Y’know, sometimes, I’m really disappointed about the fact that there are very few IHOPs in New York City. (I now live less than a mile from one, and man, it is tough not to go there all the time!) Sometimes, especially on weekend mornings, you just want a quick, hearty breakfast full of eggs and bacon and sausage and, of course, those fluffy pancakes drenched in blueberry syrup…but you don’t want to get off your ass and make them yourself. That’s why IHOP is so great: they’ve got all your breakfast staples waiting for you, so you don’t have to lift a finger.
But on National Pancake Day, I’m actually glad that IHOPs are few and far between in the city! Why? Because then you get to try all the unique, interesting, and altogether weird pancakes this city has to offer. Because why would you want the plain ol’ buttermilk pancakes in a city that’s known for having any food you could possibly want?
It’s because the definition of a pancake is so broad that it can have a myriad of variations. A pancake is, simply, a thin, flat cake prepared from a batter and cooked on a hot griddle or frying pan. Typically they’re cooked on one side, then flipped to cook on the other, and can be made with any number of flours and leavening agents. Pancakes have been popular since ancient Greek times, and different variations of pancakes can be found in culinary cultures all over the world. They can be sweet, like the United States’ popular breakfast pancakes, or savory, and have any number of food accompaniments, from maple syrup and berries to shredded pork, candied ginger, and even caviar! There’s definitely more to a pancake than what that “International” house of pancakes wants you to believe 😉
So, for breakfast today, you can brave that long line at the Clinton Street Baking Co. for their world-famous blueberry pancakes…or you can try something interesting and new at Cafe Orlin. Apart from having some of the best Eggs Benedict in the city, this breakfast spot is known for fluffy, hearty seasonal breakfast panakes. Since it’s now officially autumn, sink your teeth into their spiced pumpkin pancakes, served with cinnamon yogurt that acts more like the syrup than the traditional pat of butter. The cinnamon yogurt melts perfectly with the warm, orange-y pancakes, which have that warm, almost buttery taste of pumpkin. You’ll definitely get a table faster here than at Clinton Street, especially on a Wednesday morning, and this significant stack of pancakes will set you back considerably less than theirs. Cafe Orlin is definitely worth both your time and your money.
41 St. Marks Pl (between 2nd Ave & 1st Ave)
“Everybody raves about Clinton Street Baking Company, but who among us has the patience to face that mob scene on the weekends? Stroll a little further north to Cafe Orlin, the favorite pancake destination of Gothamist’s Nell Casey. She swears by the pumpkin pancakes with cinnamon yogurt ($6.75), and also recommends the Millet Pancakes served with home made chicken sausage, goat cheese & beet salad ($10). Trangressively tasty!”–Gothamist
“The best of their kind? Not quite; the four orange cakes are incredibly hefty, each with a dense, gooey interior—approaching that of a pumpkin bread. They arrive smothered in a thin cinnamon yogurt sauce. It’s good enough to eat with a spoon, though better to let soak into the pancakes: underspiced and heavy on their own, they soften and grow much tastier as the sweet, creamy sauce creeps in.”–Serious Eats
“At Café Orlin, I was able to get my fix before noon with pumpkin pancakes with cinnamon-spiced yogurt. The pancakes are dense and not too heavy on the pumpkin or the sugar (though I was happy to make use of the side of syrup).”–The New York Times
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“I ordered the pumpkin pancakes. While it was a bit on the gooey side for me (but I guess that’s just how pumpkin pancakes are) I loved it. There was distinct pumpkin flavor and the cinnamon yogurt, generously poured on top, was a great compliment. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, the cinnamon yogurt combined with the maple syrup on these thick pumpkin pancakes sends you down memory road–thanksgiving and holidays with your family. I loved this mixture of winter and autumn flavors.”–Lucy C.
“The Pumpkin Pancakes were fluffy and not too sweet. The Cinnamon Yogurt on top added a slight tang, while the syrup on the side gave the pancakes some sweetness. Perfection. The orange slices on the side were so good. Sweet and very refreshing.”–Kimberly K.
So, that settles breakfast. But what about lunch? Can’t have even more syrupy-sweet goodness; one’s body can only take so much sweet before it goes into a sugar coma! Take the ultimate plunge and try out a pancake that could only come from the brilliant, deranged mind of Kenny Shopsin. The famous dive diner Shopsin’s has some strict, eccentric rules (like no more than 4 to a table), and you can tell you’re in for an experience with just one look at the kooky menu. But the ambiance and decor of the place take a backseat to the dishes, which are so wild and crazy, you’d think they’d never work–but oh, they do! Take, for instance, the macaroni and cheese pancakes. Yeah, you read that right: macaroni and cheese. In. A. Pancake. Shopsin’s makes a perfectly griddled buttermilk pancake base…and then drops some gooey, delicious macaroni and cheese on top of it. More cheese is melted on top of this creation, and served to the adventurous eater with maple syrup and hot sauce. The result is a pancaked cooked until it’s crispy, mixed with the creamy goodness of cheddar cheese. There’s so much going on on that plate–the sweetness of the syrup, the saltiness of cheddar cheese, the spiciness of the hot sauce–your palette won’t know what hit it! It’s a comfort food smorgasbord here, and you haven’t lived until you’ve tried it. Maybe wash it all down with a Nutella milkshake?
