3553 SE Hawthorne
Crepe places are trendy, and perhaps the trend has gone stale. I mean at most places the crepes always seem over-priced and under-filling anyway, right? Not, however, at Chez Machin, the crepe place that has finally turned me on to crepes.
Running late for a Friday night obligation, my guy and I discovered Chez Machin after 20 minutes of sulkily arguing about where to eat on Hawthorne. Three Doors Down was too fancy, pizza was too gross, McMenamins was too... McMenamins. Chez Machin, however, seduced us with its wide open front door, red and white checked tablecloths, and calming French bistro atmosphere... we overlooked our skepticism and got a table.
The small, welcoming restaurant space looks into the open-air food prep area, but on nicer days I'd recommend the cute covered patio in the back. Either way, the tables offer a comfortable distance, so you can feel free to propose marriage or break up with someone, without everyone eavesdropping.
Start your meal out with one of their delicious salads. I always complain about Portland's lack of exciting salads, but Chez Machin's got them to spare. My favorite is the Salade Regime, made with spring greens, green apple slices, toasted almonds, gorgonzola cheese, and a perfect vinaigrette. It's like Spring in a salad. For a heartier mix, the Salade Bistro is a rich melding of flavors, with bay shrimp, avocado, hard-boiled egg, and Dijon vinaigrette. Either would suffice as a meal, but order the half size for a reasonable four bucks if you plan on eating a dinner crepe. Just like in their salads, Chez Machin combines ingredients perfectly in their crepes, serving up a satisfying plate of food that will leave you craving it again later.
In my experience, the crepes on the menu are more delicious than the daily specials, so pick from one of their 17 tried and true savory varieties--running from five to nine dollars--or 12 sweet ones, all which cost five bucks and under. My present obsession is the #13, made with mozzarella, avocado, greens, tomato, shrimp, and Tabasco on a buckwheat crepe. Also delicious is the #9, with ham, brie, avocado, mushrooms, and crème fraiche. The generous size and weight of the meal has the curious impact of making you eat at a leisurely place, savoring the melted cheese and grab bag of meat and vegetables. Wash it all down with a glass or bottle of affordable wine.
While you might feel too full to order a sweet crepe, the simple cinnamon and sugar or fresh lemon and sugar are light, wondrous, and crispy, and worth the discomfort. Or, just stop by Chez Machin for dessert and coffee.
Unlike a lot of restaurants, Chez Machin does an excellent job of pairing the rich sauces and cheese you crave, with the healthy, fresh foods you wish you were eating more of. They also do that thing good Portland restaurants do where they combine the romantic "dining out" atmosphere with a price that won't make your eyes bug out like Roger Rabbit. 'Twixt the greasy pub grub and patchouli stank that is Hawthorne Boulevard, this little Parisian slice is a blessed sanctuary.