really not the whole point of this funky Uptown Village eatery. Mon Ami is the kind of neighborhood hangout that it feels good to live near.

During the week, it draws families with young children, telecommuters looking for free Wi-Fi Internet, hungry neighbors in search of a bite. On the first Friday of each month, it opens its doors in the evening for art lovers on Vancouver’s First Friday Art Walk. And on Sundays it appeals to the brunch crowd, with waffles alongside its sweet breakfast crepes.

In a neighborhood known for its fun and friendly small-business atmosphere, Mon Ami fits right in. And for folks who like to dine close to home, it offers a quick breakfast, lunch or snack in a welcoming environment.

Atmosphere: Scan hanging chalk menus and eye the pastry case before placing your order at the counter. Skilled baristas will show off their latte art abilities, then pour a round of batter for a fresh crepe. While you wait, you may want to scan the walls for works by Vancouver artists on the walls, eye a poster for a home-grown Clark County band, or consider the rainbow array of colorful T-shirts offered up for sale.

When you grab your seat you can choose from among the mismatched chairs and tables — funky, but also reasonably comfortable. Maybe pick up some free reading material, or strike up a conversation with others who’ve stopped by.

This is an informal place, where diners are expected to fill their own water cups from a jug and bus their dishes when they’re done.

What I tried: I made a lunch of The Veggie, a savory crepe, with the sweet PB & Jam for dessert. To wash it all down: a hot mug of Dragonfly Chai.

The strong spices of the chai were a pleasant — though almost shocking — departure from the mild sweet milky tea most coffee shops serve. I could feel the nutmeg, cinnamon and clove as I washed back the nicely foamed beverage. It was still sweet, but far more interesting than I’ve come to expect. I’ll definitely be going back for more.

The Veggie contains cooked baby spinach, tomatoes, and your choice of cheese — brie and feta are the most popular, and I opted for brie. It’s served sliced into two triangles on a plate with mixed dark greens in a simple olive oil and vinegar dressing. The greens were fine, and the dressing was a nice touch, but I’m not a salad person — I was here for the crepe. Slices of brie were melted perfectly with the fresh juicy tomato and lightly cooked spinach. The textures and flavors complemented one another well within the warm, spongy crepe.

For the PB & Jam, I chose raspberry jam. The sweet crepe was served folded into a square and dusted with powdered sugar. The peanut butter had melted and swirled with the jam, and biting into the crepe felt like biting into a fruity, smooth river of flavor. It was surprisingly rich, and filled me up even faster than The Veggie’s brie.

Highlights beyond what I tried: The Veggie is a relatively light meal, on its own. If you’re looking to get full, I suggest trying a heartier option — perhaps the Ham, Pear and Brie, or the Smoked Salmon — or else do what I did and order a sweet crepe for dessert.

Gluten-free crepe batter is available on request, and vegetarians can substitute spinach for meat in any of the crepes.

If you go later in the afternoon, Mon Ami serves beer and wine selections. And don’t forget those Sunday waffles.

Other observations: I’ve always found a place to sit, but if you show up during a busy period you may have to wait a while. Most of the tables have room for two, and there are only a handful of options for larger groups.

Cost: Sweet crepes are $3.70-$5.50, savory crepes run $6-$6.70. Coffees and espresso drinks vary, topping out at $3.70, though you can always pay more for extras.

Hours: 7:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday; 7:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Where: 1906 Main St., Vancouver.

Information: 360-750-5693 or http://monamicoffee.com.

Health score: Mon Ami received a 5 on its most recent health inspection, on June 27. Zero is a perfect score. Clark County Public Health closes restaurants that score 100 or higher. For information, call 360-397-8428.