Essex St Market, 120 Essex St
“Tucked away in a back corner of Essex Street Market is the legendary Shopsin’s. If you’re able to make it past their unwritten rules like no party larger than 4, be sure to get a plate of their macaroni and cheese pancakes. Cheesy elbow pasta and cheddar are thrown in with the batter on the griddle resulting in the perfect scrumptious mix between breakfast and lunch.”–CBS New York
“New York’s Kenny Shopsin is well-known for his mac ‘n cheese pancakes, improbable but terribly delicious creations in which cheese and pasta are suspended in pancake batter. They get the crisp-cheese edges of grilled cheese sandwich spillover and the gooey-doughy combination of any good cheese bread; part sweet, part savory, they’re a hangover cure all on their own.”–Serious Eats
“I had been hearing about these pancakes for a while, what could it all mean “Mac and cheese pancakes?” Well, it means a pancake base, with mac and cheese thrown over it, and then more cheese melted on top. Oh, and then the correct and proper way of eating them involves maple syrup and hot sauce. The salty, sweet, and spicy in one bite strikes just the right balance, and reminded me of all that is good and holy in the world. In essence, Kenny Shopsin has created the perfect breakfast/lunch mash-up suitable for curing hangovers, broken hearts, bad moods, and carbohydrate deficiencies. It’s now one of my most favorite things.”–Blondie And Brownie
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“I guess the secret to going to these places without having to wait is to come off hours on the weekday. certainly a most impressive menu, and since I have a lot of eating to do, I only came for a half stack of mac and cheese pancakes. what makes it stand out is the combo of hot sauce and maple syrup. somehow that works to give you an interesting taste and zangy tingle in the mouth with the savory cheesy pancake. doesn’t sound like it would. while the actual pancake part itself alone is not special, the crispy chewy layer of cheese and few macaroni baked onto the pancake goes well with their crazy combo of sauce.”–Rob C.
“Of course, I ordered the mac and cheese pancakes and I was not disappointed. Pancakes were very soft with a crunchy chedder cheese topping. They serve it with your own individual bottle of maple syrup and a hot sauce full of spices and flavor (not your typical sriracha hotsauce). Weird combination, but for some reason it works.”–Alice W.
So now we’ve had pancakes for breakfast, pancakes for lunch…why break the streak? We can go for even more savory than mac and cheese pancakes for the last meal of the day. How about adding some shredded beef or Chinese pork to the mix? That’s right! When I thought of this challenge, the savory, crispy scallion pancakes from Chinese cuisine came to my mind. They’re one of my favorite things to get from any Chinese restaurant, low-end or high-end. And despite it being called a “dumpling house,” Nan Xiang in Flushing makes some of the best. Although the scallion pancakes are deep fried, they’re not greasy, and they’re puffy in all the right places. The taste of fresh scallions incorporated into the pancake dough really shines through when you eat them plain, or with a little bit of sweet hoisin sauce. But when you add their sliced beef to the mix, it’s a whole other experience, the intensity of the flavors shooting up through the roof. It’s similar to the traditional steamed pork buns (that sometimes look more like tacos) but with the added flavor of deep-fried scallions. And how can you go wrong with that? It’s the perfect way to end a full-flavored day of pancakes, from sweet to savory, warm to wild, and everything in between!
Nan Xiang Dumpling House
38-12 Prince St, Flushing
“Scallion Pancake with Sliced Beef ($3.95) is probably my brother’s favorite dish at Nan Xiang. After one dish arrives, his response is usually, “We need another one of these.” And it’s true, we always do. It’s a fried scallion pancake wrapped around sliced beef, sweet hoisin sauce, and shredded scallions. It’s like the fat cousin of the Peking duck bun; filled with beef instead of duck, and sandwiched with a scallion pancake instead of a steamed bun. Completely scrumptious.”–Bionic Bites
“Along with the soup dumplings, there are a number of cold items available – a nice spicy beef and tripe dish, yummy scallion puff with a flaky pastry, and a terrific non-greasy scallion pancake (it’s very easy for this to be oily).”–Queens NYC
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“The scallion pancake was my little sister’s favorite. It was so good we ordered another order, and also ended up taking most of that order home as well. The scallion pancake at Nan Xiang is definitely unlike others I’ve had. It was not as eggy as I expected, but it was more of a pastry. The texture was amazing and the flavor was just right.”–Maria M.
“Next was the scallion pancake with sliced beef. I am actually still having dreams about this dish. The beef is slightly sweet and very tender, and is contained in a decent sized scallion pancake that is light, fluffy and fried to perfection and is a good idea to split with someone else.”–Michael G.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!