Pancake Review at: CHARLIE’S COFFEE SHOP

Feb 13th, 2012

-Well… at least I found some great hangover pancakes!

On Saturday I visited Charlie’s Coffee Shop in The Farmer’s Market on West 3rd Street in Los Angeles, CA. Now, while I love The Grove, I am not too crazy about The Farmer’s Market; it’s always very crowded, chaotic, and many of the food stations are cash-only. But, because The Farmer’s Market is a Los Angeles landmark, I knew it was important for me to squeeze in a review.

So, where to go?

After stopping at every single station that serves pancakes in The Farmer’s Market, turns out Charlie’s Coffee Shop is the only spot that serves something besides buttermilk pancakes. Can someone please explain how an outdoor market, that’s pretty much the Epcot Center of food, only has one station which serves more than buttermilk pancakes?? Sure there are varieties of crepes, waffles, and French Toast; but it seems as if The Farmer’s Market is more concerned with worldly foods, than it is American. Ok. Back to the pancake menu:

When asking the chefs’ recommendation for my “hotcake” review, they insisted I try the Banana Pancakes. While, according to the menu, it appears as if the hotcakes come with walnuts,  turns out they do not.

Looking at this photo, I am finding myself slightly nauseous again. Anyway. Let’s start with the pros:

Everything about this pancake was incredibly fresh. The bananas baked into the batter were very obviously handpicked from The Farmer’s Market that day; this notion alone made the pancakes worth a bite. The hotcakes also had an interesting contrast of a crispy, almost crunchy bottom, with a soft, fluffy top. In this sense, the pancake tasted like a toasted banana muffin, which was a pleasant surprise.

The problem with these pancakes, as you can see from the photo, is the amount of butter in which they are soaked. If you read my review of Blue Plate, for example, you will see the importance of a glisten on the strawberries, which indicates the freshness of the fruit. When looking at the hotcakes image above, however: the pancake itself should NEVER glisten! This is a sign of too much grease, butter, and who knows what else! Charlie: pancakes are fattening enough, but they can still taste amazing without first running them through a butter churn.

It is because of the greasiness of this dish, I have named Charlie’s Coffee Shop’s Banana HotCakes as the #1 go-to pancake for a Sunday morning hangover. I have many more restaurants to review though, so we’ll see how long that title lasts.

My other issue about eating these pancakes at The Farmer’s Market is that Charlie’s is right next to a pizza station: how can you enjoy the taste and savor of hotcakes, while smelling fresh-made pizza? You can’t.

I did want to give a better review for this pancake station, especially because the competition is so low in The Farmer’s Market; but unfortunately, and surprisingly, The Grove/Farmer’s Market is NOT the place to go for pancakes. That is, unless you had too much Jack the night before.

There is something to say though, for the freshness of the fruit, and the way in which the hotcake is cooked. All in all: let’s just say it’s a good thing Charlie’s Coffee Shop doesn’t have Twitter.

Pancake Review at: BLUE PLATE

Feb 7th, 2012

Through the recommendation of a friend, on Sunday I visited a restaurant I’ve never been to called Blue Plate, located on Montana Avenue and 14th Street in Santa Monica. I’m always slightly apprehensive to try a new restaurant, particularly because we all have our go-to spots- especially for pancakes! However, it is important for me, as a pancake-reviewer, to try new places in unfamiliar territory. Well, this little spot in the heart of Santa Monica is certainly a prize!

Now, when a restaurant only offers basic pancakes (i.e. no specialty pancakes),  it puts tremendous pressure on the quality of the pancakes available. After ordering the Strawberry Banana Pancakes, fortunately for Blue Plate, they succeeded in creating an incredibly tasty, yet basic, pancake breakfast.

