50 States of Pancakes
From upscale urban cafes to country-style mom-and-pop diners, restaurants across the U.S. are using pancake batter as a vessel to showcase regional ingredients and culinary traditions. Here are our picks in each state, plus Washington, D.C.
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Snow City Cafe – Anchorage, Alaska
An award-winning breakfast and lunch spot, Snow City Cafe has dominated the Anchorage breakfast scene since 1998 with its fresh and hearty morning plates showcasing local, seasonal ingredients. Brace yourself for the blustery climate by fueling up with the Polar Bear Breakfast — one fluffy, plate-sized buttermilk pancake (you can add blueberries for an extra 50 cents) served with two eggs, any style, and a side of protein. (For an authentically Alaskan experience, go for the juicy reindeer sausage spiced with white pepper and coriander.) Vegan and gluten-free visitors will find plenty of items to choose from, too. The news gets even better for picky eaters: Substitutions, for once, are welcome.
Drip Cafe – Hockessin, Delaware
Serving pancakes with bacon is a time-honored American tradition, but Drip Cafe in Hockessin, Delaware has taken the breakfast classic a step further by serving its hot buttermilk pancakes studded with crispy bacon bits throughout, a technique that ensures the perfect balance of sweet and salty in every bite. The innovation doesn't stop there: Once plated, the pancakes are topped with roasted apples, more smoky bacon and housemade salted caramel sauce for a sweet-and-salty breakfast bomb that leaves customers feeling sated for hours.
Big Bad Breakfast – Oxford, Mississippi
Chef John Currence put genteel Oxford on the culinary map with his small empire of restaurants, including City Grocery and Snackbar. Big Bad Breakfast is the homiest of the bunch, a destination for sweet potato hash, chili-stuffed omelets and a Creole-inspired egg scramble packed with spicy andouille sausage and tender crawfish. But it's the nutty oatmeal short stack dressed up with whipped cream that really takes the (pan)cake. Other toppings, like chocolate chips, strawberries, blueberries, pecans or bananas, are also available. We highly recommend that you temper the impending sugar rush with a side of the restaurant's signature andouille.
The Bunnery – Jackson Hole, Wyoming
One of Jackson Hole's favorite spots for breakfast and lunch (and dinner, but only during the summer months), The Bunnery offers the best breakfast in town, complete with fresh-squeezed orange and grapefruit juice and bottomless cups of Starbucks coffee. The straightforward, simply prepared menu items include a variety of eggs, including made-to-order omelettes and classic quiches. For a true indulgence, treat yourself to the tangy buttermilk pancakes topped simply with maple syrup and fresh, in-season fruit. The house specialty, however, is the O.S.M. Pancakes, which manage to retain a light and fluffy texture — the mark of all excellent ’cakes — despite their hearty, whole-grain flour blend containing whole wheat, oats, sunflower seeds and millet. Used to make bread for toast and French toast as well, the O.S.M. blend is a proprietary recipe developed in the '70s by the first owner of The Bunnery, which was originally a bakery, not a restaurant. Can't count on a trip to Jackson Hole anytime soon? You're in luck: The O.S.M. pancake mix can be purchased from the restaurant's online shop.
The Farmer's Table Cafe – Fayetteville, Arkansas
Fayetteville has long attracted adventuresome hikers keen on exploring the vast wilderness of the Ozarks — but that's not all the town is known for. Visitors would be remiss to neglect the wholesome, country-style pancakes served hot off the grill at The Farmer's Table, just a stone's throw from the University of Arkansas. Here, you can choose from organic buttermilk pancakes grilled in coconut oil or the vegan coconut pancakes topped with Firefly Farm figs and fresh Windberry Farm raspberries. But cafe's real claim to fame is the sweet potato pancakes, a Southern specialty, made with all-local ingredients: New South Cooperative sweet potatoes, War Eagle Mill flour and Farmers' Pride eggs. Toppings like cinnamon butter, candied pecans and organic maple syrup push these tender 'cakes into dessert territory. In our opinion, that's the opposite of a problem.
Delta Diner – Delta, Wisconsin
Established in 2003, this self-proclaimed "little diner in the middle of nowhere" has gained serious traction with audiences near and far thanks to its straightforward, comforting breakfasts and the made-from-scratch Blue Plate Specials. And although the inspiration for the overall appearance and decor of this classic American roadside diner came from the East Coast, there's no doubt that the belly-warming Norwegian Cakes will sustain you through the harsh Wisconsin winters. Thin yet tender and ever so slightly spongy (all the better for absorbing that lemon and powdered sugar), these comforting pancakes are something of a Wisconsin tradition, thanks to the large wave of Norwegian immigration to the Midwest during the mid-19th century. Pair the 'cakes with a side of bacon and some hearty fried eggs for the full backwoods breakfast experience.
Tupelo Honey – Asheville, North Carolina
The menu at the Tupelo Honey cafe in Asheville is full of modern twists on classic Southern fare -- for example, Goat Cheese Grits with Shrimp and Fried Chicken Saltimbocca. But you won't truly understand the meaning of "Southern hospitality" until you've experienced the pomp and circumstance that is the restaurant's Shoo Mercy Sweet Potato Pancakes, a long-standing staple of the weekend brunch menu. Stacked three high, these moist 'cakes are topped precariously with apple cider bacon, buttermilk fried chicken and spiced pecans — with two sunny-side-up eggs, pickled blueberries and grilled seasonal fruit on the side. Erring on the side of dessert? Try the Banana Pudding Layered Pancakes — a play on another Southern classic, in which the signature sweet potato pancakes are layered with banana pudding and topped with warm, malty rum sauce.
