For more than five years, "Buffalo" Sean Carroll has delighted guests with his snappy patter and the frilly-edged, filled crepes from his cart, Melange Creperie. The cart has become such a fixture in the Mango's parking lot at the corner of Taft and Westheimer that people honk and yell hello as they drive by.
Melange Creperie was on the leading edge of the wave of mobile gourmet food in Houston. Many of the newer vendors opted for trucks with mobile kitchens, but Carroll resolutely stayed at his cart. He does good business there and has outlasted many who started after him. In time, he expanded to serving at the Urban Harvest Farmer's Market at City Hall. An attempt to serve The Heights via a second cart was scrapped after a short time.
Over that period, Melange has repeatedly received accolades for its paper thin crepes with both sweet and savory fillings, including Best Crepes from the Houston Press last year. The crepes have also made the Top 100 dishes lists of two different Houston Press restaurant critics over the years. The ham, egg and cheese is a perpetual breakfast favorite, as is the banana Nutella.
Mango's is set to be sold at the end of March, which is going to leave Carroll looking for another parking lot for his cart. Instead, he's looking for something more permanent: a brick-and-mortar. While he's looking at various areas of Houston, ultimately he wants to stay in the Montrose where much of his customer base is already located.
At 10 a.m. today, a Kickstarter campaign to fund that big move launches online. Author's Note, 2/4/14, 9:50 a.m.: The Kickstarter link is now live.
It will solve problems not only for the crepemaker, but for his customers as well. When the weather is temperate, long lines of crepes at the stand lead to long waits and would-be customers in a hurry move on. When the weather is bad, it can shut down the stand altogether. A storefront would not only get Carroll into a climate-controlled environment, but also allow him to hire employees, run more griddles and serve customers faster.
The incentives vary by donation amount, but Melange Creperie's include crepes, mini-comics and T-shirts sporting its mascots, Sphinx Monster and Crepe Monster. Other small businesses, some of which started out as food trucks and then moved to storefronts themselves, are helping by offering in-kind rewards. Donors need only show their receipts to claim these offers:
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- The Chicken Ranch: Free piece of chicken added to any order
- Juice Girl: Free lemon ginger shot with any purchase
- Houston Dairymaids: 10 percent off any purchase at the Dairymaids store (offer valid once per person)
- Fat Cat Creamery: $1 Old Fashioned Sodas
- Southside Espresso: $1 Lattes (valid only Mondays through Fridays)
- Old Crow Parlor Tattoos: $25 Gift Card with $100 donation; $50 Gift Card with $200 donation
- Blackbird Foods at the Eastside Market: buy one pie get one 1/2 off
- Oh My Pocket Pies: 25 percent off any order of 24 pies or more
- Saint Arnold Brewing Company: Free tour of St. Arnold's with donation of $50 or more
Do you love the Cowboys? Well, Carroll hates them, but for $10,000, he'll get a Dallas Cowboys logo and name on his leg.
That takes almost as much dedication as it does to mind two piping hot crepe griddles in Houston in the summer, but Carroll has proven that when it comes to his business, he does whatever is necessary.
A Kickstarter kickoff party for donors is being hosted by Good Dog Houston at 903 Studewood tonight. Show a receipt to get in or donate at the computer set up on-site. At the party, entrees will be $1 off and there will be $3 Dome Faux'm beer by 8th Wonder Brewery. Those who donate $50 or more get free hot dogs.