A traditional hub for French street crepes in downtown Barrie, Chavo Crepes is also earning a reputation as being a neighbourhood pizza place.
“I still remember when a woman came into the restaurant the day after we launched the pizza menu and said, 'oh my god, so many flavours',” recalled Tomas Mortera, owner of Chavo Crepes.
Since he took over the restaurant from the previous owner five years ago, Mortera says he has been dedicated in providing guests with a menu that reflects their preferences.
“Every time we serve a customer, we ask them what they would like to see in the menu other than crepes,” Mortera said, adding the guests' ideas are constantly discussed by the team.
Located in downtown Barrie at 74 Dunlop St. E., Chavo Crepes started making pizzas in a B2B ("business to business") arrangement with next-door neighbour Last Level Lounge, which was downsizing its kitchen in 2020, during the pandemic.
“We were closed for a kitchen renovation and put in new equipment when they asked us to supply them. They had a small kitchen and were having trouble getting items out," he said.
As a result of the partnership, Chavo Crepes expanded its cooking portfolio to include a variety of pizzas, such as pepperoni, margherita, pulled pork and beans, along with burgers and fries.
“As we started to supply Last Level, it pushed for changes in our menu," Mortera said.
After a positive response from customers, savoury pizzas were added to Chavo’s menu in October 2020, when the restaurant patio was reopened. Sweet pizzas came one year later, in 2021.
“If the customers like to see all these options in the menu," he said, "why not offer what they want?”
Mortera noted that the pizza and crepe dough do not contain dairy products.
“All menu pizzas use gluten-free dough, made with buckwheat or sarasin flour," he added.
With the addition of pizzas and burgers, Mortera says he has seen the restaurant becoming even more popular, attracting a more diverse clientele, including families with children.
Mortera also sees an increase in potential customers looking for other menu items beyond crepes, as more people have moved to Barrie from Toronto since the beginning of the pandemic.
Despite the additional offerings, Montera says authentic French crepes remain the leading attraction. He cites signature crepes, such as the Monte Cristo grilled ham, the turkey, bacon and avocado, and the homemade sausage as the top three fan-favourite orders.
Mortera owned a bistro in Mexico before moving to Canada in 2017. He attributes his open mind to the variety of cuisines to cultural influences gained through his culinary education back home.
“I graduated from a culinary school in Mexico, where I had teachers from Italy, France, and Germany. And I had a French tutor," he said.
As a graduate of Georgian College’s culinary management program, Mortera expects more pressure as he embraces an ever-changing menu. But he’s convinced of his choice to add diversity to the menu.
“I know it's a little bit more difficult in the kitchen, but from our experience with customers, I believe this is the right approach for now.”