Polly's Pancake Parlor – Sugar Hill, New Hampshire
Antique tools, Civil War relics and portraits of the previous generation of owners decorate the walls of this cozy Sugar Hill breakfast nook. Tucked inside a carriage shed that was built circa 1830, Polly's Pancake Parlor has passed through three generations of Granite Staters. During the Great Depression, Polly and her husband, Wilfred "Sugar Bill" Dexter, converted the shed into a small, quaint tearoom with seating to accommodate just 24 people. When they first began serving in 1938, they offered pancakes, waffles and French toast — "All you can eat for 50 cents" — in an effort to stimulate sales of their maple products. Eighteen years later, the original scheme is still working, with warm, made-to-order pancakes flying off the griddle from the time the place opens at 7 in the morning until it closes at 3 in the afternoon. Diners can customize their plates with their choice of six different batters — plain, oatmeal buttermilk, buckwheat, gingerbread and whole — plus classic add-ins like chocolate chips, blueberries and walnuts. Having too much trouble deciding? Go for the sampler plate, which offers two pancakes each of any three styles, opening you up to ingenious combos such as Oatmeal Buttermilk-Blueberry, Whole Wheat-Walnut and Cornmeal Coconut.
John O'Groats – Los Angeles, California
This family-owned restaurant specializes in exceptional breakfasts that transcend trends. Looking around the dining room, you'll see Angelenos of all ages tucking into the signature Irish oatmeal, huevos rancheros and other morning favorites, including a lengthy list of buttermilk pancakes studded with chocolate chips, bananas, strawberries, blueberries, pecans and other enticements. For a stack of Los Angeles flavor, get the seven-grain granola pancakes, which have slightly nutty flavor and a bit of crunch.
Cinnamon's Restaurant – Kailua, Hawaii
Hearty, homemade creations await inside this award-winning coastal joint, from savory, meat-heavy dishes to indulgent plates that toe a very thin line between breakfast and dessert. As for the pancakes, classic buttermilk, banana, pumpkin, red velvet and cinnamon-apple batters are all on offer. But for a truly tropical experience, go for the Guava Chiffon Pancakes, which arrive at the table glazed with a delicate, rosy pink sauce. The chefs have taken care to tame the guava, a fairly sweet fruit, to ensure that the dish doesn't send diners into full-blown sugar shock. Ranked continuously at the top of America's best-of lists, it's safe to say these are a can't-miss item.
The Pancake Wagon – Bend, Oregon
How many times have you been able to say that you've sampled inventive pancakes served hot out of a converted 1970s camper just a stone's throw from the scenic Deschutes River — oh, while a friendly bunny nibbles wild clover out of your hand? Stop by The Pancake Wagon in Bend, Oregon, between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. and you'll check off all those goals at once. Before opening their beloved neighborhood food cart, owners Caley and Bashia Brach were accustomed to grueling hours: They had left careers on the East Coast in social work and nursing, respectively. But they took their mutual love of quality, on-the-go breakfast food out West. Since opening in April of 2016, the menu offerings have exploded — from standard (though excellent) pancake stacks to pancake burritos (purritos) and pancake muffins (puffins). Each item was born out of a desire to serve fresh, hot breakfast that can be enjoyed on the move. If you're craving something sweet, try a Lemon Ricotta Puff-Czek, the Brachs' play on the pączek, or Polish jelly-filled doughnut; it features a mixed-berry and chia seed compote injected into one of their citrusy Lemon Ricotta Puffins. In the mood for something savory? The Johnny Purrito, which features scrambled eggs, bacon and spicy serrano-pepper cream cheese spread bundled up in a large cornmeal johnnycake, won't disappoint. Don't forget to swing by the bunny hutch and pay a visit to Roux!
Little Sandy's – Bruceton Mills, West Virginia
Most breakfast-hocking restaurants in the country pride themselves on buttermilk pancakes, but West Virginia chefs prefer to get their flavor from buckwheat cakes. Monongalia and Preston counties, in particular, are known for their exceptional pancakes, which are made in a style very local to West Virginia. In lieu of an otherwise all-purpose-flour batter, locals add buckwheat flour to make nutty, slightly sour 'cakes. They're fantastic. Some chefs use lard to prevent sticking, though butter works, too. At tiny diner Little Sandy's, in Bruceton Mills, the buckwheat cakes are best served with sausage patties and maple syrup.
Bubby's – New York, New York
The pancakes at this hip Tribeca cafe and its newer Meatpacking outpost are as big and bold as the restaurant’s hometown. Customers are given a choice between two different batters: The ultra-tangy housemade sourdough batter uses sourdough starter from 1890, and the other is based on an old James Beard recipe that's been adapted to include sour cream for extra fluffiness. You can also choose from five addictive variations, which include pancakes strewn with crunchy walnuts and golden, caramelized banana slivers; pancakes dressed in a sweet-and-sour blueberry sauce; or the Nutella pancakes with Concord grame jam. But perhaps the most-valuable lesson to learn from Bubby's is that fried chicken should never be reserved for just waffles. Order a stack of the golden sourdough pancakes with a side of juicy Sullivan County Farms fried chicken. After the first bite, a light will go off in your brain, leaving you stunned that you hadn't thought to try this pairing sooner.
