This new eatery on Jackson Square in the French Quarter is local chef Scott Boswell’s wake up call. (It’s just down the lane from Stella!, the other half of his homage to Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire.) What you will desire here, however, is to sit at the soda fountain counter on a swivel stool and order the short stack of pancakes served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and Steen’s Cane Syrup, Louisiana’s traditional sweetener with a molasses kick. And if you have a Big Easy appetite, save room for the Eggs Stella: cornmeal-crusted soft shell crabs atop poached eggs with Creole hollandaise.
Best sides: After a night on the town, order the eye-opening Bloody Mary or a spicy bowl of P&J’s oyster, shrimp, and andouille sausage gumbo.
Wins hands down for biggest pancake in the tropics. In the market town of Waimea, this breezy diner is the favorite stop for locals who love their breakfast Loco Moco (white rice topped with hamburger patties, grilled onions, fried egg, and brown gravy) on the XXL side. In fact, pretty much everything on the menu can be smothered in the housemade gravy or a fried egg, including the platter-sized Pancake Sandwich, a two-stack served with a generous scoop of whipped butter and coconut syrup. Just get here early, because the owner closes to go fishing when the kitchen runs out of ingredients.
Best sides: Fried rice, Spam and Portuguese sausage.
Before IHOP, there was Original. In downtown Portland, this is the original Original location of the national franchise now famous for its air-filled, oven-baked Dutch Baby pancake, which resembles a sugar-powdered volcanic crater slightly smaller than Mount St. Helens. The choice of batters is comprehensive: choose from buckwheat, sourdough, and even wheat germ. The Swedish pancakes are served with lingonberries and potato latkes come with sour cream or cinnamon applesauce. Try the “Three Little Pigs in a Blanket”: sizzling links encased in buttermilk bliss.
Best sides: Sugar-cured hickory smoked ham and corned beef hash.
Chef Robert Stehling may not be a Lowcountry local, but his “highrise” biscuits and breakfast shrimp are as authentic as Nana used to make, and the buttermilk pancakes are paired with apple maple syrup and pecan butter. On a corner of Rutledge Avenue in an up-and-coming district of this genteel Southern city, Hominy Grill has been serving a gracious plenty to Dixie diners since 1996. Other regional brunch specialties include a fried green BLT or she crab soup. And you can’t beat the pitchers of sweet tea poured by waitresses with equal doses of Southern charm.
This hip Windy City café is another big supporter of fresh ingredients from regional markets and farmers. There’s always a “griddle cake” on the menu, but the ingredients change according to season and whim. In winter, they might be paired with stone fruit preserves, candied pumpkin seeds and maple sabayon; as summer arrives in the Heartland, you can expect grape jam, poached raisins, and spiced creme anglaise. Healthy breakfast standards (scrambled tofu with miso sauce, oatmeal studded with dried cherries) are served daily, but the weekend brunch menu is when the kitchen stops counting calories and indulges regulars with specials such as lemon and pistachio bread pudding with strawberry rhubarb preserves or a grilled pork sausage plate with focaccia, soft boiled egg, and Michigan ramps.
Best sides: Apple-maple-sage sausage and nitrate-free Gunthorp Farms bacon.
Despite the global appeal of the pancake, Americans have given this simple treat—made with flour, eggs and milk—iconic status. And different regions of the country have made the pancake their own, adding local ingredients and inspired touches. Today, sitting down to a plate of flapjacks often gives you an insider's look at some of those regional tastes.
Sure, America has also spawned national restaurant chains devoted to this iconic treat. The International House of Pancakes was founded in 1958, and remains a favorite of college students craving high carb-and-sugar doses during late-night cram sessions. In Portland, OR, the unrelated Original House of Pancakes, which first opened in 1953, was more recently designated a regional landmark by the James Beard Foundation. The famous food critic once called it one of the 10 best in America, and we still agree.
Our favorite pancake houses were selected for their creative recipes and toppings, sugary or savory fillings, and regional sides. And we made sure the pitcher on the sideboard was filled with genuine maple syrup (or the regional equivalent).
Check out the slideshow above to discover the best pancakes in America.