Despite our mother's best advice about breakfast, most of us give the all-important first meal of the day short shrift during the work week. We gulp down sugary cereal, grab a granola bar (which probably shouldn't be considered food, much less breakfast), or just settle for a few thousand cups of coffee.
Pancakes, on the other hand, say breakfast with a capital "B." They're traditional, they're substantial and they're impossible to eat on the run. You have to sit down and commit to a stack of pancakes, which is something your mama would surely approve of because "commitment" always sounds good and, frankly, you're looking a little thin. Here are 10 places to find great pancakes -- some of them plain, some of them fancy, all of them delicious.
This cute little cafe with a '57 Chevy in the middle of the room (and a dining table in the middle of the Chevy) offers plain pancakes in a classic breakfast combo plus a handful of fancy pancake options to make your breakfast seem anything but everyday. Bacon Blue Pancakes are just blueberry pancakes with crispy bacon added to the batter, but they're so much better than that sounds, contrasting the plump sweetness of blueberries against the salty crunch of bacon ($9.99). Served with eggs (good for mopping up yolk with the pancakes, if you swing that way), they're straightforward but surprisingly delicious. Just as good (and maybe better, depends on the day) are the Granola Raspberry pancakes, filled with tart-sweet raspberries and topped with a bit of granola for crunch. Served with a side of bacon, it's another genius combo you shouldn't miss ($9.99). Breakfast is served until 11:30 a.m. Monday through Saturday; all day on Sundays.
Matt and Erenia Pool call their pancakes "griddlecakes," but it's easy to love these fluffy, golden-brown cakes by any name. Made from scratch and mixed by hand, using cage-free eggs, these faintly sweet fat boys are topped with good butter and Vermont grade A maple syrup -- a plate-load of goodness for $7.95. And, of course, breakfast is served all day.
At this old-school, slightly kitschy breakfast restaurant (where the light soffets on the ceiling look like waffles), pancakes come in just about every possible permutation -- buttermilk, wheat, gluten-free, banana, pecan, blueberry, strawberry, chocolate chip, wildberry, protein power, and even Oreo Cookie S'mores (yikes!). For a change-up on the good old American pancake, try Sweden's lace-edged, crepe-like version, dusted with powdered sugar and given a dollop of wild Swedish lingonberry sauce smack in the middle. So light but so luscious a side of butter seems completely superfluous ($8.50). Breakfast is served all day (3 p.m. close).
You have to wait for St. Francis' weekend brunch (9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday) to get a crack at the Iron Skillet Pancake, moistened with olive oil, studded with chunks of dark chocolate and baked in the wood-burning oven until its edges are crisped and slightly charred. Topped with caramelized apples, maple syrup, and whipped crème fraiche, this is dessert, not breakfast ($8). But we're guessing you won't have a problem with that.
These upscale breakfast spots are all about options, offering pancakes in two basic packages (buttermilk or whole wheat and honey) with the following toppings: straight-up (butter and Vermont maple syrup), nutty (toasted candied nuts with syrup, which sounds damn good), chocolate chip, and strawberry. But when it comes to dessert-style pancakes, they don't fool around, offering '60s-era dessert classics -- Bananas Foster and Cherries Jubilee -- with a hefty scoop of real vanilla-flecked ice cream. Oy. And you know what? It works. Pancakes are just a second cousin to crepes anyway. Only diff here is your (ahem) breakfast won't be prepared table-side or flamed ($9.95).
Why would anyone come to Doug Robson's stellar Mexican restaurant to eat pancakes from the all-day breakfast menu when there are huevos rancheros and chilaquiles for the asking? It's a valid question with a super-simple answer. Gallo Blanco makes the best straight-up pancakes in town, enriched with buttermilk and sour cream and left on the griddle until they're a lovely burnished brown ($7.50). Served with butter and syrup, they're fluffy but rich, and both the buttermilk and sour cream lend them a trace of tanginess. Robson says pancakes are sold in Mexico as street food, rolled up like a taco with various fillings in the middle. Sounds like a swell idea, and it explains why this Mexico-born gallo blanco so very good at pancakes.
Matt and Jenlyn Long's sophisticated three-squares restaurants (one in Old Town, one in spitting distance of the Camelback Corridor) do a great job with breakfast -- and pancakes, in particular. Select your favorite batter (buttermilk, honey whole wheat, or gingerbread) then pick a topping, say, the peach creme brulee picture above, which goes very nicely with gingerbread ($8.99). Mixed with poached peaches and topped with a drizzle of custard plus a cloud of whipped cream, it's not for the diet-conscious or even the remotely circumspect person. Each plate comes with your a choice of sides, including spuds (as if you needed the extra carbs!). But, hey, eat it guilt-free or don't eat it at all. Breakfast is served until 4 p.m.
These cheery, bread-centric fast-casuals with multiple locations keep up with trends, turning out a petite stack of light, airy lemon ricotta pancakes to rival any in town. You get a fragrant whiff of lemon the instant the plate is set down and tart hints of the fruit in every bite. Sided with butter, maple syrup (which tastes like brown sugar, and that's not a complaint) and blueberry compote, these babies are small but oh so effective ($6.79). But get there early. Breakfast is over with after 10:30 a.m.
When you want something just a tad left of center, you cannot, should not, must not miss this quirky but outrageously good concoction -- pancakes studded with jalapeños and pecans, topped with a sauteed mix of more jalapeños and pecans, and then drizzled with syrup containing -- you guessed it -- jalapeños and pecans. It's a heavenly combination, especially if you make bacon your protein side dish. Then every bite offers up fluff and crunch, sweet and heat, salt, and smoke. If you gag at the thought of too much sweet stuff for breakfast, this far more savory pancake dish is for you ($11). Breakfast is served until 4 p.m.
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Over the many years this retro coffee shop with butter-toned walls and aqua booths has been cranking out breakfast, much has been made of the apple pancake. And rightly so. It takes 30-45 minutes to bake (far less if you get there before the crowds hit); it's a sugar bomb like no other, and it probably clocks in at something like 20,000 calories. In other words, it's an item for your culinary bucket list -- a sweet, custard-like concoction vaguely reminiscent of a tarte tatin, thanks to the pretty overlay of caramelized apples. It comes in two sizes ($10.75 for the regular, $7.75 for the junior), but either way, you're probably going to have leftovers -- so good with ice cream the next day. Breakfast is served until 2 p.m.