Toast ‘N Jams – Muskegon, Michigan
Diners flock to this 1950s-inspired eatery for hearty breakfast fare dished out in nostalgic environs. The interior, which is filled with old-fashioned decor centered around Route 66, includes a wall-to-wall mural inspired by the historic roadway. Each dish represents a different stop on Route 66, like the Amarillo-inspired BBQ burger. And while the lunch menu is certainly worth a look, Toast 'N Jams, as you might guess by the name, is famous for its breakfast plates. Keep it classic with the banana-nut or blueberry pancakes, and be sure to check your guilt at the door before ordering the thickly iced Cinnamon Roll Pancakes. One of Toast 'N Jams’ most-requested creations, the Strawberry Cheesecake Pancakes are cooked until golden brown and topped with a sweet strawberry-cream cheese blend.
Keke’s – Winter Park, Florida
This regional Florida chain maintains the feel of a cozy hometown diner at each one of its 30 locations across the peninsula, thanks to its menu of comforting breakfast classics like golden Belgian waffles and fluffy omelets stuffed with ham and cheese. But diners will tell you that the pancakes are where it’s truly at. Choose from eight different options, some featuring crunchy batters, such as the banana-nut, the granola and the pecan pancakes. Keke’s even pays homage to its home state with the Florida Pancakes, a fluffy buttermilk stack topped proudly with fresh fruit galore — strawberries, banana, blueberries — and, of course, powdered sugar.
St. Francis Restaurant – Phoenix, Arizona
St. Francis is famous for giving the wood-fired treatment to its seasonal vegetables and signature San Francisco-style sourdough. But the best application of this cooking technique is the Iron Skillet Pancake. Laced with olive oil, buttermilk and dark chocolate, this iconic brunch dish is baked in a cast-iron skillet in the restaurant’s wood-burning oven, which was custom-built in the same style as 19th-century bread-baking ovens. The skillet is fished from the flames only once the pancake has achieved a deep, mahogany char — much darker than you might be used to, but this is not your run-of-the-mill flapjack. It arrives at the table dressed with tender caramel apples, real maple syrup and whipped creme fraiche.
Ellen’s – Dallas, Texas
Tradition reigns supreme at Ellen’s, an all-day-brunch hub with a myriad of unpretentious Southern specialties, like shrimp and grits and creamy pimento cheese, dominating the menu. But for a one-of-a-kind, untamed breakfast experience that’s just begging for a close-up on your Instagram profile, ask for the Pancake Pot Pie. Envisioned by owner Joe Groves and brought to life by co-owner and Executive Chef Russell Mertz, this over-the-top spin on the classic Southern supper features layer upon layer of made-from-scratch pancakes, sweet maple cream-sausage gravy, hickory bacon, crumbled sausage, hash browns — phew, almost there — and a top layer of scrambled eggs and cheddar cheese. For once, your friends will actually be jealous of what you ate for breakfast. And sure, you could order the chicken-fried steak or the buttermilk fried chicken for dinner, and you wouldn’t regret it. But why would you do that when this original (and sinfully addictive) creation is available all day long?
Jigger's Diner – East Greenwich, Rhode Island
In 1992, when Carol Shriner bought the decrepit Jigger's in East Greenwich, she didn’t expect it to become the destination diner it is today. Nevertheless, the Gingerbread Pancakes, perked up with hot brewed coffee, dark brown sugar, ground ginger, cinnamon and cloves, are something of a local legend. So are the diner’s signature johnnycakes — plump little discs with crunchy brown surfaces sandwiching steamy flint cornmeal — which are typical of South County. Historians believe that johnnycakes date back as far as Colonial times, when they were known as "journey cakes"; once cooked, they could be carried on a long trip for sustenance along the way. Thus, to eat them is to experience a piece of the nation's culinary past.
Toast on Market – Louisville, Kentucky
When this arty cafe first opened its doors in 2006, locals saw it as another feather in the cap of Louisville’s burgeoning breakfast scene. Over a decade later, Toast on Market has firmly cemented its position in the city’s culinary landscape — even expanding to a second location across the Ohio River. Visitors are repeatedly impressed by Chef George Morris’ sophisticated reinterpretations of classic American diner fare, like the Monte Cristo French toast filled with ham, baby Swiss and orange marmalade. The chef’s French bistro-informed methods can be best appreciated in the form of the Lemon Soufflé Pancakes, which are bursting with citrus flavor and dressed in a rich vanilla custard and juicy blueberry compote. For a real stick-to-your-ribs rendition of American buttermilk pancakes, try the Bread Pudding Pancakes festooned with warm rum-raisin syrup and rich Irish creme sauce.
