The quest for Lansing's best pancakes
I don’t remember when my life-long love of big, fluffy flap jacks began, but I’m willing to bet it was soon after my mother began feeding me solid food. I have yet to run into a toddler who doesn’t like a warm, buttery carbohydrate drenched in sugar. Hell, I haven’t met an adult who doesn’t like a good pancake.
Alas, Robert Atkins and the many low-carb dieticians who followed have managed to tarnish the reputation of one of the oldest, simplest culinary delights known to man. There was a time where I, too, neglected my taste buds in lieu of dry egg white omelets every time I found myself out for brunch.
I say no more.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong about enjoying a good pancake, flap jack, Johnny cake or silver dollar every once in a while. But where to go? Where should a Lansingite take their carbohydrate-hungry appetite on these joyous occasions?
I asked this question myself not long ago, and I’ve come to give you answers. After a month-long pancake indulgence across the greater Lansing area, I have identified the three best places to go for your flap jack fix, depending on exactly what it is your taste buds are calling for.
Here are my criteria. First of all, the pancakes in question must be on the menu every day of the week, because you never know when that buttermilk craving is going to hit. After mere availability, I looked at taste, texture and appearance. A pancake that was thick and fluffy, tender enough to cut with a fork, and delicious enough to not necessarily need syrup is what I was after.
Here are the results.
Best Plane Jane Pancakes
There’s something to be said for a pancake that can be delicious without any butter, chocolate chips, fruit or syrup inside or on top of it. If you’re someone who drowns your pancakes in half a bottle of syrup, I challenge you to try the ones made at Theio’s Restaurant.
Available 24-hours a day, Theio’s presents the perfect canvas on which to build a perfect pancake. Big not only in diameter, but in thickness as well, just a short stack is enough to fill a grown man. Light brown on the top and bottom, but light and fluffy on the inside, these pancakes feature just the right amount of buttermilk and butter in the batter.
Of course, if you want a lot of extras on your pancakes, they’ve got those too. Fruit toppings, chocolate chips or blueberries can take these simple beauties to the next level. And at under five dollars, it’s a pretty good bargain to boot.
Best Loaded Pancakes
Whenever you’re in an unfamiliar city, there’s always one way to ensure that you’ll get a good meal; go to the place with the longest line of people beating on the doors to get in. And if you’ve lived in the Capital region long enough, you know that place is in Golden Harvest
. Sure, part of the reason for the waiting time that could easily be measured by a sundial is the sheer smallness of the place, but it’s also because they know what they’re doing when it comes to food.
And their pancakes are no exception.
So what is it that makes their fully loaded pancakes the best in town? Could it be the fistfuls of blueberries, chocolate chips and pecans? Is it the incredibly thick batter with a few lumps, just as Alton Brown taught me on television, which yields the fluffiest pancakes in town? Or is it the giant brush full of liquid butter that gets slathered on top? What about the chocolate syrup and powdered sugar that finishes off the dish?
The answer, of course, is yes to all of the above.
Best Non-Traditional Pancake
If you’re the type of person who doesn’t really have much of a sweet tooth, don’t worry, there’s room for your tastes too in the giant realm of pancake paradise. And to find the best savory pancake in town, we’ll have to turn to a base ingredient other than flour. To be fair, I should disclose that I am partial to cornmeal pancakes to begin with.
That being said, nobody does them better than Soup Spoon Café
It can be difficult deciding on what to order from Soup Spoon Café’s breakfast and brunch menu. However, I strongly suggest you try the Johnny cakes next time you go in. The cornmeal gives the pancakes a slight crunch – a more grainy texture – and a natural, subtle sweetness that doesn’t come from high fructose corn syrup. Meanwhile, a touch of jalapeno in the batter offsets the sweetness with a touch of heat. And as if the batter by itself wasn’t delicious enough, the whole thing is topped off by their own house-smoked salmon.
The sweet, hot and savory flavors meld together in a perfect combination, and every bite comes with a choice. Do you eat it plain, up the savory ante with a touch of green onion butter, or get a shot of sugar with the real maple syrup that automatically comes with the order?
Whichever bite – and whichever restaurant’s pancakes – you choose, I promise you’ll walk away a happy camper.
Ken Kingery is a freelance writer for Capital Gains.
is the managing photographer for Capital Gains. He is a freelance photographer and owner of Trumpie Photography.