On Wednesdays, Jennings Downtown Provisions has a special menu item that’s made right in front of customers.
Mike LaValliere, former Pittsburgh Pirates catcher better known as “Spanky,” and a crepe connoisseur, prepares specialty and dessert crepes in front of Jennings and serves them up with a smile starting at 4 p.m.
It began in November, when the Bradenton resident offered to add to the Old Main Street restaurant’s dessert menu with his crepes.
After a trial run, it was decided to bring LaValliere’s crepes back for another serving. They’ve been a hit ever since.
Even during spring training, he brought his crepe station to the patio.
He exchanges laughs with old friends and new ones as they walk into Jennings or watch him whip up his latest order.
“It’s been an absolute blast. I get to meet fans, friends — and what’s really neat is a lot of friends show up. They get to each other, I get to see them. Folks that come in from out of town that I know, it’s a nice social gathering place for us to have some fun,” LaValliere said.
Growing up in New Hampshire, his French-Canadian grandmother would make traditional crepes in a large black skillet, and he started making hem for his family. Eventually, he added new ingredients. That led to trying new and different crepes.
“I’ve had the opportunity to cook mostly at home, but now I get a chance to have some fun with some friends here at Jennings,” LaValliere said.
Last week, LaValliere branched out from the traditional dessert crepes, introducing a chicken cordon bleu crepe. It went well so he made another savory crepe for this week.
Wednesday night, LaValliere served up portions of Spanky’s version of Cajun Crepes — cheese grits rolled in a paper-thin crepe with a healthy topping of shrimp, sausage and peppers served with a side of okra creole made a meal fit for Mardi Gras king.
On the restaurant’s window, hanging behind him as he cooks, is the lineup of other dessert crepes he creates including a banana-split crepe, Nutella with raspberries crepe strawberry crepes along with a few others. The night’s menu can always be found on his Facebook page.
LaValliere has a few regulars who stop by every week. They insist you try the key lime crepe.
The crepe service, LaValliere said, usually lasts from 4 to 9 p.m. on Wednesdays.