Vick’s Vittles – Albuquerque, New Mexico
On the border of Navajo Nation, a Native American territory covering over 17.5 million acres between Arizona and New Mexico, sits this bustling Albuquerque diner known for its hearty Southwestern specialties. The crown jewel of the breakfast menu is easily the Santa Fe Pancakes, a dish that takes its cues directly from the Native American and Mexican culinary traditions that have largely shaped the region’s modern foodscape. These deep indigo cakes feature a blue-corn buttermilk batter that’s loaded up with roasted pinons, Hatch green chiles and cheddar-Jack cheese. Don’t pass them over based on the novelty of the color: Blue corn, in terms of flavor, has very much in common with the yellow varieties most Americans would readily chow down on. The first bite floods your senses with the essence of uber-fresh corn, and the spice from the chiles follows soon after, leaving a gentle sting on your tongue that’s tempered by the tangy buttermilk.
BabyStacks Cafe – Las Vegas, Nevada
If you’re in need of a recklessly indulgent breakfast to numb you through the painful aftermath of a night out in Vegas, then look no further than BabyStacks, a cafe that boasts 21 different pancake varieties on its menu. You’ll find traditional buttermilk stacks bulked up with bananas and blueberries, along with many one-of-a-kind creations: orange-flavored pancakes topped with whipped cream for a play on an orange Creamsicle, a rocky road-inspired stack, a riff on cookies and cream featuring chocolate batter — even a peanut butter-laced stack that comes with a choice of chocolate, banana or jelly spread. But the real MVP at this pancake playland is the red velvet topped with fresh whipped cream and chocolate crumbles, and served with cream cheese syrup. It’s the best-seller for a reason. Word to the wise: There’s nothing babylike about BabyStacks’ breakfast plates. A short stack includes three pancakes, while a full stack includes a whopping six. "Come hungry" is all we’re saying.
The Nova Cafe – Bozeman, Montana
Breakfast lovers will have a hard time settling on just one item when poring over the endlessly tempting options at this lively Bozeman diner, where morning fare is served every day from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. But for flapjack diehards, the choice is easy: It’s the Blue Cornmeal Pancakes every time. Compared with classic buttermilk pancakes, those made with cornmeal tend to have a bit more grit — and, when blue cornmeal is used, the resulting ’cakes wind up with a striking blue-gray hue that is a welcome change from the typical beige that all too often dominates our breakfast plates. In the summertime, go wild with the color palate by adding fresh, in-season blueberries. You won’t regret it.
Katalina’s – Columbus, Ohio
Altering the overall shape and appearance of traditional flapjacks might strike you as reinventing the wheel. But then again, you probably haven’t been to Katalina’s yet. Housed in a 100-year-old gas station — the oldest in Columbus — this eclectic cafe has been slinging local, homemade grub without pretense since 2009. Owner Kathleen Day has garnered a massive following that includes locals and out-of-towners alike with her prized Pancake Balls made with local, stone-ground Fowler’s Mill flour. Diners get to choose from three different fillings: Nutella, dulce de leche or local organic Cooper’s Mill Pumpkin-Apple Butter. Every order comes with Milligan's Bourbon Barrel Aged maple syrup and a side of Katalina’s Original Sweet ’N’ Spicy Bacon, or regular bacon if you desire. (Go for the Sweet ’N’ Spicy.)
Hatch – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
You don’t have to search the nation high and low for inventive pancake add-ins, but pancakes in playful shapes get bonus points for ingenuity. This chic, all-day breakfast hub pays homage to its home state in the form of the Famous PanOKCakes. Made with sweet cream batter and strewn with bacon, local pecans, bourbon-maple glaze and mascarpone butter, these fluffy ’cakes are cooked and then sculpted to resemble the Sooner State. The Strawberry Dream, Blueberry Streusel and Pina Caramelo stacks also feature Hatch’s specialty sweet cream batter and luscious fruit compote. Classic buttermilk, gluten-free sweet potato and chocolate chip pancakes are among some of the more mainstream options. Can’t make up your mind? Go for the Pancake Flight — it’s any three pancakes of your choice.
Green Eggs Cafe — Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Don’t let the name of this Seuss-inspired restaurant confuse you. The short-rib Benedict and various egg skillets are all very tempting, yes, but the pancakes are what drives the brunch rush weekend after weekend. Traditional 'cakes come piled high with everything from strawberries and blueberries to chocolate chips and ice cream — but forget all of that. If you really care about pancakes (and you must, otherwise you wouldn't be reading this), there’s no choice but the red velvet stack layered with strawberry mascarpone. Supremely dense with crispy edges, these square-shaped beauties are crowned with airy Chantilly cream and fresh strawberries. One other reason to love this cafe? It's BYOB, so don't forget to bring some prosecco for a tangerine-juice mimosa.
Page’s Okra Grill – Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina
Leaving hungry is never a possibility at this legendary Mt. Pleasant hub for authentic Southern comfort food, which comes in consistently in the No. 1 spot on all the local best-of lists. Fueling up on a budget? Go for the $6 buttermilk stack, piled three high, and add fresh fruit, bacon or chocolate chips for an extra $1.50. If you’re in the mood to splurge, upgrade to the $9 Loaded Pancakes: The same wholesome buttermilk batter is loaded up with pieces of apple-smoked bacon and sausage, griddled to golden perfection, then topped off with a generous dollop of whipped honey butter.
