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Dine 24/7 at Crave Cafe in Sherman Oaks

Posted By Karen Young On February 22, 2010 @ 12:09 am In Breakfast,Budget Dining,Cuisine,Dinner,Eat,Featured,Food,Lunch,My Daily Find,Restaurants,spotlight | 4 Comments

rachelheller1BY RACHEL HELLER

It’s almost midnight on a Friday in Sherman Oaks, and you’re feeling peckish. Where to go? Scores of savvy Valley denizens already know. Ambling into the bright Ventura Blvd. storefront of Crave Café in the wee morning hours, you’ll find a sight for sore eyes: to the right, a pair of pepper-haired gentlemen share roast beef and veggie paninis; to the left, a group of hipster friends gobble down banana pancakes and Frosted Mini-Wheats. You name it, Crave will serve it up – 24 hours a day.

So what, you think, just another glorified diner? Not even close. Crave’s expansive chalkboard menu is eclectic and gourmet, with reasonably-priced sandwiches, salads, omelets and crepes (both savory and sweet), not to mention a bakery case of cakes and cookies, their own made-to-order blended coffee drinks, and – gasp! – a full self-serve fro-yo bar. Try to get all of that anywhere else in town at 2 a.m.

Crepe. Photos: Rachel Heller

Strawberry and Banana Crepe with Nutella. Photos: Rachel Heller

My first trip to Crave was during their busy lunchtime hours, to try the café’s semi-namesake – the crepes. Theirs are light and fluffy and perfectly sweet, yet strong enough to stand up to the generous portions of mouth-watering ingredients they fill them with. Try the Italian Veggie ($6.50), with tomato, basil, mozzarella and mushrooms, or the filling Greek ($6.50), with spinach, feta cheese mushrooms and red onion. There’s also a hearty Grilled Chicken Crepe ($7), a Lox Crepe ($7.50), and an option to create your own. Order at the counter and then grab a table while waiting for Crave’s friendly servers to bring your meal – spots on the patio go fast!

Crave in Sherman Oaks is open all night.

Crave at Van Nuys and Ventura in Sherman Oaks is open all night.

Got a sweet tooth? Love Nutella (and who doesn’t)? Crave’s dessert crepes are built to satisfy. You won’t find paltry, saucer-sized confections here – these crepes are large and may require help to finish after a full meal. Indulge in Strawberry and Nutella ($6), Banana and Nutella ($6), or a combo of both ($7). If you’re looking for lighter fare, go for the plain crepe ($4), a heavenly mix of butter and sugar that ends any meal on just the right note.

Owner Abe Dalu opened Crave a year ago in February, and has watched the café become a neighborhood favorite since then. The decision to keep the establishment open 24-hours about four months ago has only solidified the spot’s success.

Panini.

Roast Beef Panini.

“When we first started out, I just wanted this to be a coffee shop, plain and simple,” said Dalu, who also owns nearby Mediterranean hotspot The Pita Kitchen, on a recent afternoon. “But it ended up being a lot more. We started with crepes, then went to paninis, and then salads. Now it’s a place where you can come in and get basically anything, at any time.”

True to his original coffee house vision, Dalu offers high-end European coffees ($1.25-$3.55) as well as an assortment of blended frozen cappuccino drinks ($3.45-$4.30) yummy enough to rival you-know-where. But Crave also whips up refreshing fruit smoothies and offers Italian sodas, European bottled waters and juices for a well-rounded beverage section.

Salad.

Tuna Salad.

It’s hard to top a good crepe for lunch, but a perfectly grilled Panini is good competition. The Roast Beef Panini ($6.50) comes piled high with juicy meat, a choice of cheese and roasted red peppers. The Turkey ($6) is savory with lettuce, tomato and sprouts – and add Crave’s tangy pesto spread for extra zing.

On my second visit, I was only marginally hungry and ordered a salad – usually a safe choice for a mid-sized snack, right? Not here. Crave’s salads come in bowls big enough to sit in. My favorite is the Tuna Salad (one of the priciest items on the menu at $8.50), which features a heaping scoop of light-on-the-mayo tuna atop baby greens, red onion, tomato, olives and garbanzo beans, with crisp, toasted French bread. The café does a different take on the usual Spinach Salad ($7.50), with carrots, sweet corn and walnuts in a sweet vinaigrette.

Omelet.

Make-your-own omelet.

If it’s breakfast you want, you’re in luck – Crave’s chefs serve up omelets, pancakes and yes, even bowls of cereal, all day long. The fluffy Banana Pancakes ($5) are light and delicious, and you can even choose buttermilk or whole wheat batter. Their omelets, like almost everything else, are huge. Build your own for $8, and choose between tomato salad, cottage cheese or lightly fried hash brown cakes on the side.

There are plenty of snacks to grab on-the-go – check out the dessert case for a tempting array of chocolate and carrot cakes, rice pudding, tiramisu, quiches, cookies and heavenly red velvet cupcakes, or mosey over to their self-serve frozen yogurt bar, a real treat at 35¢ per ounce.

Dessert counter.

Bakery Case.

But the real pull of Crave is that the casual, comfy ambiance makes you want to stay there, even long past your last sip of coffee, curled up with your laptop (and taking advantage of the free WiFi!) on a cozy leather couch inside, or out on the patio with friends, lounging in the breeze. And with its convenient location on the edge of the pedestrian-friendly Sherman Oaks Village area, it’s a great place to unwind after perusing the racks at Scandalo (another “my daily find”) or scouring the shelves at Borders.

If you haven’t been, take a friend and check it out – Crave is fast becoming a true local gem.

Crave Café is located at 14504 Ventura Blvd. (at Van Nuys Blvd.), Sherman Oaks, 91403. Call (818) 990-7888; visit www.thecravecafe.com.

Rachel Heller is a Sherman Oaks-based freelance writer and grammatical stickler whose work has appeared in the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, the Sun Community Newspapers and the Los Feliz Ledger. She is a graduate of Boston University. She shudders at misspellings of “then” and “than,” and can subsist for weeks at a time on Menchie’s frozen yogurt. Stay tuned for her next venture  — Rachel Sarah Jewels.

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