It’s not often that a vegan, a meat eater, a keto dieter and someone with celiac disease or a peanut allergy can all order from the same menu.
Especially a menu that’s a mash-up of French and Mexican food.
Al Avelar, co-owner of Crepe Haus + El Compadre, knew he wanted his Kennewick restaurant – the fourth he’s owned – to not only accommodate the full spectrum of dietary needs, but really cater to them and make customers feel at home. The restaurant is at 2100 North Belfair St. in Kennewick.
“When you’re going out to eat, it shouldn’t be out of the way of how you normally eat. Here, I want the experience to be: ‘this is how I would cook if I had the time to make this dish at home,’ ” Avelar said.
This means stocking his kitchen with top-quality ingredients and maintaining prep and cooking spaces safe from cross-contamination for those with food allergies or celiac.
Diners with special dietary needs won’t be left with only the option of asking for half the ingredients to be held to accommodate them.
“Just the other day, a vegetarian came in and ordered one of our more meat-heavy dishes. So, for her I did three kinds of mushrooms from Columbia Basin Shroomery and jackfruit,” he said.
Whether it’s gluten-free graham crackers, the full lineup of synthetic meats or veg-friendly sour cream, Crepe Haus + El Compadre’s got it.
“I want this restaurant to be a huge educational piece because food is complex and I want to simplify that for people,” Avelar said.
Avelar wants to offer “super clean, whole food from scratch.” He only cooks with avocado oil and evaluates and vets all ingredient lists before putting a product on his prep line.
“Everything that I’m feeding people here is what I would feed my family,” he said.
The restaurant offers Pepsi products and cane-sugar sodas, but in the bar, it doesn’t use anything with high fructose corn syrup.
When asked how he manages to do it while other establishments decry higher-quality ingredients as prohibitively expensive, he countered that customers want high-quality food.
“There’s no cap at the top. If you keep bringing in high-quality food, it can always go higher, you can always provide better. But there’s a cap at the bottom because if your focus is on what’s the cheapest, there’s a point at which you can’t go lower, you can’t get cheaper. It limits you,” he said.
Crepe Haus + El Compadre’s tagline is “Come for the Mexican, stay for the crepes.”
It’s at the crossroads where spicy meets sweet.
“Half the people that come in know crepes, the other half don’t know crepes and think it’s just a Mexican restaurant or that a savory crepe is unorthodox,” Avelar said.
It turns out 75% of the crepes Crepe Haus sells are savory.
Sales are split roughly 50-50 between the two menus, he said.
Some people come in for breakfast, then come back later for dinner, picking one cuisine for each meal.
“The bar is just a bonus,” he said.
One popular dish on the El Compadre menu is Aquachile, which is shrimp marinated in chile water made up of lime juice, jalapenos, salt and seasonings, served on a bed of cucumbers, onions, cilantro and avocado and served with either saltine crackers or tostadas.
Another is the Molcajete which consists of carne asada, pollo asada, camarones al mojo de ajo, whole beans, chorizo, bacon and one nopal served in a molcajete.
On the crepe side, Avelar said the Big Kahuna is a hit, featuring pulled pork, pineapple, pepperjack cheese, jalapenos and barbecue sauce, as well as the Greek Myth, a crepe loaded with spinach, cucumber, tomatoes, kalamata olives, feta, onion, balsamic vinegar, hummus and choice of meat (or not!).
As for sweet crepes, the Smoreo is popular and comes with the option of vegan marshmallows. The Raspberry Delight and Berry Blitz feature fresh fruit.
Avelar’s idea for the restaurant blends three aspirations: his, which was to provide a place where inclusive food was the focus; his wife Jackie’s, which was to have a creperie; and business partner Marvin Figueroa’s, which was to open his own Mexican restaurant.
The Avelars had served crepes at their previous restaurants in Bellingham and Camano Island, but expanded on the idea at Crepe Haus.
“I actually didn’t want to do restaurants at all … then when I was 17 or 18, I just started loving being around the people and the difference I could make in that one hour of interaction,” Avelar said.
His wife grew up in Tri-Cities and Avelar said his father-in-law told him that the Tri-City market was ripe for the kind of restaurant he envisioned.
Four years ago, the couple and their two kids moved back to the Tri-City area to be closer to her family. Jackie worked full time and Avelar worked for three years keeping the books for their three restaurants while a stay-at-home dad.
“I’m the kind of person that I just trust it will all fall into place. My philosophy is no rush. It’s what I tell my customers all the time – ‘No rush, we don’t close until 8 p.m.’ I feel like that’s how I’ve done my life. Every time that I have rushed, I end up just giving up on the rush, and then it happens,” Avelar said.
His parents have owned “dozens” of Mexican-style restaurants – buying convenience stores and converting them into restaurants, then selling them.
“My dad is always looking for a new spot. His realtor has looked at properties in every city I’ve lived in and seen vacant places and asked if I wanted to do something with it,” he said.
The 5,700-square-foot Belfair Street building that once was home to other Mexican restaurants over the years had been vacant for a couple years.
The Avelars made an offer and then sold their other three restaurants.
After the property sale went through, Avelar’s dad suggested he take longtime employee Figueroa under his wing to realize his ambition of owning his own restaurant.
“I’m just here to kind of bridge it,” Avelar said. “I’m the one with the business experience, I’m the anchor. I crunch the numbers on ingredient cost and portioning to help bring to life what Jackie and Marvin envision.”
He said Crepe Haus + El Compadre is his 10-year plan. He hopes the food philosophies the team brings to the table will help open the door for others who champion similar values to gain a foothold in the Tri-City food scene.
Those looking for entertainment with their meal can drop in from 8-11 p.m. Fridays for family-friendly karaoke.
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