Darren Engstrom and his wife, Rebecca, have a great thing going in downtown Nevada City selling crepes at Calla Lily Crepes.
Their eclectic canvas tent located in the New York building parking lot on Broad Street stays open in all conditions and customers can stay cozy inside the tent underneath propane heaters even while the winter weather rages.
What longtime locals may remember as “the hot dog stand” was recreated in 2008 by Cole Ritchie into a crêpe stand called Elevensies. After Darren’s success with special-event crêpe stands under the name Calla Lily Crepes, he and Cole got to know each other and exchanged ideas.
In 2012, Darren took over ownership of Elevensies and changed the name to Calla Lily Crepes and merged the menus from Calla Lily Crepes and Elevensies.
The reputation of the business extends well beyond the historic streets of downtown Nevada City.
Rajan Singh Rai said he travels from Sacramento just for Calla Lily Crepes.
“I like coming up here. It’s not far and I like the nice atmosphere,” he said recently. “There aren’t many crêpe locations where I live, and I’d like to start something like Calla Lily Crepes where I live.”
Victor Zavala of Colfax learned of Calla Lily Crepes from his fiancé, Laura. “She’s been telling me about it, so here we are. It’s my first time, and I really like it,” he said.
Darren grew up in the restaurant business. His mother ran a Friendly’s in Greenfield, Massachusetts, and he worked there until his mid-twenties. He also attended The University of Massachusetts in Amherst, majoring in business. He then went to work for New Chapter, a vitamin supplement company, as a project manager. Darren was a corporate trainer and business coach in 2008 when the economy tanked. Having just moved to Grass Valley with a new baby, Noah, he was prompted to try something new and creative to “pay the bills.”
“I liked the idea of healthy lefzstreet food and started my event booth where I did street fairs, and still do,” Darren said.
His crêpe menu includes local favorites, the Chicken Pesto and the Lazy Vegetarian.
“When most people hear the word ‘crêpes’ they think of sweet dessert crêpes, so they are thrilled to be able to have the option of filling, savory crêpes for lunch or dinner,” Rebecca said.
Of course, Calla Lily Crepes does serve delicious dessert crêpes as well. They use as much locally grown organic produce and meat as possible and offer vegan and gluten free crêpes in addition to their regular crêpes. Prices range from $8 to $14.50 for savory and $5.50 to $8 for sweet.
Darren said business can be especially brisk on weekend nights.
“There are a lot of late-night activities in Nevada City, and we like providing an option for people to have tasty food,” he said. “There is something for everyone, even up to 2:30 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays, rain, snow or shine. The weather would have to be very, very bad for us to not be open at those times.”
With the success of the crêpe tent, Rebecca and Darren are looking into the possibility of opening a brick and mortar location. Rebecca grew up in Portland, Oregon, which is flooded with amazing restaurants. She carries the idea of opening a restaurant that is more than just a place to grab food, a space that inspires community spirit, including features such as a children’s play area.
“It has always been a dream of mine to create a multi-dimensional business that incorporates food, art, music and theater,” she said.
Darren and Rebecca are currently pulling the vision together to create a platform from which to do some fundraising to bring the picture to reality. Stay tuned and watch for news of this in the upcoming months.
Calla Lily Crepes’ winter hours are typically 5 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. the rest of the week except for Fridays and Saturdays when they are open from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. When summer kicks in, they extend their hours to 10 p.m. or later. During the summer, you can look for their mobile tent at Summer Nights in Nevada City, the Auburn Home Show in Auburn and the Thursday Night Markets in Grass Valley.
For more information about Calla Lily Crepes, visit CallaLilyCrepes.com or call 530-615-7629. You can like them on Facebook, too.