New creperie part of ‘something really good’

Liz Cunningham on the patio of what will be Chez Tess Creperie.

Liz Cunningham on the patio of what will be Chez Tess Creperie.

HALIFAX — Crepe lovers in Halifax will soon have a restaurant to call their own.

An eatery believed to be the city’s first devoted to the thin pancake is coming to Charles Street.

Owner Liz Cunningham said opening Chez Tess Creperie will fulfill a lifelong dream. And she is excited about the North End location, near Agricola Street.

“I really feel like we’re getting in on the ground floor of something really good. It’s a great time,” she said.

Unlike seven other restaurants nearby, Chez Tess will be open at night. And it will be open all week, giving crepe fans a new option beyond the Saturday morning Creperie Mobile stall at the Farmers’ Market. Cunningham believes she will have to work to undo a misconception that crepes, a thin, delicate type of pancake associated with French cuisine, are exclusively for breakfast.

“I think I’ve got a bit of education to do around crepes. We won’t be open for breakfast. We’ll be open for lunch and dinner, and brunch on the weekends. You can do really anything you want, you can put anything you want really inside a crepe — savoury fillings, sweet fillings,” she said.

Cunningham worked for three decades in television before starting Chez Tess. The New York native was with the Live with Regis and Kathie Lee show for 15 years, pinning microphones on the likes of Hillary Clinton, Wayne Gretzky and Liza Minelli. She moved to Halifax nine years ago and was working for CTV before leaving to start the creperie.

Cunningham has visited creperies as far away as San Francisco gathering ideas. Last year, an opportunity arose to lease the ground floor and patio at Nile House, the geothermally heated building at 5687 Charles Street.

Cunningham took the plunge.
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The creperie moves into Nile House's 840-square-foot commercial space. (Contributed)

The creperie moves into Nile House's 840-square-foot commercial space. (Contributed)

Nile House designer and builder Rod Malay, who also is designing Cunningham’s restaurant, said the business matches his vision for the property. He wanted Nile House to be welcoming, a place for the curious to step up on the patio, ask questions and get involved.

“People wanted to come and be part of it, and to me that was and still is the most important part of this building,” said Malay. “Liz’s idea of a café, with her particular instincts and vision, fit perfectly.”

Then there’s the story behind the name Tess.

Cunningham was 17 when her mother died in the 1970s. Shortly after, an uncle mailed her a department store ad clipped from a 1937 New York newspaper picturing her mom in a glamorous fur coat.

“My mother was 21 years old and there she was modeling this. And I had no idea she’d ever done this. So I held on to that ad for a long time,” said Cunningham. Her partner came up with the idea of naming the creperie after the beauty in the ad.

“It’s a nice short easy name to remember and it’s a nice kind of way to pay tribute to my mother who’s been gone for a long time,” said Cunningham.

Look for the ad to be framed and hanging in Chez Tess when doors open next month.

Directions: Chez Tess Creperie, 5687 Charles Street, scheduled to open in early September.

© Copyright 2008-2009 North and Agricola

4 Responses to “New creperie part of ‘something really good’”

  1. 1 sharon allen August 20, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    congrats to Liz! She’s a smart, funny and hardworking woman. I know this endeavor will be a success!!

  2. 2 Samira Meshal August 21, 2009 at 9:39 am

    Congrats to Liz for her brave and unique project and Congrats to Rod Malay for his continuous efforts to make his dream come true. Both, Liz and Rod are revolutionary thinkers, they work hard to change and add flavor to our life. They absolutely added lots of this flavor to my own life.

    Samira Meshal

  3. 3 Anna Conner September 4, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    Congratulations Liz. With your passion and visionary thinking, I just know I’ll be enjoying devine crepes for many years and right in my neighbourhood. Looking forward to it.

  4. 4 Bob September 29, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    This is a neat site and Chez Tess is a great little restaurant. Dave and I had a light supper of warmed brie with roasted garlic, I had the rich and creamy seafood chowder, and Dave had the onion soup which he reports was wonderful. So, a lovely addition to our area and I give it my two thumbs up. We are definitely going to be coming back to explore more of the menu.
    Liz, it was nice to meet you and we wish you every success.
    Oh, and I can’t fail to mention the fact that the staff were all warm and efficient.

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