You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Fri, Sep 21, 2012 : 2 p.m.

Squares to circles: Crepe restaurant to open on Ann Arbor's East Liberty

By Lizzy Alfs


Paul Jenkins Jr. poses for a photo in what will be his third location for what crepe? in the former Squares space on East Liberty in downtown Ann Arbor.

Melanie Maxwell |

There’s a new restaurant taking shape at 241 E. Liberty St. in downtown Ann Arbor — and it’s not all about squares.

The owners of the popular Royal Oak-based ‘what crepe?’ signed a lease this month for the former Squares Restaurant space, which has been vacant since it closed in June 2011.

The 2,600-square-foot space is located on the block between South Fourth Avenue and South Fifth Avenue in a building owned by the Oxford Companies. Colliers International’s Ann Arbor office listed the space and brokered the deal.

The crepe restaurant, which also has a location in downtown Birmingham, serves up more than 50 crepe varieties. Customers can build their own or choose from a list of sweet, savory, vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free crepes.

“You can go as healthy or as dirty as you want to,” joked what crepe? owner Paul Jenkins Jr.

The food, which is always prepared fresh, offers options for everyone, he said.

squares.jpg file photo

“This place, as far as demographics are concerned, I think it’s all over the map: it goes from 10-year-olds who want Nutella and bananas, to a sophisticated palate that wants rib eye and truffle zip,” he said.

Other menu options include a crepe with parmesan crusted smoked salmon, spicy chicken truffle, wild mushrooms and swiss cheese, strawberries and chocolate ice cream, chocolate eclair and sweet cream cheese with cinnamon. (View the menu) The average price for a crepe is $10 to $12, but higher-end crepes can reach $14 to $16.

“We are the nontraditional crepe restaurant,” he said. “The average crepe is the size of your hand and delicate. Ours are full meals.”

What crepe? will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, and also offers crepes to-go. Jenkins said he’s aiming for a December opening, and has applied for a liquor license to pair crepes with wine a few months after opening.


A photo of a sweet crepe from what crepe? — a restaurant that plans to open in downtown Ann Arbor.

Photo from what crepe? Facebook page

As a self-described “fifth generation entrepreneur,” Jenkins said he decided to venture into the restaurant business in 2009 after eating at Cafe Crepe in Toronto for years. A Birmingham native, Jenkins wanted to bring something similar to Michigan.

“At that point, the entrepreneurial game began,” he said. “I had no restaurant experience whatsoever…in a four-hour drive home from Toronto, what crepe? was created in my head.”

Jenkins said he welcomes the challenge of the East Liberty Street space in Ann Arbor, which has had some restaurant turnover in the past.

“I like being off the beaten path a little bit…I enjoy being the hidden jewel,” he said. “I love the window frontage, I love that Liberty is a passage from campus to Main Street.”

Jenkins and his contractor, Royal Oak-based Kevin Schroeder, are transforming space into what Jenkins describes as an “old French movie.”

“There will be lots of crystal chandeliers, fabrics, a private dining room and barn wood,” he said. “We probably will do garage door windows next year and we’re going to take seating all the way to front window.”

Lizzy Alfs is a business reporter for Reach her at 734-623-2584 or email her at Follow her on Twitter at


C'est la vie

Sun, Sep 23, 2012 : 3:06 p.m.

As a francophile I can hardly recognize the word "crepe" as it appears in this restaurant name, without the carrot shaped circumflex accent required over the first letter e. Also can't stand how Americans usually pronounce the word as "crape" instead of "crep." Crepes are very easy to make and enjoy at home. $10-$12 will buy you enough flour, milk, and eggs to make a mountain of them.


Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 5:52 p.m.

How do you say pretentious?


Sat, Sep 22, 2012 : 5:31 p.m.

I have doubts that this will survive. The location is wrong for this establishment; the rent is very high and the location far from other high priced fare traffic. I hear consumers seeking cheaper fare, not double digit items. A taco / burrito joint would have been a better choice, as downtown doesn't offer a decent Mexican joint. I was hoping for something along the lines of Chela's or Taco King. The rent is why this space has been more or less vacant for over half a decade. Yoshi's would have survived had the city not barred them from using their pizza oven (due to the tenant below, the city considered it too great of a fire hazard, at least that's what Yoshi told me). Squares was a disaster; hint to future entrepreneurs: don't hassle potential customers at every corner with coupons, don't copy your neighbors menu (as Squares did to Afternoon Delights breakfast sandwiches - a jerk move). At least this place will offer something unique, not trying to eat somebody else's lunch. It already sounds too expensive; hopefully they will bring a passion for food, not just for profits as most of the establishments in restaurantland exude.


