Battle of the Dishes

Matt's Big Breakfast Threatens to Flatten Joe's Diner Like a Pancake

A real pancake is a thing of beauty. Not Bisquick or the fast food version, but an honest-to-goodness made from scratch griddle cake filled with love and real buttermilk. Some people, like my earnest dining companion, grew up with these comfort food treats. Others of us were forced to eat the cheap boxed crap that looks and tastes like foam insulation.

In hopes of reviving our blunted breakfast palates, we tracked down two local breakfast joints known for their tasty homemade pancakes. Read on to find out how relative newbie Joe's Diner fared against the heavyweight: Matt's Big Breakfast. 

In One Corner: Joe's Diner
4433 N 16th St. in Phoenix

"This has got to be, hands down, THE BEST BREAKFAST PLACE IN TOWN!!!!!!" writes Yelper Mary D enthusiastically (judging by the all caps and half a dozen exclamation points). Them's fightin' words. With Matt's Big Breakfast having such a high rep and a morning wait a mile long, we had to see what the fuss was about at Joe's.

The place is tucked inside a retro looking auto body shop building that's been converted into one half classic car dealer and one half quaint breakfast spot. Walking into Joe's Diner is like jumping through a time warp -- in a good way. Seriously, welcome to Happy Days revisited. Joe's boasts sparkly red counter stools, tin road signs, vinyl booths and a jukebox in the back. The only thing missing is a cheeky waitress in a pink dress and white apron, wearing a plastic name tag and popping gum bubbles.  

We may not have been around for the '50s, but we still felt the nostalgic appeal. Chatty waitresses poured endless cups o' Joe and talked up daily specials. Aunt Bea and her knitting pals exchanged belated Christmas gifts purchased from TV infomercials in the booth next to us. Even "Joe" himself walked around bussing tables and talking about his family. 

Pancakes come in short or tall stacks for $2.99-3.99 or as part of the #2 Special, which included eggs, two types of meat and a short stack. We sprung the extra two bucks for the special and took the five minute wait time to look at old sports cars for sale next door through a glass window in the wall. Our pancakes and such arrived shortly, served on a classic oval diner plate. I could immediately tell these suckers were different.

The pancakes were flatter than the pre-mixed kind, with a thin brown coating that crisped under my fork. My dining partner and I each took a bite and smiled. They weren't fluffy, but they were delicious. The pancakes were dense and rich, with the creamy tang of real buttermilk. I'd never tasted anything like them. "Now, this is a real buttermilk pancake, not one made with powder," said my friend as he savored a bite. "These are easily the best pancakes I've had in a decade!!!!!!"

Turns out those Yelp! exclamation points might have been necessary after all.

We devoured every bite of the griddle cakes in minutes, barely pausing to reach for the sugary syrup. The only downside of Joe's is that food is slightly greasier than normal -- likely because butter, milk and other whole ingredients are used in place of cooking sprays and low-fat substitutes. But putting aside weight and health concerns, we could eat here every day.

In the Other Corner: Matt's Big Breakfast
801 N. 1st St. in Phoenix


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Wynter Holden
Contact: Wynter Holden

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