Crepes and Treats Delivers Mouthwatering Sweet and Savory Fare

Saul Juarez's Cherokee Street restaurant displays his remarkable talent with pastries and crepes

Jul 26, 2023 at 1:00 pm
click to enlarge Crepes and Treats features sweet and savory crepes, baked goods and more on Cherokee Street.
Mabel Suen
Crepes and Treats features sweet and savory crepes, baked goods and more on Cherokee Street.

We would likely not be discussing Saul Juarez's delightful Cherokee Street cafe, Crepes and Treats (2752 Cherokee Street, 314-354-8098), were it not for a high school cooking instructor who refused to take no for an answer when Juarez tried to drop her class.

It wasn't because he lacked interest — quite the contrary. Having immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico roughly a year and a half before he was slated to graduate, Juarez had a significant number of transfer credits that allowed him to fill his schedule with electives he found interesting. Cooking was at the top of that list, but when his guidance counselor realized that he was missing some required courses, he had no choice but to withdraw from the class. His instructor protested, but then relented — or so it seemed. The next day, the counselor informed Juarez the conflict had been taken care of. Confused, he returned to his cooking class and was greeted by his teacher, who asked, "What? You don't think I was going to let you go, did you?"

Juarez was both humbled and thrilled that his culinary instructor saw something inside him, but he wasn't all that surprised. As long as he can remember, he's been passionate about baking, an interest that was sparked when he began helping out at a family friend's bakery at age six. Not tall enough to reach the prep counter, he stacked four-by-fours on top of each other to gain enough height to help out, and he continued taking every opportunity he could find to work in the business throughout his youth and into his high school years.

click to enlarge Saul Juarez is the chef-owner.
Mabel Suen
Saul Juarez is the chef-owner.

After that vote of confidence from his high school teacher, Juarez was inspired to pursue culinary studies, first at community college in southern California and eventually at the Culinary Institute of America's Napa Valley campus. This led to a career as a pastry chef with the Four Seasons Hotel brand, a chocolate stage in Spain and then back to the Four Seasons, which transferred him to its property in downtown St. Louis. There, Juarez worked at the hotel's then-restaurant, Cielo, until it changed concepts, and he left to help open the Angad Arts Hotel's now-shuttered Grand Tavern by David Burke, where he worked until March of 2020.

Like most of his peers, Juarez found himself out of work when the pandemic hit. He found work with McArthur's Bakery and helped open its sister restaurant, Pioneer Bakery, and though he was happy with the stable work during such an unstable time, he couldn't shake the feeling that it was time to branch out on his own. He knew he wanted to show St. Louis his depth of pastry experience but decided to start small with a creperie as a way to introduce himself to his adopted hometown. In the summer of 2021, he and his wife launched Crepes and Treats inside Dutchtown's Urban Eats incubator, where they gained enough of a following to graduate to their own storefront.

click to enlarge Caprese crepe with smoked gouda, regular and fresh mozzarella, basil, tomatoes, pesto and balsamic reduction.
Mabel Suen
Caprese crepe with smoked gouda, regular and fresh mozzarella, basil, tomatoes, pesto and balsamic reduction.
That standalone location opened in the heart of Cherokee Street this past May. For Juarez, the decision to plant his flag on a street associated with Latin cuisine and culture was intentional. In his words, he wanted to show that a Mexican American chef is capable of making more than tacos — not that there's anything wrong with opening a taqueria. He simply sees tacos as one of a myriad of things he and his fellow Central American culinarians are not only capable of preparing, but do every day as the backbone of U.S. kitchens. For him, Crepes and Treats is not only a passion project and business endeavor; it's a pronouncement.

And what a pronouncement it is. From the moment you step into Juarez's small storefront and eye the delicacies that adorn his pastry case, you understand his skill. Though the counter-service cafe is simple — gray-blue walls, black wooden tables and nondescript artwork — the pastries make a powerful impression. Inch-thick chocolate chip cookies, which Juarez cooks in a mold, could be mistaken for round blondies. Not only do they impress with their thickness, they are also a masterwork in incorporating chocolate into the batter. Juarez layers hunks of dark chocolate as if he's making a laminated pain au chocolat, making each bite an embarrassment of chocolate riches that remain molten even at room temperature, thanks to his generous use of butter. Alongside the cookie, a cheesecake is so rich and delicate it practically jiggles in the case with the vibration of nearby foot steps. This luxurious, silken masterpiece of the form, accented simply with vanilla, baked with a graham cracker crust and cut into a square, is like a high-end version of the decadent no-bake varieties of my youth.

click to enlarge The mango and passionfruit mousse has a brownie in the center.
Mabel Suen
The mango and passionfruit mousse has a brownie in the center.

The heart of Juarez's operation, however, is the creperie, where Juarez translates his pastry prowess into delicious sweet and savory offerings. The apple pie crepe, for instance, shows a chef's touch thanks to its cubed apples, which are gently softened but remain firm enough to hold up and provide texture to the dish. A cinnamon brown sugar glaze coats the fruit, which is both stuffed inside the crepe and placed atop it, giving each forkful the taste of classic apple pie. The cookies-and-cream crepe is equally well-executed, though infinitely more decadent thanks to Juarez's liberal use of thick, sweet pastry cream. Crushed-up chocolate chip cookies are folded into the cream and spread on the dough as it cooks, then folded together so that each layer of the crepe contains the concoction. If you have a raging sweet tooth, this is the go-to order.

I preferred the balance of the strawberry and dulce de leche, which pairs peak-of-the-season berries with the sweet, caramel-like sauce. The acidity of the sliced fruit cuts through the sweetness of the dulce de leche, giving the dish the taste of a caramel-covered strawberry. Another favorite, the cinnamon roll crepe, stood out both for its cinnamon- and sugar-infused cream cheese and Juarez's impressive handiwork fashioning the crepe into the coiled shape of an actual cinnamon roll.

click to enlarge The cinnamon roll is covered with chocolate and caramel sauce.
Mabel Suen
The cinnamon roll is covered with chocolate and caramel sauce.

His savory offerings also impress. The BB represents the classic creperie pairing of thinly-shaved Black Forest ham and rich brie cheese. Tart berry sauce drizzled atop the crepe gives the dish a wonderful sweet-and-savory taste. The caprese crepe is an especially delicious standout. Here, thick slices of fresh mozzarella cheese are folded into a crepe as it cooks so they melt slightly; Juarez then tops the crepe with the fresh mozzarella, juicy tomatoes and a mouthwatering pesto that ties the flavors together with a verdant, garlicky snap.

Perhaps Juarez's most impressive offering is his Choricrepe, which serves as a delectable hybrid of his Mexican background and French pastry training. Mild Mexican chorizo and scrambled eggs are cooked together, then folded inside the crepe along with vinegary hot sauce. It's the perfect marriage of a crepe and a breakfast burrito — a nod to where Juarez is from, where he's been and how he became the chef he is today.

His talent has long been evident to the people who worked with him along the way; today, it's clear to all of us who get to eat his wonderful food.

Open Thurs.-Fri. 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sat-Sun. 9 a.m.-6 p.m. (Closed Mon.-Wed.)

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