Sun, Sep 23, 2012 : 1:23 a.m.

If a business owner has enough passion, attention to details and other smarts, the profits will follow. As I see, too many restaurants in Ann Arbor covet the bottom line above all else. Shoddy, boring food, high prices without relevance - who cares? Without, passion & ideals, we are just servants to greed. I've been self employed in business for nearly 20 years. I think the ones who serve best are those who love most; the profits follows suit. Think long term cooperation, not immediate exploitation. That's what civilization is built upon.


Sat, Sep 22, 2012 : 9:20 p.m.

Yeah, restaurants should never worry about profits, that would be silly, I mean businesses that do not focus on profits are good to have around in your delusional world.


Sat, Sep 22, 2012 : 10:35 a.m.

I still miss Dinersty. With Middle Kingdom closing, the options for Chinese food continue to shrink. I'm not crazy about the crepe concept but I will give it a shot. I just hope they realize the food has to be good for a restaurant to make it. The owners of Squares were so focused on the concept and the potential for franchising that they forgot to make the food good. The owners of Yoshi's didn't seem to understand that you need some pretty outstanding falafel if you are going to compete with an established business less than a block away like Jerusalem Garden.


Sat, Sep 22, 2012 : 12:32 p.m.

They reopened a Chinese restaurant on Washtenaw. Their hibachi is really good. Need to get back there for more.


Sat, Sep 22, 2012 : 6:44 a.m.

Thrilled there will be vegan crepes, too!! Husband and I have been craving just this (missed out on a vegan crepe in Seattle recently, restaurant sold out of 'em) - we'll be there. :) The decor also sounds nice. Best of luck to the owner!

say it plain

Sat, Sep 22, 2012 : 3:38 a.m.

The name seems punny to in "what crap" as pronounced in an Inspector Clouseau accent, non?! "What crepe!". I hope it's not, crap, that is. It sounds like a nice idea!


Sat, Sep 22, 2012 : 2:18 a.m.

This is worse then that over priced noodle company. Now we get over priced eggs. What next? I can't wait. We need a nice buffet not some over priced crepe. Did you see what you get? You can make that at home for half of what they are asking. Won't find me there any time soon.


Sat, Sep 22, 2012 : 9:44 p.m.

Then don't eat there. My God, you guys know how to complain.


Sat, Sep 22, 2012 : 9:17 p.m.

If you want a buffet, how about shelling out YOUR money and building one. If you think buffets are so profitable, why not check the financials at the company that did them on Eisenhower. Buffets Inc just left bankruptcy court due to the enormous popularity of buffets. It is a tired concept for people who want crappy food at a cheap price. There are plenty of buffets in this town, but I bet you do not hit any off them, because you think it is "over priced". The fact is this concept has already PROVEN successful. It will just b a matter of if it will translate to Ann Arbor.

David Paris

Sat, Sep 22, 2012 : 2:15 a.m.

Oh yea, one more thing. Serve Mighty Good Coffee, or Roose Roast, or River Rat Brew to wash down my crepe, and I'll be there!

David Paris

Sat, Sep 22, 2012 : 2:11 a.m.

It's a piece of cake. For one thing, it's not a franchise, like the last place, it's a proprietorship. And for another, it's right next door to Afternoon Delight, one of the best restaurants in Ann Arbor. Best of Luck!


Fri, Sep 21, 2012 : 10:54 p.m.

YES! Who doesn't love crepes?!

Stephen Landes

Fri, Sep 21, 2012 : 10:19 p.m.

I still miss Chez Crepe on Main Street. Hope this place will be able to take their place.


Fri, Sep 21, 2012 : 10:19 p.m.

Can't wait to try it - sounds like a great addition!


Fri, Sep 21, 2012 : 8:55 p.m.

I was thinking the name is related to the question What Crepe do you want? Sounds better than another sandwich shop. I also second the comment that this isnt a gimmick but crepe shops are popular in several cities both in U.S. and Europe.


Fri, Sep 21, 2012 : 8:29 p.m.

I'm intrigued, but could someone explain the name?


Sat, Sep 22, 2012 : 1:13 p.m.

Uh, yeah. I know what crepes are, I'm trying to figure out why he named the restaurant "what crepe?"


Sat, Sep 22, 2012 : 2:19 a.m.

And they are not very filling. You still walk away with an empty wallet and an empty stomach.


Fri, Sep 21, 2012 : 10:56 p.m.