My biggest compliment about the Strawberry Banana Pancakes is that, to my surprise, the bananas were baked into the batter, and decorated atop with fresh & juicy strawberries. The glisten alone on the strawberries is a key visual indicator of the freshness of the fruit. After seeing this breakfast option on the menu, I figured both the bananas and strawberries would rest on top of the pancakes. Kudos to Blue Plate for creating such a small, yet important, switch in the norm of pancake breakfasts.

While the pancakes themselves were fresh and tasty, the only comment I had about the pancakes was they were a bit dry. Typically, I barely put syrup on my pancakes; in fact, the true barometer of a tasty pancake is one that’s delicious enough by itself- without needing any syrup at all. Think of steak and steak sauce (see my Doughboy’s Review for reference). With my pancakes at Blue Plate, however, I found myself pouring way more syrup than usual.

All in all, the compromise of the bananas in the batter and the strawberries on top is what made this basic pancake dish special. Thank you Jillian for this great pancake-breakfast recommendation in Santa Monica!

Pancake Review at: JOHN O’ GROATS

Jan 30th, 2012

On Saturday I visited John O’ Groats on Pico Blvd and Patricia Avenue in Los Angeles, CA. If some of you recognize the logo, it could be because the restaurant was actually featured in an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm.

From the moment I entered the restaurant, I felt somewhat of a West Palm Beach Florida vibe, particularly with it’s (mainly) elderly crowd, and diner-food aroma. It was at this moment I knew the pancakes would be good, but also knew they would be different than the other pancakes I’ve been reviewing. Well, I was right.

While John O’ Groats definitely has a diverse menu, I’m not the biggest fan of fruity-pancakes (i.e. the Applesauce, Mango Macadamia Nut, and Lemon Pancakes), and therefore decided to go with the Clements’ Sisters Chocolate Chip Pancakes- minus the whipped cream.

While these enormous pancakes were delicious, and clearly homemade, they definitely tasted like diner-food pancakes. Yes, diner-food pancakes can be amazing (like in this case); but I often think of diner-food pancakes as the solution for hangovers, not so much for Saturday brunch. Granted, many can disagree: sometimes you need that diner-food pancake if you’re homesick, and miss vacation breakfasts with your grandparents in Ft. Lauderdale. But while these pancakes are great for what they are, in a town of such intricate pancakes with varying batters, I can’t say John O’ Groats pancakes are the best ever. Then again, if diner-food is what you’re looking for, go for it!

The difference between Chocolate Chip Pancakes from, lets say, Black Cat Bakery, and John O’ Groats’, is that BCB’s pancakes don’t make you feel so full after. I’m not quite sure what the difference is in the batter, but I want to say one has way less grease. I enjoyed John O’ Groats pancakes and give them a great review for what they are, but I do suggest wearing stretchy pants- otherwise your button will shoot across the room once you’re finished. John O’ Groats has a diverse menu selection, and certainly gives you enough of a portion size for the cost; I just don’t feel that in a town of such an assortment of tasty pancakes, this dish compares. As per their motto, I do believe John O’ Groats gives nothing but the best; but, maybe for the best for the elderly.

Pancake Review at: DITCH PLAINS

Jan 18th, 2012

On Sunday I took my friend Kathleen’s advice, and went to Ditch Plains on 82nd between Columbus and Amsterdam in New York City (that “between” makes a huge difference when you and your friend are wandering down Columbus Ave in 19-degree weather). After my unfortunate experience with Sarabeth’s on Wednesday, I was hoping to leave my trip to NYC on a positive note- and fortunately, I did!

While the menu is somewhat lacking in pancake options, unlike Sarabeth’s these choices are actually enticing. As a fan of red velvet cupcakes, I decided to give the Red Velvet Pancakes a whirl.

This stack of three red velvet pancakes was actually quite delectable. The powdered sugar combined with the cup-size scoop of the cream cheese topping was the perfect addition to this tasty meal.

