Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Nashville Noshing: The Pancake Pantry

If you ask a group of Nashville residents about the best place to grab a mid-morning bite, chances are good that at least one will mention the Pancake Pantry. This specialized eatery is currently celebrating 50 years of serving up their breakfast namesake - plenty of time to cultivate their reputation as a Nashville institution, and they've clearly done a great job of this: a Google search for the restaurant turned up more than 819 reviews!

Yep, that's a mountain of whipped cream - and they still serve it that way!

Given the name, it's no surprise that their pancakes are the big attraction here - the menu boasts 23 varieties complete with a lengthy list of toppings, syrups and condiments - but they also serve sandwiches, soups, salads, and other breakfast fare. The restaurant is large, airy and simply furnished, with huge windows looking out onto the street and a host of small, closely-packed tables to cater to the daily rush of customers. As an unabashed lover of pancakes for breakfast, lunch or dinner, I was thrilled when Sara Beth and Victoria suggested this as our first stop for the weekend.

Bad photo, delicious pancakes - my Raspberry Delight

A line was snaking out of the front door when we arrived for our late brunch, so we spent a few minutes sweating it out on the pavement as we listened to some local musicians and got a preview of the menu. In spite of the heat, this was handy since the menu is extensive and we all wanted to try something different. Without even considering their other offerings (we all knew we wanted pancakes), we eventually settled on four very different options: blueberry buttermilk pancakes for Christi, potato pancakes for Victoria, tart red raspberry pancakes for me, and some particularly decadent-sounding 'Chocolate Sin' crepes for Sara Beth.

Victoria and Christi with their pancakes!
After our waters were delivered by an extremely attentive waiter (one of the perks of dining with a group of ladies!) we snapped photos of our respective pancakes and dug in. Of the four, Christi's 'Wild Blueberry' pancakes were the most visually striking; flecked with tiny wild berries, they had a distinctive buttermilk flavor, and were served with a magnificently jewel-toned Maine blueberry compote. My 'Raspberry Delight' pancakes were thinner and slightly sweeter, with a ruby-red covering of tart-but-sweet raspberry compote, a light dusting of powdered sugar and a very generous dollop of fresh whipped cream. For a cream skeptic, I found the Pancake Pantry's version surprisingly delicious - thick and rich without being greasy or overly sweet.

Sara Beth and her 'Chocolate Sin'

On the subject of sweet, Sara Beth's 'Chocolate Sin' crepes really were sinful. Flooded with thick chocolate ganache and topped with a warm drizzle of raspberry compote, even more ganache and an island of that wonderful whipped cream, this entree was a chocoholic's dream. Sara compared them to a dark chocolate raspberry truffle, with all of the associated richness; even our collective efforts weren't equal to the task of finishing them entirely!

While we 'oo-ed' over Christi's blueberries and 'ah-ed' over Sara's dreamy chocolate, Victoria's 'Potato Pancakes' were the real surprise highlight of the meal. A deliciously savory alternative, these pancakes were served with bacon (which, of course, completes any meal) and a light spread of sour cream.  Sara captured the flavor exactly when she compared it to sour-cream-and-onion potato chips  - though less greasy and, of course, more substantial. The pancakes may have looked rustic, but they tasted heavenly!


Our bellies full of pancakes, we topped off our meal with a tasting of their signature syrup. We were so satisfied with our pancakes 'as served' that we hadn't used it with our meals, but a recommendation from Victoria had us reaching for our spoons! Even though we felt a little silly, it was well worth it - the syrup is very thin and served warm, which is a nice touch, but the real attraction is the flavor. Unlike any pancake syrup I've ever tried, it has strong vanilla notes and almost tastes like butterscotch (and we already know how much I like butterscotch!). I'm sure it would be great with any of the classic or sweet pancakes (and there are lots of options, ranging from Orange-Walnut to Georgia Peach), but I'd really like to pair it with something more savory (like the Potato or Cornmeal Pancakes, or the Pigs in a Blanket) for that coveted sweet-and-salty combination.

To be honest, I didn't have a single bad bite during the whole course of the meal, but my recommendation - or my order for next time - would be the Potato Pancakes with bacon...and make sure you try the syrup!

Pancake Pantry on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. Oh, when I come to visit you, let's go and have those Potato Pancakes :) Maybe we could get some inspiration for our family recipe. We can then let our potato pancake-maker, Peter in on it. And he can make it for all of us when everyone comes home for the holidays.