By Kate Krader, Restaurant Editor, Food & Wine
It's the Republican Presidential primaries, and the pancakes are flying (they always do during primary season). Mitt Romney has been a pancake-making machine, serving them while fielding questions in Atlanta. In an interview with Rick Santorum's wife, Karen, he revealed that he makes pancakes with his kids. Ron Paul has been immortalized in pancake art being sold on eBay. Newt Gingrich didn't spend a lot of time flipping pancakes but some bloggers observed that he looked like he'd been eating too many of them. I wish that all the Republican candidates would do a Top Chef-style pancake elimination challenge -- perhaps that would help clear the field. While I wait for that to happen, I'm looking at some of the country's coolest pancake places.
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The Griddle Café, Hollywood. This little spot serves French toast waffles and even some burgers but pay no attention to anything except the pancakes. Their extraordinary menu runs the gamut from Eyes Wide Open, which boasts an espresso shot and chocolate chips in the batter, to Saturday Morning Fever (surely the best pancake name in history), which features Bailey's & Kahlua swirled into the pancake mixture. Griddle Café is also very proud of their Red Velvet PanCAKE and sell tins of it online and at the restaurant.
The Pfunky Griddle, Nashville. For everyone who wants to build their own pancakes with infinite toppings in an all-you-can-eat situation, meet Pfunky Griddle. If you're over 10 years old, pancakes with one topping will cost you $5.99, and $.75 for each additional topping. Choose anything from strawberries (in season), peanut butter and Sugar & Spice cottage cheese, all the way to M&M's and Reese's Pieces. (For kids ages 4-10, pancakes are $3.99; if you're lucky enough to be 3 years old or younger, it's $1.99 -- not sure if they check I.D.)
Brownstone Diner & Pancake Factory, Jersey City, NJ. Myth: Pancakes are for breakfast. Fact: There are no rules when it comes to pancakes. (This info comes directly from the Brownstone website.) You probably knew that already, but Brownstone still makes the case for it with 29 different pancake options, including Honky Tonk Pancakes (with peanut butter and banana), Meat Pancakes (with bits of ham, bacon or pork sausage -- genius) and Black Forest Pancakes (with chocolate chips and cherry compote).
Walker Bros. The Original Pancake House, Chicago area. Brothers Victor and Everett Walker opened the first location in Wilmette, IL in 1960; now there are six in Chicago's northern suburbs. The apple pancake, filled with fresh fruit and finished with cinnamon-sugar glaze, is renowned; topping it with French vanilla ice cream costs extra. Apparently their customers are impatient; Walker's FAQ includes a note about pancake cooking time: "We like to keep you waiting as little as possible therefore we always try to have apple pancakes cooking so that your waiting time is cut down to usually around 10 minutes. Occasionally we will run out of apple pancakes that have started cooking and therefore the average cooking time from scratch is around 25 minutes." If you want to be in complete control of how long it takes to eat their apple pancakes, you can buy them frozen at all of their locations and at Whole Foods.
The Original Pancake House, Nationwide. What started as a Portland, Oregon restaurant in 1953 is now a chain with locations in 27 states across the country. They say their recipes come from "housewives of the nationality originating the pancakes of their respective countries." Which means the menu includes Swedish Pancakes, Hawaiian Pancakes and 49'er Flap Jacks ("from the Mother Lode Country"). They also do a brisk business in crepes and waffles, although the Strawberry Waffle is somewhat confusingly referred to as "a Gourmet's Nightmare!"
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