By: Dan Gentile
Credit: Erin Jackson/Thrillist
Few breakfast items transcend the sum of their parts quite like the humble pancake. Through some magical feat of morning alchemy, the simple combination of eggs, powder, and sugar creates a steaming platter that’s both fluffy and crispy, sweet and savory, and capable of soaking up a seemingly infinite quantity of syrup.
To salute this breakfast of champions, we’ve compiled a short stack of 21 of the best pancakes America has to offer, ranging from simple diner flapjacks to monstrous morning mash-ups. Read on to devour them all, and if we missed your favorite, let us know in the comments.
Credit: Dan Gentile/Thrillist
New York City
Even on a weekday afternoon in the middle of an NYC summer heatwave, people line up along Clinton St for the privilege of digging a fork into the fluffy heart of their not-at-all-short stacks. Should you happen in during February, they flip up Pancake Month specials like Japanese pumpkin or Swedish apple, but the year-round offerings are special enough on their own to regularly earn “best in the city” accolades. The wild Maine blueberry is a fail-safe pick, topped with a crown of pureed fruit whose sweetness is amplified even further when combined with a pour of just-warm-enough maple syrup.
Note: This entry was written by special guest pancake journalist David Carlisle, the father of our Editorial Director’s girlfriend.
I had my first Roadside pancake about 11 years ago, and remember it as if it were a long lost brother. The Roadside is a halfway house for folks with mental illness run by Gould Farm, a magical organization. There was a crude sign on the wall illustrating the different pancake sizes, which confuses most people, since it relates to circumference, not stack height. The waitress tried to talk us out of the large, warning that it was a lot of pancake, but met with no success.
A long time passed – the wait at the Roadside, and the service, are iconic for those of us who live nearby. When it came, it was seriously about the size of a large pizza. They give each pancake a small reservoir of maple syrup that should suffice for an average human being; I poured on all of mine, then grabbed my wife’s and poured that on as well. All that covered only a quarter of my massive pancake, so that’s all I ate, and still became senselessly stuffed.
One of our top breakfast spots in the nation, The Laundry’s churning out great cocktails, baked goods, and breakfast innovation smack in the palm of the Mitten, mixing small-town charm with a global array of flavors. The star of the robust breakfast menu is a trio of hotcakes that includes the banana-packed Fat Elvis, strawberries & cream, and our favorites, Brie and bacon, which balance the savory cheese and swine with apple cinnamon compote and maple syrup. Pair it with a mimosa and you’ve got Michigan’s answer to Nyquil.
Credit: Lee Breslouer/Thrillist
It’s a cliche to say certain places make it feel like you’ve “stepped back in time,” so we’ll just say that when you see the burnt-orange stools and wood paneling at Village Coffee, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into Boulder circa 1971, when the joint opened and unleashed the same pancake recipe used today. There are but three pancake varieties here: buttermilk, blueberry, and chocolate chip. All are the size of a dinner plate. Pair ‘em with eggs or bacon, or just show up on the weekend when they sometimes serve a “mancake special,” where they stuff their enormous pancakes with bacon, ham, and sausage. If you ask nicely, they can also prepare it whenever you want.
Big Sky, MT
The Inn on the Gallatin might look like a Bates-y little row of cabins and RV spots on a stretch of a river in the middle of nowhere, mainly because that’s exactly what it is. But the cafe in the faux log cabin lit by the neon vacancy sign pops out some of the best damned breakfast in the state, a mix of comfort food and honest-to-goodness fanciness that’s as unexpected as it is delicious. The classic Benedict is great, but the pancakes are the clear winner here (also, this list is about pancakes!), stacked up old-school buttermilk-style, loaded with blueberries and pecans, or French-style in the form of banana/Nutella crepes. Save room for a fresh-baked cinnamon roll, which is best eaten on the banks of the river.