The Kettle: A Manhattan Beach Gem (Except for the Pancakes)

The Kettle restaurant, located in Manhattan Beach, CA has been serving food 24 hours a day since 1973. This Manhattan Beach landmark is adorned with, you guessed it, a giant kettle and a view of the ocean, depending on where you sit. 

I have walked by The Kettle dozens of times, but as it always looks packed with tourists and locals, never gone in. I decided it was time to change that on a Saturday afternoon during peak brunch hour. 

For how busy it was, the Kettle runs like a well-oiled machine. Service was swift, and the Lemon Pancakes I ordered arrived quickly given the crowds. They were pretty to look at, with powdered sugar and sliced fresh strawberries, but that is where the compliments end.

Was there lemon in them? Maybe. There were tiny flecks of what was probably lemon zest, but ultimately the pancakes were flavorless and disappointing. I added butter and syrup, which made them tolerable, but ended up leaving the majority of them behind. The older I get the less tolerant I am of bad pancakes. How hard can this be? It makes me wonder if some people don’t know what a good pancake tastes like, or maybe they just don’t care. The opportunity for crafting unexpectedly delicious pancakes was missed here. 

The best thing about The Kettle is anything other than the pancakes (my friend and I also both ordered egg dishes which were quite good), and its ocean proximity.

JUST THE STACKS – 2/10 TASTY STACKS

Overall Taste: The best thing on this plate was the strawberries, which were indeed fresh.

Mouthfeel: These bordered on a two-ply yoga mat mouthfeel, and looking back on that previous review makes me realize I have been real fucking lax with these arbitrary numbers.

Size: Average.

Presentation: Appealing. But an appealing presentation with a sad taste makes the whole experience even worse.

Price: $13.95

Location: 1138 Highland Ave, Manhattan Beach, CA 90266

Shoop’s Semi Annual Review: The Best of the Best of the Best

…what can only be described as delicious genius…

People frequently ask me where to get the best pancakes in the LA area. The answer is, hand down and without a doubt, Shoop’s Delicatessen in Santa Monica. 

They are now the standard to which I hold all other pancakes. They have mastered the art of pancake fluff and broken all the rules about savory pancakes in what can only be described as delicious genius.

Most notable about Shoop’s is the quality of their stuffed pancakes. Many places will throw on toppings like sliced strawberries and bananas without a care in the world about pancake integrity. Shoop’s will expertly bake these toppings into the pancake. They are evenly cooked throughout, with crisped buttery edges, and pancake fluff that would make even the harshest of food critics mouth-happy. 

This round of reviews takes a bite into: the Savory Tomato Basil Pancake, Savory Salmon Pancake, and Banana Pancakes.

Savory Tomato Basil: A tried and true favorite, always outstanding, consistently amazing. I have had this many times and it never disappoints. You might think there is too much going on in one oversized pancake – it’s filled with fresh tomato and basil and topped with two eggs, pesto, and feta. But somehow it works in the best way possible.

Savory Salmon Pancake: This was not my favorite to be honest. It could be because I am a salmon snob and like my salmon grilled on a George Foreman or in a backyard in Venice only. The smoked salmon by itself was delicious, and there was so much of it! No stingy toppings in sight at Shoop’s. The pancake was similarly delicious, expert level fluff with tasty, unexpected pockets of cream cheese. But something about the combo together just didn’t work for me. Because the technical pancake skills were obvious, no TastyStacks points were deducted for this. 

Banana Pancakes: Yes, just like the song, but way better because you can actually eat these, and they are mind-blowingly delicious. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about them since I first tried them. They are truly a “taste sensation,” just like the menu describes.

JUST THE STACKS – 10/10 TASTY STACKS

Overall Taste: Sweet & savory pancake fluff heaven.

Mouthfeel: FUCKING LUSCIOUS.

Size: Strikes the perfect chord between thickness and width.

Presentation: A meaty stack of three or a giant pancake with all the fixings. Mouthwatering on all accounts.

