On a scorching summer day in Schenley Plaza, Dean Matthews and Mike Good stand in the Creped Crusader, butane stoves burning, hot sauce sizzling, lots of Nutella inches from their fingertips, ready to rid Pittsburgh of a terrible crime -- a lack of homemade crepes.
The Creped Crusader is a mobile outfit that kicked off approximately two months ago and sells crepes at events such as this Oakland Farmers Market. The crepe batter, as well as many of the fillings such as hummus and coleslaw, are homemade and can be complemented by any number of ingredients from sharp cheddar and eggs to bananas and pineapple.
The men were both students at the University of Pittsburgh who graduated in 2011. Mr. Good joined AmeriCorps and started working at the Allegheny Land Trust, while Mr. Matthews returned to Pitt to work in a biology research lab and to obtain a second bachelor's degree in English.
Last April, Mr. Good applied and won a $1,000 grant from the Awesome Foundation to start the Creped Crusader.
"It's really just been kind of a blur since then," he said.
Now both 24-year-olds work part-time on the business. It does not yet have a truck; instead, they set up a tent with a sign, ingredients and butane stoves that can be packed into cars before an event. It's still part of a growing mobile food scene in Pittsburgh, which this year has added the Nakama food truck, La Casita trailer, and soon is to be home to a grocery bus.
The basic crepe at the Creped Crusader costs $3, plus $1 or $2 for toppings. The real treat is one of the specialty crepes ($5 to $7), such as the Banana Hathaway, the Lawrence-villain or the Cocoa-Missioner Gordon.
"We studied English so we're full of puns," says a beret- and apron-wearing Mr. Good as he walks across the tent, throws ham and cheese into a pan full of crepe batter, expertly flips it in half and hands it to a customer.
Each crepe has a creative filling to match its name. The Hammy DeVito, for instance, has fresh pineapple, mozzarella, deli ham and sour cream. The American Hero is smothered with Nutella (chocolate-hazelnut spread), banana and peanut butter, and for the less bold, the Quiet American has peanut butter and strawberry preserves. Banana Hathaway has sliced banana and strawberries, chocolate sauce and whipped cream, while Cocoa-Missioner Gordon is a classic combination of Nutella and banana. The Lawrence-villain untraditionally harbors hummus, parsley and lemon juice in a vegan crepe shell.
But none of these savory items are as popular as the hometown- themed crescendo of the Creped Crusader's heroic efforts: the Penn Hills Pride.
Stuffed with coleslaw, cheddar cheese, ham and hot sauce, the Penn Hills Pride is inspired by a Primanti Brothers sandwich. Says Mr. Good, "It has to be -- we do live in Pittsburgh."
The Creped Crusader was born out of a near-disaster. During Mr. Good's study abroad, he took a trip to Athens, Greece, and was mugged. While wandering around Athens, alone, hurt, unable to speak any Greek, he took refuge in a small crepe shop.
"They made me the most delicious crepe I've ever had in my life," he said. So when he returned to Pittsburgh, with its lack of street food, and was looking for something to do, he thought, "Why not crepes?"
The two men spend approximately six hours before an event making the ingredients and chopping up fruit in their own homes (Mr. Good lives in Bloomfield, Mr. Matthews Uptown).
They hope to receive a street permit soon so they will be able to sell their product outside official events. If the business continues to be successful, a restaurant could be in the future.
"The response has been overwhelmingly positive and I don't think that's what either of us thought when we started this, so the future is pretty bright," Mr. Matthews said.
The Creped Crusader has been catering for the cast of the TV show "Dance Moms." To some of the dancers, they hand out dessert crepes, the kind with watery whipped cream and strawberries on top and thick Nutella in the middle that oozes onto hands when squeezed.
Seeing children take these crepes in hand is the best part of this whole experience, Mr. Good says. When a little girl gets a strawberry and whipped cream crepe, her eyes just light up.
For more, visit http://thecrepedcrusader.com or the Creped Crusader's Facebook page.
Monica Disare: email@example.com.