Good (Dutch) Pancakes are Hard to Find (in SF)

by brendan on September 18, 2006

I’ve been chowing down pancakes since moving to SF in a hunt for the best! So far there is a two way fight between Ellas Restaurant and Mama’s on Washington Square. In a duel to the death Mama’s probably comes out on top.

Sears Fine Foods, a longtime SF locals swedish pancake favorite, has satiated my basic fried flour desires but doesn’t come close to delivering the knockout punches of say Norma’s in NYC, The Original Pancake House in Oak Park, Ill, Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans, LA, or Du-Pars in LA, CA. Sure, that’s some stiff competition but hey…

I recently heard that Cafe Bean was supposed to have some tasty Dutch Pancakes (yum) so I thought I’d give them a try.

Six, outdoor, 2-top tables welcomed me on a rare beautiful Sunday morning visit in September. A mix of hostel and coffeeshop “the bean” was reminiscent of many a oversee’s backpacking adventure. The internet kiosk only highlighted the “Lonely Planet” recommendation vibe. And, the Japanese tourists rocking Neighborhood and Supreme gear waiting for HUT (the hipster sneaker shop next door) to open added that last dollop of passport-itis.

I ordered a Double Cappuccino and Sugar Dutch Pancakes.

Total came to $8.41 (USD). “It takes about 10 minutes for Dutch Pancakes to cook and there are a few ahead of you now,” I was told by the friendly guy at the counter. You can checkout their menu here and here.

A few minutes into the NYTimes the Cappuccino arrived. It was OK: so-so foam, decent beans, the big problem was that the milk was just your average hormone grocery store gunk. I’ve been spoiled by the good stuff. Not BAD at a restaurant is a good thing in my book though. I noticed they had a decent machine (and it was a Cafe after all) so I gave it a try. Note: normally I skip coffee of any form in restuarants as there’s nothing I dislike more than paying to have something simple prepared horribly. I suppose this was half-a-strike against them early on.

Fiffteen minutes later or so the show arrived: a single fried pancake wonder with powdered sugar, a heart attack of butter and three slices of lemon to add that last acidic punch. My first major gripe was with the syrup: Real Maple Syrup it was not. The Pancakes were about 2mm thick, fried almost to death, and bubbling with small air pockets on both sides. I could sense the forthcoming bellyache of fried buttery, corn syrup, enriched flour flavors starting to attack my gastro system. None of this stopped me from eating every last bite but it was not a place I see myself returning to or recommending to friends.

All in all I had a nice morning dining outside. Glad I gave it a try. Despite the bad reviews listed on Yelp the service was totally OK. My issues with the place are that I just don’t like bellyaches and sub-par ingredients that are fried to bring out a taste of flavor. If it was my place I’d step it up a few notches because they don’t really have that much competition here in the city, then again, this is a hostel vibe after all and for that it’s pretty good.

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