Russia invaded Ukraine four weeks ago. In Charlotte, we’ve seen marches of support in uptown. Profile pictures have turned to bold blue and golden yellow, a gesture of solidarity for the peace and prosperity that the Ukrainian flag symbolizes. Monroe Road’s Sweet Spot Studio is offering Macs for Ukraine (macarons by the dozen) with proceeds going to benefit World Central Kitchen, a humanitarian organization providing food on the frontlines. And down at the Galleria intersection of Monroe Road, Crepe Bistro is donating 30% of all sales to the Ukrainian Civil Society Organization.
You may know Crepe Bistro for their vast menu of crepes, omelets, paninis, waffles, salads, wraps, beer, wine, and espresso. But did you also know that Crepe Bistro is owned and operated by a local Ukrainian family? Julia Watson, her mom Galina and sister Marina were the first on our minds at the end of February, so we’ve stopped in to see them a few times in the recent weeks.
“It’s very tragic what’s happening back in our home country Ukraine,” says Julia. “Our dad, cousins and lots of friends still live there. At the moment they are in western part of Ukraine which is safer than any other part of the country, but with the current situation we just never know what’s going to happen.”
Early on, Julia described the challenges for her loved ones to get information on where the attacks were happening. She is able to text with her dad through an app, and thankfully the connectivity is consistent. She described her surprise about where Putin attacked first. The border towns were expected, she said, “But Kyiv?”
Putin’s first attacks in Kyiv included firing missiles on Boryspil International Airport, the largest airport in Ukraine serving 65% of all passenger traffic.
“He’s aiming for our infrastructure,” she told us. “He’s making it so no one can leave.”
Julia and her sister/partner Marina are trying to do everything they can possibly do from afar. They’re supporting various Ukrainian assistance organizations with donations. Marina is working closely with the Ukrainian fund and does all the communication with volunteers on the ground.
In addition, they are donating 30% of all sales to the ”E+ Initiative” of the Ukrainian Civil Society Organization, a non-profit that provides medical kits, bulletproof vests, helmets, thermal imagers and vehicles.
We take comfort in talking about and enjoying the food during our visits. Much of Crepe Bistro’s menu is “made with mom’s love,” inspired by mom Galina’s traditional recipes. Galina was an elementary school teacher for 30 years. It’s her warm smile tending to customers’ orders behind the counter.
We ask Julia what her favorite menu item is. “Hands-down the Monte Cristo: chicken, ham, Swiss cheese, mustard, and mayo with a raspberry jam on the side,” she answers. It also happens to be their best-selling menu item. New favorites? The Fiery Bird Crepe, for those who like spicy, or the Veggie Party Crepe if you lean vegetarian.
They have an incredible selection of sweet crepes, too, with customer favorites like the French Strawberry Cheesecake Crepe or White Chocolate Delight. Hot coffee and espresso drinks play the perfect companion.
But how about those Ukrainian truffles? No, not the rare mushroom variety hunted in the Carpathian Mountains. The chocolate variety!
“Ukrainian truffles is our traditional dessert also called Kartoshka. It’s super delicious. Chocolate flavor, soft and creamy,” says Julia.
Some liken the Ukrainian truffle to a decadent cake pop, but without the stick (these are several bites.) They’re not on the menu, but you can call to order a few days in advance or add them to your event’s catering spread. Julia explains that traditional Ukrainian food takes “all day cooking.”
A Location to Gather
Crepe Bistro is located at 1605 Galleria Blvd. Suite 140—at the intersection of Monroe Road and Galleria Boulevard, where just last fall, MoRA volunteers painted the Gather mural. A few of the mornings, our artists sat together on the sidewalk to enjoy breakfast crepes (chock full o’ bacon, eggs, ham, and cheddar) looking toward the sky blue background with colorful imagery filling over top.
“The artists/volunteers did an amazing job with the mural. I think it adds a great value to our community and puts a smile and brightens your day when you look at it,” said Julia.
After you place your order at the counter, take a few minutes to walk out Crepe Bistro’s back door to admire the community-inspired quilt block designs. We are so very lucky to have safe spaces to gather—to enjoy one another’s company or a cup of coffee—in the peaceful presence of our diverse heritages.
Crepe Bistro’s message to neighbors and customers
“We thank every American who supported Ukraine during these four weeks. We can see how strongly you stand for Ukraine, for Peace and Democracy. We are standing strong for our country and for freedom. We ask for your continued support for Ukraine and the Ukrainian people in these difficult and heartbreaking times. Слава Україні!”
On the day we were preparing this article, we received a timely message from Hawthorne Lane UMC in the Elizabeth neighborhood. They are hosting an outdoor Community Prayer Vigil to lift up Ukraine this Saturday, March 26 starting at 7pm.
7:00 – 7:30pm: Introductions, moment of prayer, children’s time
7:30 – 8:00pm: Candid Q&A with Kateryna Panova, a Ukrainian journalist and immigration activist
8:00 – 9:00pm: Prayer vigil, music and song
9:00 – 10:00pm: Fireside chat – join for conversation over campfire about issues and how we can help
10:00pm – 8:00am: Overnight guests – please be sure to sign up if you would like to stay overnight
Location: 501 Hawthorne Ln, Charlotte, NC 28204
Everyone is welcome.