The logo for Fabrison’s—a fancy-looking coat of arms that incorporates two halves of the French and American flags—may as well be the family crest for the Borel family and a symbol of their Franco-American café, which opened in Little Italy eight months ago. Fabrice Borel, who came to San Diego 17 years ago, all the way from the French port town of Marseilles, with $300 in his pocket, now lives a block away with his wife Alison and their young baby.
The sign on the awning outside says “Fabrison’s Sweet Shop,” since their original intention was to open as a homemade ice-cream shop. But, because they wanted to create a gathering place for the community, they settled on a coffeehouse. Serving food was the next natural progression.
Fabrison’s (you’ve likely already determined that the moniker is a combo of owners Fabrice and Alison’s names) now calls itself a creperie and serves all kinds of the filled and folded pancakes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. Though in some traditional households in France, crepes are eaten only once a year—to celebrate the end of winter— we Americans find them too delicious to eat so infrequently.
Breakfast in France is a usually a light meal, called le petit (small) dejeuner. But Fabrison’s appeals to the breakfast-burrito-loving crowd with its simple bacon-and-egg-filled crepe (called the Hungry Bear) and the more traditional So-Cal Breakfast (egg, cheese, tomato and avocado), and, for the health-conscious, the Healthy Choice crepe, filled with an egg-white omelet.
Fabrison’s serves the simple and perfect French breakfast, too—a length of baguette buttered and jam’ed, with a big bowl of café au lait. The bread is good, though concessions were made for American tastes. Baguettes in France have a very crisp crust that can almost cut the roof of your mouth. The café started off serving this style of bread but had to work with their bakery supplier to develop a baguette with an all-around softer chew.
There are a bunch of savory crepes for lunch or dinner, which Alison developed and named, including the turkey, cheese and avocado crepe topped with roasted red pepper sauce called “If My Sister Ate Meat” and Alison’s Special, filled with pesto, cheese and chicken. I liked the La Galette since I’m a sucker for a fried egg, one of which tops the ham, mushroom and spinach crepe. You can also custom create your own, choosing from a list of fillings and sauces, including creamy béchamel and spicy harissa (a North African hot sauce).
Even though crepes anchor the menu, I almost prefer the sandwiches, especially Pan Bagna, Fabrison’s version of a traditional Provencal sandwich. For a Provencal, the baguette is hollowed out and filled with tuna, olives, anchovies and eggs—basically the components of a Nicoise salad—then drizzled with olive oil and left to sit, to let the flavors marry and the bread soak up all the juices. Here it’s made fresh to order and served with a side of homemade balsamic vinaigrette for you to drizzle at whim, and it’s still delicious.
For dessert, it’s hard to beat the sweet simplicity of a crepe sprinkled with lemon juice and sugar or just plain sugar and butter, but if you need a little something extra, there’s a crepe spread with rich Nutella or filled with fruit. If you go to the café during happy hour, from 3 to 7 p.m., and buy a savory crepe and a drink, you get a sweet crepe for free.
The café, with its French music soundtrack, is painted with the bright, warm colors that you immediately associate with the south of France and has free wi-fi. I think I’ve found a new place for afternoon office hours.