Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to midnight; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Atmosphere: Leafy brick patio.
Price range: $2.85 to $8.25.
Credit cards: American Express, Visa, Mastercard
Special facilities: Separate nonsmoking dining rooms; accessible to the handicapped; parking in mall parking lot; booster seats and highchairs available.
When Magic Pan opened a few years ago, it was all the rage. No matter what time of day you walked in, you had to sign up at the registration desk and wait anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour for a table. Magic Pan was serving crepes: crepes stuffed with meats, crepes stuffed with vegetables, crepes stuffed with fruit and crepes stuffed with ice cream.
The crepes were made out front this was a bonanza for parents. The kids loved to stand at the crepe maker's elbow and watch as crepe after crepe plopped from pan to plate.
Times have changed for Magic Pan.
The bright airy rooms, lined with plants and tiled with brick, are as pretty and fresh as ever, but the fascination with crepes is, evidently, not what it once was. At least no one was lined up and waiting at 7:30 on a summer evening when my daughter and I went out to celebrate a minor occasion. In fact, there was only a handful of other people dining out on crepes.
The menu looked streamlined and much more practical than I had remembered it. There was a choice of nine crepes which could be mixed and matched with others. The seafood Newburg crepe, for instance, was $3.95 for one, $7.90 for two. You could have one of those and one of another, say, country beef, $3.95 for one, $7.90 for two. The other choices included melted cheese, ham, spinach and chicken crepes.
To go with the crepes there is pea soup, $1.70, or French onion soup, $2.40, or a spinach salad, $2.75, or mixed green or orange almond salad, $1.95 each. Magic Pan will mix and match all of the above for you. The Special Three-Course Dinners, $5.95 to $8.45, combine soup, salad and a choice of various crepes.
Magic Pan doesn't have a children's menu, but the ability to order just one crepe makes up for it. It also helps adult who like small portions.
My daughter and I decided to go with a salad and one main course crepe apiece. We wanted to leave room for one of the dessert crepes, which sounded wildly exciting: strawberry blintz crepe, $2.65, Southern praline crepe, $2.80, and on and on -- each crepe richer and more fattening than the one before.
I started off with a spinach salad topped with mushrooms, grated egg and grated bacon. The mushrooms were a tad tired but everything else was fresh and crisp. Unfortunately, the salad was drenched in a sweet house dressing that I found too cloying for spinach. My daughter had the mixed green salad with the same dressing. She found it worked better on lettuce.
Our main course crepes were ratatouille, $2.85 for one, $5.70 for two, and spinach souffle, $2.95 for one, $5.90 for two. The ratatouille was a credible melange of eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, onions, green pepper and spices. It was well seasoned and the vegetables had been cooked until they were nicely soft but not mashed.
The spinach souffle was hot, creamy and nicely smooth. The combination of smooth creamed spinach, crunchy crepe and dusting of parmesan cheese on top was very nice.
For dessert we tried a mocha crepe, $2.75, which had vanilla ice cream and a mocha sauce stuffed inside a deceptively dainty crepe. This was topped with mocha cream and grated chocolate. It was good but somehow not great. The mocha had a slight bitterness to it.
The apple sizzle, $2.60, was perfect. Hot, spiced apples were cuddled in a crepe and topped with cinnamon, sugar and toasted pecans. The flavors blended together beautifully, and the different textures were delightful.
Though we had no complaints about the taste of the food or the service -- one especially nice feature of Magic Pan is that there are separate dining rooms for smokers and nonsmokers -- still, we came away feeling everything had been done too much to measure. There wasn't a drop too much cream on the mocha or a grain too many of parmesan cheese on the spinach.
There was an air of calculation, as if the food had been carefully pre-measured and wrapped in plastic, waiting its chance to be heated up and brought to the table. Maybe we had such thoughts because the crepe lady was no longer at her place in the main dining room. The crepes now are made out front from 4 to 7 p.m. and on weekdays until noon.
Dinner for two came to $20.62 including beverages and tax.