What I found interesting about this dish from Ditch Plains was the Red Velvet Pancakes actually tasted more like red velvet cake. The reason this notion is not necessarily negative is because you don’t feel sick to your stomach once completing your breakfast. The pancakes taste more like light and airy cake, verses (what can often be) heavy and greasy pancakes. Because of this concept, I was able to finish everything on my plate, leaving only a smile behind.

It should be noted the pancakes are ONLY an option on Saturdays and Sundays. At the end of the meal, the check came in a glass with salt-water taffy; this is actually something I have never seen, but what a lovely touch! This meal ended up costing $2 less than Sarabeth’s, and tasted one hundred times better. Overall, Ditch Plains was a wonderful restaurant to end my trip to NYC.  Perhaps the headline of the restaurant should read “Ditch Sarabeth’s.”

Pancake Review at: SARABETH’S

Jan 14th, 2012

Officially my first disappointing pancake-review.

sarabeth-logo

While visiting family and friends in New York City this week, I decided to review pancakes at Sarabeth’s on Central Park South. Having gone to Sarabeth’s several times over the years -mainly for dinner – I figured it would be a great stop for my first NYC pancake review. Well, unfortunately, I was wrong.

Menu1

Sarabeth’s is officially my first review of disappointing pancakes. While the menu itself has cute names for dishes, including the “Baby Bear,” “Mama Bear,” and “Papa Bear,” the creativity with its pancakes is for sure lacking.

If you’re only going to have two types of pancakes, both options HAVE to be amazing. While the buttermilk pancakes looked pretty, their taste was abysmal.

SBbkfst

If I were blindfolded and had Eggo pancakes on one side, and Sarabeth’s pancakes on the other, it’s unfortunate to say that I wouldn’t be able to tell them apart. If you’re going to spend $15 for a pancake-breakfast, by no means should the food taste microwavable. Now, only because I’ve had dinner at Sarabeth’s, I do not actually believe these are microwaveable pancakes – but they sure taste like ’em. There was no creativity whatsoever in this dish, except for the way they were stacked on the plate. My only positive comment is the strawberries tasted exceptionally fresh.

And while this is not in reference to the pancakes, I found the staff to be quite stand-offish and snooty. Sarabeth’s: my advice is to be a bit nicer to patrons paying these prices for underwhelming meals, and skip the sanctimonious attitude towards the girl who grew up down the street from your Central Park South location, and is blogging about your services.

All in all this is, unfortunately, a pancake breakfast you can skip – unless of course you crave the memory of ready-made pancakes back from when you were a kid running late for the bus.

Pancake Review at: BLACK CAT BAKERY

Jan 12th, 2012

On Sunday I visited Black Cat Bakery & Cafe on Fairfax & Maryland in Los Angeles, CA. I was anticipating writing this review, as Black Cat is the spot I decided to write a blog in the first place (see about section of Ma’amCakes). While the menu is not as diverse as Bea Bea’s, their choices are certainly enough for any pancake-lover.

Per my first post of Ma’amCakes, I decided to go with the Belgian Callebaut chocolate-chip pancakes for my review, which also happens to be their most popular pancake.

While the meal looks (somewhat) simple, the taste is anything but. Perfectly cooked, these chocolate-chip pancakes are just what you’d need for a late Sunday breakfast. As you’re enjoying the taste of fresh buttermilk pancakes, the chocolate-chips melt in your mouth to the point where you might just crack a smile. Although not (technically) pancake-related, my recommendation is to wash down this delightful breakfast with an iced latte; Black Cat has some amazing coffee drinks, and they put in the time to make them look beautiful too! (Check out the Café au lai!)

While they don’t have specialty pancakes (although depending on the day, they might have in their specials), all in all, I would definitely recommend Black Cat Bakery for a great chocolate-chip pancake breakfast. Be sure to take note they serve breakfast until 3pm, and have FREE PARKING in the back! Always nice to get your pancakes without having to worry about parking!

