There are crepes and there are burritos. And then there is the Creperitto, the pillowy hybrid that could be a contender for the title of "item least expected to appear on a completely gluten-free menu." But it's a star at Cafe Avalaun (4640 Richmond Rd., Warrensville Heights, 216-245-6666, cafeavalaun.com), where Brian Doyle turns presumptions like those on their head.
Before the pastries, artisan coffee and colorful walls, the first thing you notice when walking into the Warrensville Heights nook is a window peering into the kitchen. Avalaun may not boldly advertise itself as a gluten-free cafe, but Doyle knows the importance of transparency as a chef whose family has gluten intolerances. He also recognizes that many eateries are reluctant to risk the health of diners with celiac disease by even attempting gluten-free dishes, which makes the offerings at Avalaun all the more rare.
Doyle, who founded the farm-to-table catering operation Sowfood, knew two years ago that he wanted to open a restaurant with his wife Jennifer. Though he's been cooking gluten-free meals for his family for more than a decade, the chef began experimenting while running the kitchen at the Beachland Ballroom. Today, the concert club's award-winning brunch still sources its gluten-free biscuits, breads and waffles from Doyle through Avalaun.
While traveling through Ohio, Doyle stumbled upon a restaurant serving gluten-free crepes and he knew he had a golden concept.
"Crepes were like this whole new playground," he says. "It gives you a little bit of a license to do something different. You can really get funky with it."
That means diners can look forward to seasonal creations with asparagus and ripe berries cropping up on the menu soon.
The cafe's namesake crepe comes from the roots of the word "Avalon," an island of apples in an Arthurian legend. "It's sweet apples and savory ham with a bit of a punch from Montana Girl Mustard," Doyle says of the crepe.
He also crafts a nut-free pesto made with pumpkin seeds for the popular Frenchie Fru-Fru crepe. Pierogi lovers will gravitate toward the aptly named Clevelander, which is filled with mashed potatoes, cheddar cheese, caramelized onions and one special ingredient.
"I love sneaking nutmeg into places you wouldn't expect it," says Doyle, who uses it to spice up the mashed potatoes.
Avalaun has also garnered a clientele of health-minded paleo followers by serving specials like tacos with braised pork and Pope's Smoking River hot sauce on plantain-based shells from Cleveland's Crunchy Kitchen.
Recently Doyle added Friday night dinners that feature everything from Italian foods to fried chicken to Chinese-style take-out. This month, Avalaun also launches the Fresh Meals club, a weekly subscription plan.
To satisfy gluten-free sweet teeth, Doyle enlisted the help of longtime collaborator Maggie Downey, who trained at Bonbon and Coquette Patisserie, to develop recipes for delicious items like rosemary hazelnut cookies, honey lavender scones and Boston cream pie. Tarts include apple, citron and thyme-infused chocolate ganache. Cupcakes vary from lemon curd-filled with raspberry rose buttercream to S'mores with house-made fluff and graham and marshmallow cream.
One of the bestsellers is the cream puff made with Snowville Creamery dairy.
"The whole thought process has been asking, 'What does the gluten-free community miss the most?'" Doyle says.
Cafe Avalaun just may be the answer.