Polly’s Pancake Parlor

Review by: Michael Stern

Polly’s Pancake Parlor is like fancy-grade maple syrup: sweet and rare, rustic and deliciously old-fashioned. It began in 1938 when “Sugar Bill” Dexter and his wife Polly converted the carriage shed of their farm into a tea room in order to showcase all the good things that could be made from the sap gathered from Dexter’s sugarbush. They served pancakes, waffles, and French toast as well as white bread laced with maple syrup. When New England was slammed by the (unnamed) Great Hurricane of 1938, they gathered up the apple windfall and boiled it with syrup to make what they called Maple Hurricane Sauce. It’s still on the menu, and still a magnificent topping for pancakes and waffles or ice cream.

What to eat at Polly’s Pancake Parlor

Today, Sugar Bill’s progeny continue serving good, simple food with an array of maple products to pour, spread, and sprinkle on it. Pancakes, of course, are the specialty of the house; they are made from stone ground flours or cornmeal, either plain or upgraded with shreds of coconut, walnuts, or blueberries. One order consists of a half a dozen three-inchers; and it is possible to get a sampler of several different kinds.

There is a remarkable range from, say, blueberry-cornmeal to buckwheat-walnut to plain; but they all share the wondrous delicacy that only expertly-made pancakes offer. They come with the clearest and most elegant maple syrup, as well as maple sugar and maple spread. You can also get maple muffins, sandwiches made with maple white bread, an ambrosial gelatinized dessert called maple Bavarian cream, as well as all sorts of maple candies to take home.

Visit Polly’s Pancake Parlor in the fall for maple tree beauty

What a visual feast it is to come Polly’s Pancake Parlor! It opens after mud season in the spring, when many of the surrounding maple trees are hung with taps and buckets; the spectacular time to visit is autumn, during the sugarbush’s chromatic climax. (Polly’s closes for winter after October.) The dining room has a glass-walled porch that overlooks fields where horses graze; and its inside walls are decorated with antiques and tools that have been in the family since the late 18th century when Sugar Bill’s ancestors began farming this land.

What To Eat


Maple Spread

Maple Toast


Apple Crisp


Polly’s Pancake Parlor Recipes

Maple Hurricane Sauce


What do you think of Polly’s Pancake Parlor?

One Response to “Polly’s Pancake Parlor”

Rich Kaszeta

November 11th, 2008

Anyone that has had breakfast with me knows that I’m a pancake aficionado. I’m very particular about my pancakes (they must have the right flavor, texture, crust, and toppings), and if I find a proper pancake I’ll go way out of my way for them. Which brings me to Polly’s Pancake Parlor. We make it a point to go at least once a year, usually combining it with hiking in the White Mountains.

Located in Sugar Hill, New Hampshire (about 20 minutes from Franconia Notch), Polly’s is a modestly-sized pancake dining room attached to an old sugarhouse (in which they make their own maple products). Sure, New Hampshire and Vermont (especially during maple season) are chock full of sugarhouses and pancake joints. But, in my not-so-humble opinion, Polly’s is the queen of New England pancake joints, and is tied for first place on my list (with Al’s Breakfast of Minneapolis) for Best Pancake Ever and Best Breakfast Ever.

Why? Simply because Polly’s does everything right for a breakfast. Perfect pancakes, excellent sides, good coffee, friendly service…

Notable pros:
1. Pancakes: They do everything right, from allowing you to mix and match your batter (usually buttermilk, oatmeal, buckwheat, and whole wheat are available) and add-ins (usually blueberries, walnuts, and chocolate chips), and they serve the pancakes to you in shifts of three so they are always fresh.
2. Maple products: The maple syrup at Polly’s is very good, and free-flowing. No little tiny cups of syrup here. Same with the maple spread and maple sugar (mmm, maple sugar in my coffee).
3. Sides: Both my bacon (from Claremont’s North Country Smokehouse) and potatoes (thin-sliced and pan-fried in butter) were excellent, and the other available sides (such as baked beans) are top-notch as well.
4. The environment: Polly’s has an excellent view of the White Mountains, and the restaurant itself is very friendly (if, however, packed). One odd note: the servers are also the people that cook the pancakes.

Cons (no place is perfect):
1. I’m obviously not the only fanatic. It’s usually very, very busy (it wasn’t on a recent Saturday, however), and sometimes I’ve had to wait an hour to get seated.
2. It’s not the cheapest breakfast out there; all that maple syrup and top-notch bacon comes with a price tag. Carol and I average around $12/person at Polly’s, although we leave very full (they have an all-you-can eat option, but I’ve never been able to starve myself to the point that would be cost-effective). Still, at $12/meal, it’s at least twice as good as most $6 breakfasts out there.
3. The drive: By the fastest possible route, it’s at least an hour away from the Upper Valley. So you really do need to get up early and make a day of it by partaking of some of the other White Mountain attractions.

As I said, this place is good enough that I head up there at least once a season, if not twice. So I heartily recommend it. Best. Breakfast. Ever.


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