Where: Otro Cafe
When: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday; 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday
Dish: Short stack of Flapjacks
Price: $9.87 (including tax and tip)
The Setting: Before we even walked into Otro Cafe in North Phoenix, we were met by the smoky scent of fire — in a good way. Inside the generously sized waiting area, we were greeted immediately. Although it's located in a strip mall and looks plain from the outside, Otro Cafe's interior actually has a good deal of personality. Exposed brick walls and dark painted concrete floors are off-set by a series of brightly colored bird paintings and a giant red, white, and blue painting of a helicopter took a primary spot on the back wall of the restaurant. Plants bring a welcome splash of greenery, as well.
A sizable bar overlooked an open concept kitchen and we could hear cooks calling softly for servers to run food to tables. Recently Otro Cafe enclosed their outdoor patio and incorporated it into the rest of the restaurant, so the interior felt more spacious on this visit than in the past. On cooler days, diners can enjoy a bit of fresh air inside the restaurant from the huge sliding glass doors on the edge of what used to be the patio. On Sunday morning, when we went for brunch, the ambiance was mellow and relaxing — no lights had been turned on inside, so despite the lively music, the all-natural lighting kept the tone subdued.
The Food: While there were multiple options for flapjacks on the menu, ranging from a single flapjack ($4.50) to the more extravagant El Chico, served with sliced bananas, candied peanuts, whipped creme fraiche, and cajeta ($8.50), we chose to go with the classic short stack ($7.50). The dish was nothing fancy — two plate-size flapjacks with a ball of butter and a ramekin of all-natural syrup. The flapjacks were hot, but not too hot to dive right into, and they had an almost eggy flavor reminiscent of a crepe. The exterior had a thin crust that provided a nice crunch, while the inside was incredibly moist — almost pudding-like — and though they were not undercooked, it was as if the flapjacks were pulled off the griddle at the exact moment they passed from not done to done. The flapjacks themselves were not overly sweet, so for diners who prefer a less-sweet dish, leaving the syrup off this plate would be perfect. The 100 percent maple syrup was fresh and warm, and it complemented the fresh flapjacks perfectly with its genuine maple flavor.
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The Good: The flapjacks alone are enough for us to return to Otro Cafe. Even after we were full, we wanted to keep eating because each bite was so full of flavor and textures. Plus, the fact that Otro Cafe serves breakfast all day, every day and that they open at 8 a.m. on the weekends are major pluses.
The Bad: While the natural light was calming, it was a bit dark inside for our taste, and the sunshine coming in from the former patio area provided a backlit effect that made it hard to see. Although we like the way the restaurant enclosed the patio and the space that the renovation provides, we're disappointed that there's no actual outdoor patio at Otro Cafe.
All in All: We loved this breakfast. The flapjacks were superb, the vibe of the restaurant was great, and the experience for the price was unbeatable. Despite the fact that Otro Cafe no longer has a patio, we will definitely be back here for the short stack of flapjacks again.