Succotash – Kansas City, Missouri
Sure, the greater Kansas City metropolitan area is not heavily associated with Swedish-American history. Compared with Minneapolis, for example, Kansas City in 1900 was home to only one-tenth as many Swedish immigrants — around 2,000. Yet Swedes here, as elsewhere, left their imprint on the physical, social, economic and culinary development of the city. Exhibit A: the crowd-pleasing Swedish Pancakes served at Succotash in Crown Center, Kansas City’s bustling shopping district. These buttery, crepelike pancakes are filled generously with tart lingonberries alongside two eggs and fried bacon. If you prefer your fruit to err on the side of sweet rather than sour, go for the Peachy Swedes. They’re Swedish pancakes filled with lightly sweetened ricotta and topped with ginger-infused peaches.
Milktooth — Indianapolis, Indiana
The fact that this modest Indianapolis eatery housed in a former garage has achieved national acclaim by serving brunch and brunch only is pretty incredible. Though the restaurant industry is experiencing something of a brunch frenzy (thanks, avocado toast), there’s a vocal minority who are (understandably) unwilling to venture out of their homes, weather hourlong waits for a table and fork out $20 or more just to kick-start their mornings. But Chef Jonathan Brooks’ eye-catching plates have a way of taking even the most-dubious brunch skeptics and turning them into devout brelievers. The restaurant, in part, owes its enormous popularity to its Dutch baby pancakes, the menu’s ever-evolving showpiece. Brooks creates the puffy, pastrylike base using his specialty pancake batter and tops it off with seasonal ingredients. The restaurant’s two most-current iterations are a sweet-and-savory option — the Welsh rarebit Dutch baby, featuring new potatoes, pickled sweet corn and greens — and the tarte tatin Dutch baby, topped with roasted apples, lemony caramel and whipped sour cream.
Cafe Eclectic – Memphis, Tennessee
Since opening their first location on North McLean in the heart of the historic Vollintine-Evergreen district, owner Cathy Boulden and Chef Mary O’Brien have expanded Cafe Eclectic's reputation as so much more than a casual stopover for coffee and pastries. The opening of their "Big" Midtown location in 2008, where the breakfast menu is available all day in addition to lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch, helped to cement the cafe’s reputation for quality morning fare in Memphis’ burgeoning breakfast scene. Be prepared for a wait, especially on weekends, as it seems Eclectic never experiences a slow day. Once seated, begin caffeinating yourself with an Illy French press. Cafe Eclectic is known for its emphasis on locally sourced ingredients, so, when it's time to order, go for Pookie's Buckwheat Pancakes, "made with freshly ground buckwheat from the Mississippi Delta." With a mouth (and belly) feel that’s lighter than the usual all-white-flour varieties, plus a subtle crunch around the edges and a crown of fresh sliced fruit, they'll win over even the most-resolute pancake haters at the table.
King’s Breakfast and Lunch – Newtown, Connecticut
Tucked inconspicuously off to the side of Route 25 in Newtown, King’s was dominating Connecticut best-breakfast lists long before the benefits of the web and "viral" food news. But the massive, celebratory plates dished out at this cozy, wood-paneled diner continually impress the regulars, as well as any lucky travelers who happen to wander in from a scenic New England drive. When we say these plates are massive, we're not joking: A full stack of the country buttermilk pancakes includes four thick 'cakes with the option to add blueberries, strawberries, bacon, bananas or chocolate chips to the batter. The pumpkin pancakes, which you'll find only on the special weekend breakfast menu, are remarkably moist and tender but not too sweet — a situation you can remedy with an ample pour of real maple syrup.
The Breakfast Shoppe — Severna Park, Maryland
Near the Eastern Shore, in Severna Park, this morning-centric spot specializes in hearty breakfasts, including an array of Benedicts, omelettes and plenty from the griddle. The Cinnamon Roll Pancakes combine the best of a cream cheese-glazed roll with flapjacks, and trailblazer pancakes come studded with granola. The restaurant has gained acclaim for its Fall Harvest Pancakes, which are served seasonally and weigh five pounds each.
Penny Ann’s Cafe – Salt Lake City, Utah
Since opening its doors in 2011, this small, family-run diner has achieved enormous popularity thanks to its no-frills, quality breakfasts. And, although restaurants have a tendency to hype their food, the deliciousness of the Heavenly Hot Cakes at Penny Ann’s cannot be overstated. Light and airy, these housemade sour cream flapjacks are served simply with butter and real maple syrup, and frankly, any additional toppings would be an insult the already perfectly sweet-and-tangy formula. The locals seem to agree: For two years in a row, Penny Ann’s was the winner of the Best of State Award for Best Breakfast — a pattern that nearly matches the momentum of the operation’s expansion. (After three years in Salt Lake City, the family decided to open a second, nearby location — and then a third, in Draper, Utah, in December of 2014). The restaurant’s namesake, Penny Ann, and her sister, Cindy, can often be found seating patrons, serving tables and chatting with the regulars.
