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Pancakes are a playful dish. Their friends delight in calling them by nicknames: wheat cake, hot cake, griddle cake, flapjack, flannel cake, flatcar. Arriving at the table as short stacks or lofty towers or fanned out like a haul of soft medallions warm enough to make butter run rivulets of molten gold, they are a culinary pleasure that demands sweet syrup and defies seriousness. In a complicated world, a plate of pancakes is an uncomplicated joy for children (pancakes’ biggest fans) as well as adults who crave a little TLC.
Pancakes are especially appreciated by travelers in search of significant breakfast; and while fair to middling ones are on the menu virtually everywhere, restaurants that serve four-star flapjacks are rare.
There is little geographical logic to where the best pancake parlors are, except for a few that showcase the best of Northeast maple-syrup country (most notable Polly’s Pancake Parlor of Sugar Hill, New Hampshire) and those places in Rhode Island that make a point of serving authentic jonnycakes, made with flint corn meal. Great destinations around the country include The Pancake Pantry of Nashville, Bette’s Oceanview Diner of Berkeley, Dot’s of Wilmington, Vermont, Blue Heaven of Key West, and Du-Par’s of Los Angeles. Of special note is the original Original Pancake House of Portland, Oregon; the progeny of which, scattered around the country, are all a cut above.
Waffles, which are pancakes’ cousin, are common, too; but it’s rare to find ones that are better than the big-tread, doughy pseudo-Belgians made from a mix. In fact, the nation’s top-tier thin-tread waffles are – no surprise – offered by the nation’s best pancake parlors, including Polly’s and the Original Pancake House. Best of all is finding a genuine Liège Belgian waffle, such as those served at Los Angeles’s Shaky Alibi.
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