After the Jo-Jo De Go-Go shop on Minnesota Drive helped Jason Dinneen turn his passion for coffee into a business, he expanded to downtown with 302G, a coffee shop and creperie on the corner of G Street and Third Avenue. The café opened last September and Dinneen recently closed the Minnesota location to focus his efforts downtown.
In addition to a full espresso menu with everything from doppios ($1.75) to mocha breves ($3-$5.50), the café serves both sweet and savory crepes. The sweet ones are made with a flour-based batter and garnished with powdered sugar. Diners can opt for something basic, like the Sleeping Lady (butter and powdered sugar, $4.75), or more elaborate, such as the Denali (hazelnut chocolate, strawberries, chocolate chips, bananas and whipped cream, $8.50).
The savory crepes are made with gluten-free buckwheat flour batter and come with a side salad. The Street Vendor has reindeer sausage, cheddar cheese as well as roasted red peppers and onions ($9.50), while the Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese has Alaska beets, goat cheese, herbs and a truffle spritz ($9.50).
My first trip was during a weekday lunch. There were several to-go coffee customers during my visit, but only one other dine-in party. I opted for the Smoked Salmon and Caper savory crepe ($9.50) and a cup of drip coffee ($1.50 for an 8-ounce). The semi-circular crepe was folded in half to form a triangle and had a dark brown color from the buckwheat batter. The side salad was mixed greens and halved cherry tomatoes.
On my first bite of the crepe I tasted the smoked Alaska salmon, mascarpone cheese and dill, but something was off. It was incredibly over-salted. There were grains of salt sprinkled over the top of the crepe and pooled up next to it. I took another bite and grabbed a glass of water. Two bites later I was at the counter looking to exchange it for something else. I went for something sweet and ordered the Crepe Suzette ($7).
The crepe was up quickly and without charge. It was filled with mascarpone cheese and chunks of fresh orange, finished with a sprinkled topping of powdered sugar. Light and sweet, it was a much better match for my coffee, which was also good.
On my way out I ordered a berry smoothie to go ($4 for a 16-ounce, $5 for a 20). I watched as the barista put frozen berries, yogurt and milk into a blender. She also added pours of fruit-flavored coffee syrups to the mix, explaining that it helped mask the flavor of the yogurt. Unfortunately, the syrup trick didn't work and the smoothie still had a bland, plain yogurt taste. Disappointed, I wondered why they didn't just use vanilla yogurt as a base.
For my second trip, I tried to call in, but the number listed on the menus just rang and rang. Instead, a friend who works downtown was able to walk over for me and order a Black Forest Ham and Cheese savory crepe ($9.50), a sweet Nutella crepe ($5.25) and a 12-ounce Americano ($2.25). When I followed up the next day, an employee walked over to the phone and discovered the battery was dead because it wasn't being charged.
Opening the to-go boxes, I discovered the ham and cheese crepe was topped with mayo and Dijon mustard instead of salt but still tasted just OK. When I peeked inside the crepe, I noticed it didn't hold the roasted Roma tomatoes promised on the menu and that the sliced ham portion was deli-thin.
The Nutella crepe was sweet and tasty, with a filling of hazelnut chocolate spread and topped with powder sugar and a dollop of whipped cream. The coffee was again perfect and provided a perfect complement.
When I got Dinneen on the phone, he acknowledged that my review hadn't caught the restaurant at the best time. He said he was working out some kinks with new staff and is about to add new items at the restaurant, including gelato. The sweet crepes and coffee I had at 302G were spot on, but my other dishes missed the mark. Novelties like crepes and gelato should help it attract customers, but on a block with powerhouses like Sacks Cafe and Urban Greens, it will have to start executing in order to get them to return.
• Got a restaurant tip, a new menu, a favorite dish or a chef change? Send an e-mail to email@example.com.
By Spencer Shroyer
Daily News correspondent