Dante’s Kitchen – New Orleans, Louisiana
The farm-to-table ethos that’s slowly moved to the forefront of the American dining scene over the last decade or two was slow to catch on in New Orleans. But that started to change after Chef Emanuel "Eman" Loubier, a New York native and an early champion of this culinary aesthetic, opened Dante’s Kitchen in 2000 after a long stint at the iconic Commander’s Palace. The main dining area is set in a small but high-ceilinged converted cottage that’s nearly a century old. Served with Smith Creamery butter and cane syrup (a staple in the arsenal of New Orleans chefs), the roasted banana-pecan pancakes are available only during weekend brunch hours, and are just one of the many dishes that reflect Loubier’s Nouvelle-Creole roots. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, try pairing the nutty brown ’cakes with a side of grilled alligator sausage for an authentic NOLA breakfast experience.
Little Grill Collective – Harrisonburg, Virginia
The Little Grill Collective has churned out cozy, homestyle fare to Harrisonburg loyals since the 1940s, albeit under many different owners and many different names. The hip breakfast joint first dipped a toe into the local DIY scene in the early 1980s, when a young employee started renting the place out on weekend nights to present rock shows, cheap beer and hellishly spicy chili. Years later, manager Ron Copeland and his employees organized a worker-owned corporation, and in 2003, they purchased the restaurant using "community financing" to secure the down payment, and now proudly trumpeting its Collective, worker-owned status. Famous for its buckwheat pancakes — made with Wade's Mill buckwheat, rice flour, agave, Edgewood Farms molasses, almond milk and flax — LGC demonstrates just how delicious it is to seize the means of production.
M. Henry – Chicago, Illinois
Chicago locals will dare you to name a pancake better than the Blackberry Bliss Cakes at M. Henry, a globally inspired cafe that’s stolen the spotlight on the Windy City’s breakfast scene since opening its doors in 2011. Remarkably light, these fluffy hotcakes swaddled in warm fruit and vanilla mascarpone and topped with a brown sugar-oat crust offer a thoughtful blend of flavors and textures that results in an unstoppable breakfast force. The heavy dollop of vanilla mascarpone cream between the pancakes does just enough to cut the sweetness of the dark berry sauce, and the crunchy oat topping makes for a chewing experience that will give you more to ponder than your average butter-soaked stack. To put it simply, this is a breakfast worth planning your weekend around. And besides, where else in Chicago can you queue up for bottomless mugs of organic coffee?
Kristin’s Breakfast – Braintree, Massachusetts
Rejoice, sugar fiends, for this is one-stop shop for morning glory. At Kristin's in Braintree, you'll find a dizzying pancake menu that includes 18 specialty options like M&M, birthday sprinkles, German chocolate, caramel pecan and cookie dough. The s'mores pancakes are the diner's true claim to fame, but unlike some of the other intentionally genius combinations, these were the result of a happy accident. After mistakenly receiving a case of graham crackers in a delivery, owner Kristin Son — dubbed "The Pancake Queen" by her regulars — decided to put the ingredient to good use, and a local breakfast legend was born. For a quintessentially Massachusetts order, go for the Boston Cream Pancakes, featuring a river of sweet cream and flowing chocolate.
All Day Cafe – Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Everyone knows that the best part of coffee cake is the sweet, melt-in-your-mouth streusel crumbs. At this all-day-breakfast destination, the timeless topping takes center stage in the form of the Blueberry Delight Pancakes, studded with plump blueberries and made complete with a schmear of lemon peel cream cheese and a drizzle of maple syrup. Then again, you may find the Caramel Banana Pancakes equally captivating, with their amalgam of sweet, citrus and molasses notes that come from a topping of sliced bananas and strawberries, citrus-rum caramel and vanilla bean whipped cream. Go on, order the pancakes for dinner. Why? Well, because you can.
Moody’s Diner – Waldoboro, Maine
A way station on mid-coastal Maine’s U.S. Highway 1 since the 1930s, this institution (now owned by the third generation of the Moody family) has built its reputation on award-winning pies. The chocolate cream pie has been voted the most popular by customers, but the four-berry and walnut pies loom close behind in the ranking. For a quintessential Maine breakfast, there’s no better option than a stack of Moody’s blueberry pancakes, which will set you back just $5.09. The pancakes are a staple item for regulars and an eye-opening experience for sojourners. In August, Maine’s peak blueberry season, Moody’s hauls in fresh bushels from surrounding Waldoboro farms every morning. Prized for their extra-tart bite, Maine blueberries play particularly well with the tangy, housemade buttermilk batter. You can offset the pucker effect with a liberal glug of maple syrup.
The Chef – Manhattan, Kansas
When Charles "Cotton" Limbocker opened The Chef in 1943, Manhattanites poured into the small space to claim one of the eight seats at the diner’s horseshoe-shaped counter. After a rush of early and steady success, the Limbockers decide to expand the business by buying up the space next door. In 1986, The Chef closed down — but in 2008, Kevin and Kurstin Harris, along with their good friend Zach Filbert, reopened the legendary diner in an effort to fill the breakfast void downtown. In the spirit of the revival, the Riley County Historical Society even provided the original neon sign to hang outside. It’s remarkable that, despite over 20 years of inactivity, The Chef has resumed the bustling business it first enjoyed during the postwar era. Diners still have a tendency to wolf down their plates, since there are always hordes waiting to take their place — especially on weekends. You would be remiss not to ask for the Pancakes Bananas Foster slicked with a dark rum-banana-pecan sauce. The diner’s youngest visitors tend to gravitate toward the PB&J pancakes or the rainbow-flecked stack laced with Fruity Pebbles.