Pancake Review at: BEA BEA’S

Jan 8th, 2012

On Saturday I visited Bea Bea’s on Pass Ave between Oak St. and Alameda in Burbank, CA. The slogan on both their storefront and menu, “Breakfast is Everything,” is a perfect description of the class, creativity, and savor Bea Bea’s puts into their food. While I wasn’t quite in the mood to trek all the way to Burbank for breakfast, the drive was beyond worth it.

The menu above pretty much speaks for itself. For a pancake-lover to attempt to choose only one dish off Bea Bea’s menu, is like asking a child to select their favorite toy in FAO Schwarz. Our server mentioned their most popular pancake was in fact the Just For You Pumpkin; but while I was debating between the Super Star, S’mores, Pacific Island, and Banana PB Crunch, I ended up choosing the Summer’s Dream.

Although I was very much anticipating my pancakes, I also had a craving for eggs as well. Luckily Bea Bea’s, with its intensely diverse menu, gives you such option:

It was at this point I combined the Summer’s Dream with Pooh’s Surprise, a dish I’d like to coin the phrase for: Dream Pooh. Props to Bea Bea’s for this opportunity- not all restaurants allow you to combine a specialty pancake with an egg breakfast. If at all, you’ll typically find this option with plain-pancakes only.

Now for the review:

Summer’s Dream was pure decadence. Although I am a fan of Nutella (a topping typically more popular on the east coast) I’ve never had this with pancakes. The breakfast was a wonderful combination of flavor and texture.

The best part about this dish was that each item was just as amazing by itself, as it was together. The pancakes themselves may be the best pancakes I have ever had- and considering this is my second review, the bar has now been set pretty high. The pancakes are doughy, but not too filling, and cooked just right. As if they were just picked from a field and placed on my breakfast, the strawberries tasted incredibly fresh.  And the Nutella was the perfect topping to this specialty breakfast.

My only additional comment is that while I’d never before had mascarpone cream- this tastes like whipped cream combined with cream cheese- I’d say the dish needs way less than the scoop provided. When putting a small dabble on my bites of Summer’s Dream, I realized it was all I needed- if that, at all. The dish in itself is wonderful- and filling- enough, and I felt the addition of the mascarpone was in fact, too much.

All in all, Bea Bea’s may officially be my favorite pancake stop in Los Angeles. The staff is incredibly nice, and while there is usually a slight wait for a table, the food comes quickly enough. Also, the option for gluten-free and/or vegan, makes Bea Bea’s even more special; this is certainly an option that not many restaurants have.

The drive to Burbank is well worth it, and Bea Bea’s got it right: Breakfast IS everything.

Pancake Review at: DOUGHBOYS CAFÉ

Dec 30th, 2011

Today I visited Doughboys Café on 3rd Street between La Jolla and Crescent Heights, and decided to review their pancakes as my first blog entry. Until today I had only visited Doughboys once, and tried their absolutely amazing Challah French Toast (Bonaparte’s Breakfast)- so I was very much anticipating the taste of their pancakes. Although Doughboys has several tempting options, including Rice Krispy Pancakes, I decided to go with the Pumpkin Griddlecakes.

As I’m not such a fan of nuts, I asked the server if it was possible to have the meal sans walnuts; she explained that because the nuts are baked into the batter, this was not going to be possible. The server did, however, mention her dislike of walnuts as well, and assured me I wouldn’t be able to taste them. Boy was she right!

With a fantastic blend of pancakes, pumpkin, and walnuts, the first bite of Pumpkin Griddlecakes tasted like Thanksgiving morning. The pancakes were doughy but not heavy, and flavorful but not overbearing. While the pancakes were tasty with a hint of syrup, the scoop of whipped cream cheese on top sealed the deal.

The Pumpkin Griddlecakes at Doughboys are the perfect holiday breakfast treat; just steer clear if you are allergic to nuts!

*And as a side note, unlike many restaurants in LA, Doughboys serves breakfast ALL DAY LONG!