If you’ve ever wondered why you approach the window and order a crepe from Creperie Street on Capitol Hill felt so European, all you have to do is follow the path of one of its owners, Alex Villa.
It was Villa’s post-college adventures in Spain, France, Italy and the Netherlands that inspired and pushed him to follow his passion for food. Villa was not aiming to hit the major metropolitan cities of these countries. Instead, his interests were much more rurally oriented, working on goat farms, vegetarian farms, and farms.
“All of the farm-to-table cooking has really inspired my mind and stomach,” Villa said.
After working at a vegan food truck near Amsterdam, Villa traveled to Seattle. It was 2016, when the Green Tortoise Hostel still had an outpost across from Pike Place Market.
Villa was able to arrange a small work swap with them, where he was given an internship in exchange for some work while he decided if he wanted to call Seattle home.
Luckily for us, his answer was yes.
In the years that followed, Villa continued to work for some favorites of the Seattle culinary scene. He made cheese bottle house at Madrona and led catering for events in Bottlehouse’s “pretty back yard”. Villa also worked for another Madrona star, Vendemmiaas well as the gastropub by Quinn on Capitol Hill.
Along the way, Villa shared the kitchen with “cool chefs and sous chefs” who taught her a lot in a short time.
Fast forward to 2020 and Villa and her partner and co-owner, Danae Alexander, have officially opened the doors (or rather the take-out window) to their little 300-square-foot creperie La Rue.
If you haven’t visited La Rue yet, you’ll find the charming duo taking the controls, whipping up delicious sweet and savory pancakes and generally sending positive vibes to the bustling street scene on E. Olive Way.
“What prompted us to open La Rue was encouraged by our neighbor and friend Taylor Cheney, owner of Yalla,” Alexander said. “[Taylor] also introduced us to our owner Adam Simon, the owner of pot shop The Reef. If it wasn’t for the two of them, we wouldn’t have La Rue.”
At the time, Simon was looking for someone to build a small restaurant concept under the reef in the extra space he had. Villa and Alexander wrote a business proposal for pancakes and coffee and were fortunate to get help from Caffe Vita for their coffee program. Later they took out a loan and started building the cafe in the summer of 2020.
“After that, we coordinated a pop-up at our friend’s Union Coffee in the Central District,” Alexander added. “We had a great response to our pancakes in portable cones. After getting a little following using Instagram, we opened the crêperie in the middle of the pandemic in November 2020.”
The last time we popped in for a midday snack, a lingering Seattle drizzle had us in the mood for “Fun Guy” (pun intended), La Rue’s version of a mushroom pancake with cheese. , leek confit and an organic egg. And our sweet tooth didn’t let us leave until we ordered “The Nutella”, with bananas as the classic garnish.
Given the limited kitchen space (they only have two pancake stones), they admit that it can sometimes be difficult to keep up with demand. But it’s also what allows them to deliver such an intentional product.
“We have a sentimental connection to the cafe since we built it ourselves from dusty storage, so we’re naturally proud of everything we do here,” Villa said.
When you stop at La Rue, you might notice that the music plays a big part in the experience. Named after a French jazz song by a 70s band called Cortex, La Rue also hosts a series of events called “Crepes and Crates”, where DJ @waxwitch spins French-themed vinyl from their take-out storefront for all to enjoy.
Opening La Rue during the pandemic has come with its own set of challenges and rewards.
“Honestly, we’ve learned more in this past year than we’ve learned in our entire lives,” they shared. “The days when we are constantly busy all day are always a great surprise and a reminder of how great our concept is and how lucky and privileged we are to own our business and work for ourselves.”
Jenise Silva is a freelance writer for Seattle Refined. Follow her on Instagram.