The Maple Counter Cafe – Walla Walla, Washington
It would be an understatement to say that pancakes are The Maple Counter Cafe’s specialty. With an entire corner of the menu dedicated to "Creative Pancakes," a category that includes staples such as classic buttermilk, blueberry and chocolate chip-laden flapjacks, plus a few more extraordinary renditions under "House Specialties," it’s safe to say that pancakes are the cafe’s earthly mission. Despite the overwhelming number of compelling options to choose from, there’s a clear winner, especially for newcomers. The Apple Pancake, which the restaurant identifies as "the pride of our kitchen," is made in the style of a souffle: It’s filled with fresh apples, baked in the oven until it’s achieved at least 3 inches of height and shellacked with a Saigon cinnamon glaze. "This is a pancake you’ll talk about forever," the proprietors promise — and, believe us, they're not lying.
Moe Joe’s – Meridian, Idaho
Since opening its doors in 2013, Moe Joe’s has cemented its status as Meridian locals’ go-to for quality, casual breakfasts. Chef and owner Joe Boyd’s emphasis on made-from-scratch comfort food (featuring locally sourced ingredients where possible) extends to the menu’s pancake selection, which includes three tempting options: the classic buttermilk Moe Joe ’Cakes; the Jalapeno Berry Pancakes, stuffed with cream cheese and served with housemade jalapeno-berry syrup; and, the diner’s piece de resistance, the Doughnut and a Cup of Joe. This tall stack of buttermilk pancakes is glazed with doughnut icing and topped with sliced, candied almonds. But truly, it’s the inventive presentation that makes this dish so special: Hollowed out in the center, the stack is fitted snugly with a petite dispenser containing Moe Joe’s homemade coffee syrup.
Highland Bakery – Atlanta, Georgia
With seven locations spread across Atlanta, it’s safe to say this coffee shop-turned-comfort food-hub is in very high demand by locals. Owner Stacey Eames first envisioned Highland as a destination for quality brews, and later, wholesome baked goods packed with good-for-you ingredients like nuts, berries and whole grains. Eventually, Eames expanded her whole-foods concept to include breads, cookies, pastries and cakes. The success of her bakery model prompted the young entrepreneur to expand her horizons yet again by venturing into the realm of Southern comfort food. (Think shrimp and grits and fried chicken Benedict.) Bellying up to a plate of the silky ricotta pancakes drenched in blueberry compote is akin to having dessert for breakfast — which, to be clear, we highly encourage. But the sweet potato pancakes best demonstrate Highland’s mastery of Southern culinary traditions. Lightly sweet with a honeyed hue, these moist flapjacks are served with warm, caramelized brown sugar butter and toasted pecans. Thanks to the sweet potato-laced batter, you can almost convince yourself they’re healthy. Almost.
Blue Plate Cafe – Huntsville, Alabama
There was a time in the not-too-distant past when the predominant food sources available in the South were simple grains, dried beans, chicken, pork and summer vegetables. Despite their limited means, whole communities of women learned to season and flavor their meals with the only ingredients they had available — usually salt, pork and a few spices. Blue Plate Cafe, a Southern comfort food destination for Huntsville locals and tourists alike, pays homage to those industrious matriarchs whose recipes — passed down for generations — now grace the pages of the diner’s menu. If you’re visiting at the right time, you just might score a taste of their summer specialty: The Very Berry Pancakes, two fluffy buttermilk ’cakes loaded to the max with raspberries, blueberries and blackberries, are available only when the berries are in season. The rest of the year, you can fall back on the golden buttermilk flapjacks served with soft butter and maple syrup. If you’re feeling indulgent, upgrade your plate by adding chocolate chips, sliced bananas and whipped cream.
The Shack on Broadway – Fargo, North Dakota
This no-frills diner slinging classic American breakfast fare follows the old adage, "If it ain’t broke, don't fix it," to the fullest. You won’t find artisanal pancakes topped with expensive, fussy ingredients here — just classic buttermilk flapjacks, fluffy on the inside and deep golden brown on the outside, slicked with softened butter and maple syrup. And frankly, they don’t require much more embellishment than that. Add fresh blueberries or chocolate chips if it tickles your fancy, but don’t even dream of asking for the recipe. The Shack's top-secret batter comes from an old family recipe, and it’s the reason why this stack is considered the best in town.
Pannekoeken Huis – St. Louis Park, Minnesota
It was President Lincoln’s Homestead Act of 1862 that prompted a massive wave of Scandinavian and Dutch settlers on the East Coast to move westward in pursuit of affordable farmland. Today, there are reminders of Minnesota’s early cultural influencers everywhere, and especially in the state’s cuisine. At this comfy St. Louis Park diner, you’ll find 15 variations on pannenkoeken, or Dutch-style pancakes. Larger and much thinner than their American or Scotch pancake counterparts, but not quite as thin as crepes, pannenkoeken are an excellent instrument for showcasing all kinds of toppings. At Pannekoeken Huis, there’s something for every palate, from an Americanized creation glazed with cinnamon sugar and laced with tart Granny Smith apples to a rendition topped with kiwi, pineapple and banana that flirts with tropical influences. For an authentic Dutch breakfast experience, go for the Traditional Dutch, served simply with powdered sugar and a lemon wedge.
