Tuesday, February 28, 2012

[HOT LIST] Pancakes

Red Velvet Pancakes from Hudson Cafe. Photo by Alyse Hinton.

Today is National Pancake Day! So it seems only fitting for a Pancake Hot List. For most people pancakes might come out of a box with instructions reading "just add water," but these pancake places make everything from scratch using fresh butter, cream and fruit ... and they also get a bit creative in their toppings. From the griddle to your gullet, here are the places that treat pancakes as more than just a simple starch.

The Dutch Treat. Photo by Eat 
#1 Original Pancake House (Birmingham, Grosse Pointe Woods, Southfield)
Any place with that kind of name simply has to top any good "best pancake" list, lest it fail to live up to its own moniker. That smell you smell? It's the smell of baking eggs. Despite having over 100 franchised locations of this very traditional pancake house throughout the country, this third-generation family-owned chain is still just as committed to using the highest-quality ingredients and making everything from scratch in each kitchen - no dry mixes, nothing frozen. The Original House of Pancakes is known for their signature baked pancakes - the Apple Pancake (baked with Granny Smith apple slices and cinnamon glaze), the German Pancake, the Dutch Baby (a smaller version of the bowl-shaped German pancake), and specialities like the Dutch Treat - a Dutch Baby filled with macerated strawberries and sliced bananas. They also serve a variety of other forms of pancake, from Swedish to buckwheat to sourdough.

#2 Cafe Muse (Royal Oak)
First things first: THEY SERVE DINNER. And have, for like two years now. You should totally check it out sometime, it's all the reasons you love their breakfast/lunch only better because it's dinner and there's wine and a more diverse selection of tasty animals. That being said, not a whole lot has changed on the breakfast menu over the past several years (going back to the time when it was located in half of the space What Crepe now resides in), and it hasn't needed to. These are certainly "fancy pancakes," but they're also some of the best. The Wholewheat Pancakes topped with house-made granola are terrif, but it's the Ricotta and Lemon Pancakes with house-made blueberry maple syrup that's the real knock-out.

Coffee Cake Pancakes at Mae's. Photo by Eat It Detroit.

#3 Mae's (Pleasant Ridge)
The place is as adorable as the couple that owns it, but a top-notch breakfast joint can't be all curb appeal. Mae's backs up its pinch-its-cheekiness with killer (no but seriously, pretty much every dish has a stick of butter in it) breakfast and lunch items made from scratch every single day in their tiny kitchen. Wife-owner Jessica McCarthy is particularly hardcore about her buttermilk pancake batter (she's hardcore about all of her food, but even more especially the pancake batter): made daily from scratch, her batter is thick like cement. (Once one of her cooks tried to thin it out and she made him throw it away and start over.) The result? Thick, fluffy, hearty, flavorful pancakes that don't even qualify as being in the same food group as the wibbly-wobbly rubbery discs you get at a coney island.

#4 Hudson Cafe (Detroit)
Still the new kid on the breakfast block, the Hudson Cafe on Woodward in downtown Detroit made a fast name for itself with their Red Velvet Pancakes - a huge stack of fluffy, ruby red pancakes flavored with rich cocoa and then drizzled with absolutely decadent cream cheese icing. They make everything from scratch and the in-house bakery always has some tasty temptation in the display case at the grab-and-go coffee bar (liiiiiiike Red Velvet Cupcakes), but for those of you who prefer the savory over the sweet they have a fantastic selection of Variations on a Theme by Eggs Benedict (that incorporate things like smoked ham, pulled pork and chorizo).

#5 The Pantry (Sterling Heights)
The Pantry is a long-time breakfast staple of the East Side. Like so many other favorite breakfast haunts, this place will have a line out the door on weekends of people anxiously awaiting one of their massive cream cheese-stuffed and fruit-covered crepes (the Apple Crepe is one of their most popular items, but they also serve Sour Cream Crepes and Cheesecake Crepes), or one of 12 different varieties of pancake which includes Potato, Buckwheat and Buttermilk, but also Sweet Potato and Fresh Georgia Pecan. They also serve house specialties like the German Pancake and the Banana Nut Surprise (a baked pancake stuffed with sautéed bananas and pecan pieces caramelized with brown sugar).

Bubbling under The Breakfast Club (Farmington), Clawson Grill (Clawson), Toast (Ferndale, Birmingham), The Breakfast Club (Madison Heights - no affiliation with Farmington), Gramma's House of Pancakes (Eastpointe), Whistle Stop Restaurant (Birmigham), Recipes (Troy), D'Amato's (Royal Oak), Star Diner (Allen Park)