Where to Eat Great Pancakes from Coast to Coast
Whether strewn with blueberries or served in their naked buttermilk state, here are 12 must-try iterations of America's breakfast staple.
12 Must-Try Pancakes
A tower of pancakes — hotcakes or flapjacks, if you prefer — glistening under a sheen of sticky syrup is as much a comforting symbol of weekend mornings as the diner's roving coffee pot. Whether strewn with blueberries, made with tangy sourdough or served in their naked buttermilk state, here are 12 of the country's tastiest iterations of the carb-laden breakfast favorite.
By Alia Akkam
Anchorage, Alaska: Harley's Old Thyme Cafe
Harley's Old Thyme Cafe has a decidedly Southern air, thanks to the longtime owner's Oklahoma roots. If you fall for the hearty brisket-and-eggs platter (as you should), be sure it's accompanied by an order of pancakes. The restaurant makes its own sourdough starter, which elicits a stack of thin, nutty-flavored beauties enjoyed best with a side of ham steak.
7550 Old Seward Highway, Anchorage, 907-349-8878
Charleston, S.C.: Hominy Grill
A charming old home is the setting for Hominy Grill, where Chef Robert Stehling's abundant Southern-style breakfasts and brunches are celebrated for dishes like shrimp and grits and fried chicken biscuits. Buttermilk pancakes — weekend specials sometimes yield permutations like banana walnut — may sound seemingly simple by comparison, but they are a toothsome, golden-hued revelation.
207 Rutledge Ave., Charleston, 843-937-0930
Chattanooga, Tenn.: Aretha Frankensteins
Craft beer and omelets teeming with refried beans are among the reasons to pay a visit to Aretha Frankensteins. But the quirky restaurant also dishes out stellar slim and fat stacks of pancakes that can be amped up with blueberries, chocolate chips, pecans, apple butter or strawberries. Snag one of the boxes of their all-natural mix to whip up those same dense disks in your home kitchen.
518 Tremont St., Chattanooga, 423-265-7685
Chicago: M. Henry
On weekends, locals queue up at Andersonville favorite M. Henry, for bottomless mugs of organic coffee sipped alongside black bean cakes and drunken eggs. In-the-know diners also share dessert in the form of the decadent Blackberry Bliss Cakes, swaddled in warm fruit and vanilla mascarpone, and topped with a brown sugar-oat crust.
5707 N. Clark (in Andersonville), Chicago, 773-561-1600
Gardiner, Maine: A1 Diner
The quaint, historic city of Gardiner is the quintessential backdrop for A1. In this vintage chrome diner car, a throwback to the 1940s, patrons may spend their days hunched over corned beef hash and chocolate cream pie, but mornings are reserved for fluffy pancakes studded with juicy blueberries.
3 Bridge St., Gardiner, 207-582-4804
Houston: The Buffalo Grille
Since the mid-'80s, family-run Buffalo Grille has been an institution for the likes of Acapulco-style catfish and chicken-fried steak. At breakfast, the go-to order is the massively sized, plate-filling hotcake. A side of thick-cut, pecan-smoked peppered bacon gives the sweet and buttery confection a hearty boost.
Weslayan Plaza Shopping Center, 4080 Bissonnet St., Houston, 713-661-3663
1301 S. Voss Rd., Houston, 713-784-3663
Minneapolis: Al's Breakfast
Small, narrow Al's Breakfast — a stone's throw from the University of Minnesota — oozes retro charm. Specials like ricotta cakes with poached eggs and bacon waffles on a stick keep the crowds coming, but the buoyant blueberry buttermilk pancakes flipped on the griddle are a perennial favorite. When autumn arrives, regulars clamor for the pumpkin version.
413 14th Ave. SE, Minneapolis, 612-331-9991
Sugar Hill, N.H.: Polly's Pancake Parlor
An array of mixes from Polly's Pancake Parlor, in Sugar Hill, can easily be purchased online. The real fun, however, awaits in the rustic dining room, a former 1830s carriage shed (a ritzy revamp of the space will make its debut in May 2015). Here, batters made from stone-ground organic grains lead to plump buckwheat, oatmeal-buttermilk and gingerbread pancakes dotted with walnuts, coconut, blueberries or chocolate chips.
672 Route 117, Sugar Hill, 603-823-8849
New York: Clinton St. Baking Co. & Restaurant
When husband-and-wife team Neil Kleinberg and DeDe Lahman opened Clinton Street Baking Company on the Lower East Side, in 2001, it fast attracted the brunch hordes. They came for the biscuits and omelets, but the pancakes, ethereal rounds slathered in warm maple butter, have a cult following. In fact, every day in February, in honor of Pancake Month, the restaurant highlights inventive twists on the dish, such as Japanese pumpkin and German chocolate. If, for some reason, the buttermilk fried chicken doesn’t tempt for dinner, the usual roster of wild Maine blueberry, banana walnut and chocolate chunk pancakes can also be savored come nightfall.
4 Clinton St., New York, 646-602-6263
Oxford, Miss.: Big Bad Breakfast
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 short stack of oatmeal pancakes dressed up with whipped cream and strawberries (and chocolate chips, blueberries, pecans or bananas if you so desire). Balance the sugar rush with a side of andouille.
719 North Lamar, Oxford, 662-236-2666
San Francisco: Plow
Airy, light-filled Plow, the Potrero Hill restaurant from Joel Bleskacek and Maxine Siu, offers a stellar brunch revolving around dishes like healthy chia seed pudding and rich blood sausage and eggs. Bright lemon ricotta pancakes, tart and dusted in powdered sugar, are another showstopper. Those embracing a gluten-free diet find salvation in Annie's almond flour pancakes.
1299 18th St., San Francisco, 415-821-7569
Washington, D.C.: Florida Avenue Grill
From harried congressmen to young families, Florida Avenue Grill, an old-timey soul food restaurant that’s been going strong since the 1940s, lures in a vibrant swath of the nation’s capital. Chances are the crisp-edged hotcakes, tricked out with cinnamon sugar, will appear at each of their tables.
1100 Florida Ave. NW, Washington, D.C., 202-265-1586