Florida Avenue Grill – Washington, D.C.
Locals know this old-school breakfast joint as a destination for the best hotcakes in town — which, according to the menu, have been "flying off the grill since before you were born." Very little on the menu has changed since 1944, when Lacey Wilson and his wife Bertha first opened the humble diner with tips Lacey saved from years of working on Capitol Hill as a shoeshiner. The same cannot be said for the building itself: Following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., the Grill was firebombed during a riot. But it bounced back, just as it did in the face of natural disasters, recessions, crime waves and gentrification. Even now, the Grill remains one of the few places where you can find "a congressman sitting down and having a meal right next to a garbageman," to borrow the words of entrepreneur and current owner Imar Hutchins. Next time you’re in D.C., grab a seat at the iconic counter, order yourself a plate of hotcakes — they’re topped very generously with cinnamon and sugar — and let 70 years of D.C.’s flavor history wash over you.
Sweet Basil’s Cafe – Livingston, New Jersey
You can’t go wrong with any of the fluffy buttermilk pancakes at this casual New Jersey bistro. In fact, your biggest challenge will choosing from eight fluffy options, including strawberry shortcake pancakes, tiramisu pancakes, and the nutty banana pancakes doused in a decadent caramel-pecan sauce. But it’s the Whiskey "R&B" Pancakes — with whiskey-soaked raisins with caramelized bananas in a pomegranate-caramel sauce — that truly stand out from the pack. You may be wondering how the chefs manage to jam so much caramel-y goodness into one stack without pushing the ’cakes into overly saccharine territory, but the slight tartness of the pomegranate sauce and the maltiness of the whiskey temper the dish perfectly. "Trust us," the menu urges, adding "no substitutions." Indeed, you should trust them.
Sugar and Spice – Mendon, Vermont
A family-run operation, Sugar and Spice is a diner, gift shop and working sugarhouse all rolled into one. The restaurant sits on part of the old Ripley estate where, for many years, American Civil War Brigadier General Edward H. Ripley and his descendants spent their days making maple syrup, candy and cheese. Though the estate is no longer in the Ripley family, some things haven’t changed: Today, the property is still a bustling site for homestyle cooking dependent upon Vermont’s bounty. Maple ice cream and maple sugar candies are produced right on-site and can be purchased in the restaurant’s gift shop. As for the pancakes? You've got a few options, but the Pumpkin Pancakes are the customers’ clear favorite. Each batch is served with real maple syrup — the artificial stuff will cost you extra. Stop by for a visit in the springtime and you'll be able to watch the sugar makers turn tree sap into maple syrup. It doesn't get much more "Vermont" than that.
Grove Cafe – Ames, Iowa
"One pancake at the Grove Cafe and a little pig meat on the side is a meal," boasts the menu at this cozy Ames breakfast joint. And it’s true — in fact, it’s arguably more than a meal. The Grove Cafe’s Famous Pancake, which costs just $4, is sweet like cake and roughly the size of a pizza. There’s little you can do to prepare yourself for a pancake of these proportions, other than to eat a light dinner the night before your visit. We wish we could tell you more about what makes this golden, oversize flapjack so darn addictive — you’ll swear you won’t be able to polish it off on your own but will inevitably find yourself staring down at an empty plate — but alas, the recipe is top-secret. And though the sign over the diner’s entrance warns, "Just like home you don't always get what you want," there’s no evidence to suggest that a single customer has ever left Grove Cafe feeling hungry or unsatisfied.
Syrup – Denver, Colorado
Owner Tim Doherty’s award-winning corned beef hash, handcrafted syrups and signature green chile stew have earned Syrup a loyal following in a very short time, ensuring the restaurant a coveted place in Denver’s burgeoning breakfast scene. For proof of Syrup’s excellence, look no further than the Baked Apple Pie Pancake: juicy apples cooked into one large, fluffy, cinnamon-and-sugar-spiced ’cake that’s generously topped with whipped cream and caramel sauce. Those who prefer pancakes with some oomph will absolutely flip for the Up & At ’Em. These buckwheat pancakes are laced with crunchy granola and plump blueberries, then stacked three high and drenched in real maple syrup. If you can’t decide whether you want to satisfy your sweet or salty craving, go for the Sweet & Savory stack: It’s three buttermilk pancakes with pieces of maple-peppered bacon, sausage and walnuts strewn throughout. The crown jewel is a generous mound of nutty pecan butter.
Le Bouillon – Omaha, Nebraska
As you might guess from its name, this Omaha mainstay takes its cues from France, but the Sunday brunch menu includes a nod to the city’s rich German cultural heritage, in the form of the German pancakes, or Kaiserschmarrn. For the uninitiated, this fantastic comfort food is essentially a thick, shredded, caramelized crepe traditionally laced with rum-soaked raisins. Historians indicate that the Austrian emperor Franz Joseph I was quite fond of the dish, which takes its name from the German kaiser, or emperor, and the Austrian-German schmarr, meaning mess or nonsense. Fittingly, Le Bouillon gives its Kaiserschmarrn the royal treatment with the addition of fresh, seasonal berries, berry butter, whipped cream and maple syrup.