Crepes are very thin pancake like crepes with different fillings. They're a French thing, and they are delicious!

Lynn Liston

Fri, Sep 21, 2012 : 7:50 p.m.

I hope they succeed- this sounds like a nice place for pre-concert meal. And since they are right down the street from the Michigan, maybe there will be some smaller dessert crepes on the menu for a late evening snack?

Betsy Jackson

Fri, Sep 21, 2012 : 7:38 p.m.

Welcome to Ann Arbor's downtown! I'm so happy to see that gluten-free crepes are on the menu; you'll be seeing a lot of our family!


Fri, Sep 21, 2012 : 7:37 p.m.

1) Left out of this story is that Mr. Jenkins is (or, at least, was) co-owner of The Black Pearl Restaurant (302 S, Main St) in Ann Arbor. 2) I don't entirely understand the name of this venture, with the question mark. At first glance, the thought that came to mind was "What a creep." I mean no disrespect to the owner by this, only that that is what occurred to me when I first saw the name. 3) While visiting their website to see if I could discover how the name came about (which never did give me any insight as to its origin), I read the "A Word From The Owner" ( ) which led me to discover that he is or was part owner of The Black Pearl. The "Word" struck me as fairly pretentious, somewhat ironic given the spelling and grammatical errors scattered throughout. 4) I wish him and his employees the best of luck with the venture on East Liberty. I will check them out when they open.

Christin cave

Fri, Sep 21, 2012 : 7:20 p.m.

this isn't a theme restaurant, it's a creperie.... there are hundreds of restaurants in paris that only make crepes served with cider. though the crepes at what crepe are not french at all - they use the same batter for sweet and savory.... yuck. and the service at the royal oak one is totally lacking.


Fri, Sep 21, 2012 : 7:18 p.m.

Still miss Dinersty's General Tso chicken. After a plate of that, nap time!


Sat, Sep 22, 2012 : 4:34 p.m.

If you ever saw their storage suite downstairs, with buckets of chicken in unrefrigerated water, you'd think twice about eating there. Or the 4 inches of grease on the grease hood that I saw when Yoshi's removed it. Jeff kicked Dysentery out for a reason. They were a grease hazard; from the back sidewalk & steps to the grease hood, an accident waiting to happen.


Sat, Sep 22, 2012 : 2:20 a.m.

I think they reopened with a better flair and their hibachi is to die for.


Fri, Sep 21, 2012 : 7:06 p.m.

Another "theme" joint.... ugh! Whatever happened to the idea of good food without gimmicks?


Sat, Sep 22, 2012 : 6:31 a.m.

It makes sense to have a specialty like this, imho, in order to stand out AND offer something unique. And no one else in A2 specializes in crepes that I'm aware of.


Fri, Sep 21, 2012 : 7:27 p.m.

It's a place where you can get crepes. It's as much of a theme joint as a pizza or burger place.


Fri, Sep 21, 2012 : 7:12 p.m.

Whatever happened to the idea of not complaining all the time like a little... Aahhh it's Friday I will be peace, sorry!


Fri, Sep 21, 2012 : 7:04 p.m.

I haven't had crepes since The Magic Pan left Briarwood Mall in the early 80's! Bring it on!


Fri, Sep 21, 2012 : 8:26 p.m.

Zola is so overpriced, I can't bring myself to pay over 12 dollars for what are essentially fancy pancakes that I can make at home.

John Hritz

Fri, Sep 21, 2012 : 7:59 p.m.

Zola does a very good job on crepes, but they have a relatively limited selection and its primarily a lunch/brunch thing (they do dessert crepes at night, I think). I too miss Magic Pan. Besides crepes, MP had a fantastic split pea soup / Monte Cristo sandwich lunch special. They used to make quite a production out of making omelets too. What Crepe seems like a unique addition and its not a chain.


Fri, Sep 21, 2012 : 7:08 p.m.

Try Zola, the best thing they do--sorry my cursor slipped!


Fri, Sep 21, 2012 : 6:50 p.m.

Wow, so I guessed totally wrong on Twitter. Hope it does well. I'd prefer a full-on old school French Bistro, but this'll do!!


Fri, Sep 21, 2012 : 7:07 p.m.

Try the crepes at Zola--best thing they do.


Fri, Sep 21, 2012 : 6:39 p.m.

I hope they can overcome the location. That side of Liberty doen't see a ton of foot-traffic.


Fri, Sep 21, 2012 : 6:17 p.m.

Well this is no Belgium waffle shop(pe), but sounds pretty good nonetheless!