Over the weekend my dear friend Holly and I were texting back and forth about how much we miss seeing one another, so we decided to meet for lunch this week. After a surprisingly short game of dueling datebooks, we landed on Thursday (today).
Since Jeff had invited me to try a new crepe restaurant in Harrisburg for lunch one day this week, I thought I’d combine both dates and hang out with both Jeff and Holly at lunchtime today. I love it when a plan comes together!
We decided to meet on the early side of the lunch “hour” and it’s a good thing we did. Au Bon Lieu – on Third Street in Harrisburg – is tiny. There are only 6 small tables inside and 2 even smaller tables outside. Jeff and I arrived at about 11:50 and there were only two tables available. We snagged the one in the window and waited while Holly found a parking place.
While we waited, the owner (at least I assumed he was the owner), brought our menus over and gave us a little overview of how things work at Au Bon Lieu – he recommended that for two people we order two savory crepes and one sweet crepe. On a small bar at the right of the restaurant, were coffee and tea. Water is self-serve in a pitcher on the counter and canned sodas (ugh….I am admittedly a soda snob and LOVE fountain sodas – I rarely drink a soda from a can) are also available.
To make things quite easy, one side of the menu contains the savory crepe offerings and the other side contains the sweet crepe offerings. We were instructed to write the number of each crepe (along with any corresponding selections) we wanted to order on a ticket that was left on our table. And so we did.
I brought our order up to the counter and asked if I could photograph the crepe-making process. While we were waiting for our food I took some pics and we talked….and talked…..and talked. Fortunately we had a lot of catching up to do because it took a LLLOOONNNGGG time to get our food. There is only one person making crepes and two crepe burners. It is a slow process. I would imagine in Europe people are used to such a long wait. In Harrisburg, PA, however, the lunch hour for most people is really just an hour and is likely not enough time to visit Au Bon Lieu.
Our savory crepes were delivered first and after each tasting all three crepes we all agreed that they could use more seasoning. Knowing what I know about the decadence of French cooking, I expected rich, yummy fillings; but the fillings were simpler and lighter than I had anticipated – but not in a good way. While the crepes were good, they were not great.
The sweet crepes, however, did not disappoint. We ordered one Belgian chocolate and banana crepe, one orange marmalade and Brie crepe, and one raspberry jam and Belgian chocolate crepe with fresh fruit topping. Oh….my….goodness…….mmm mmm mmm! The sweet crepes were fantastic.
The service was slow – not just because of the slow crepe making process, but also because the lone waitress was hobbling. She explained in a somewhat awkward interruption of our conversation, that she had injured her foot over the weekend.
The decor was very simple, but not in a purposeful way. The one touch I did like was the chalkboard top on our table and the small dish of chalk that called my name and invited me to scribble. The restaurant was also quite warm [read HOT]. A ceiling fan or two would go a long way to making up for the lack of air conditioning. Considering the outside temp today was only 75 degrees, I am frightened by the idea of dining at Au Bon Lieu in July or August.
Overall, I’d say our dining experience was OK. It wasn’t the worst place I’ve ever been, but it was not by far the best. Were it not for the sweet crepes and a conversation with my hair stylist later in the day indicating that she really enjoyed her visit, I probably would not consider a return trip. The rating for Au Bon Lieu on yelp.com was 4.5 out of 5 stars; I respectfully disagree.
But, regardless of the food, the service, and/or the temperature, I can have fun with Holly and Jeff ANYWHERE. There are always plenty of laughs and no lull in the conversation. And we can make the best of any situation! So while the restaurant was not a winner, lunch with friends (and spouses) ALWAYS is!!!