Price: $11.95-$17.50

Location: 2400 Main St A1, Santa Monica, CA 90405 (Blocks from the beach! Ample cheap parking in the back.)

All Shoop’s Reviews!

Jiggly Pancakes: When the Hype Doesn’t Match the Bite

“Like biting into a memory foam mattress.”

In the heart of Pasadena, CA (with a second location in San Gabriel), lies Motto Tea Café—a haven for tea enthusiasts and seekers of Japanese souffle pancakes. Their menu boasts an extensive selection of teas and beverages, as well as a variety of souffle pancakes. While they warn that the pancakes may take 20-30 minutes or longer during peak times, my visit on a late Saturday afternoon rewarded me with a relatively short wait of about 10 minutes at most.  

Japanese souffle pancakes may best be known (at least on social media) for their jiggle. These ultra-light and ultra-fluffy stacks are made by incorporating whipped egg whites into the batter. This, along with cooking the pancakes at a low heat, gives them their signature airy texture and wiggle. 

I took along my pancake tasting partner and we ordered two kinds: Nutellamisu Mousse Souffle and Matcha Strawberry Pancake. 

Both stacks were served with a small amount of fresh fruit on the side and a large amount of sauce poured over top. Visually, they were fun and good looking and whimsical. And yes, they had a very satisfying jiggle. Taste-wise, the pancakes were a little disappointing.

They were a little bland, and very eggy, and very light. While the eggy element wasn’t unpleasant, it lacked the richness found in Dutch baby pancakes (also eggy). They resembled a mildly flavored eggy cheesecake, though without the expected burst of taste. The Nutellamisu Mousse Souffle arrived half-deflated, which isn’t anyone’s fault. It’s just that as soon as these pancakes come off the heat, you only have so much time to take your Instagram Tik Toks before you lose the fluff-jiggle effect. They were also overly drenched in Nutella sauce and Oreo crumbles. I admit this was my fault as I had been swayed by the social media videos of the sauce all over them, and I wanted to experience the pancakes the way they were portrayed.
I do not recommend this. Get the sauce on the side so it doesn’t overpower the lightness of the pancake.

The second stack, Matcha Strawberry Pancake, was significantly fluffier and looked exactly like it did online, sauce and all. Nestled between the pancakes, was a delightful surprise of crushed blueberries and a light cream. This souffle stack was much tastier. The matcha sauce, with its delicate flavor, complemented the souffle’s own delicateness. Though we both liked this one better, there is just something about the souffle texture that didn’t appeal pancake-wise. Unfortunately, I would not come back here for the pancakes but I would come back here for the massive tea menu.

JUST THE STACKS – 6/10 TASTY STACKS

Overall Taste: A little boring. 

Mouthfeel: “Like biting into a memory foam mattress.”

Size: Tall and thicc.

Presentation: Cascading sauce and a nice jiggle, the presentation is the high point for these pancakes. 

Price: $15.50-$16.95

Location: Pasadena and San Gabriel, CA

The Pancake Spott: Bring A Pancake Truck to Work Day

If whimsy were a mouthfeel these would be the definition of it.

As the return-to-work debate lingers on, many employers have turned to creative work perks to encourage employees to return to the office. One of the best things to come out of this pretty stupid circular discussion, was that I had the opportunity to bring in a pancake truck to one of my former workplaces. 

There is no shortage of pancake trucks and mobile pancake stands in the LA area that specialize in mini pancakes. I reached out to several via social media and ended up hiring The Pancake Spott

The Pancake Spott pulled up in a neon pink and purple trailer, decorated with giant mini pancakes all over. I know I’m not rating truck designs here, but it really set the pancake mood. 

Because this was a catered event, each person could order, in theory, as many pancakes as they wanted. Unlimited mini pancakes! Served in portions of ten mini pancakes, toppings included nutella, caramel sauce, dulce de leche, chocolate sauce, oreo crumbles, strawberries, bananas, fruity pebble cereal, and ice cream.

The pancakes were slightly sweet on their own, like little whimsical puffs of deliciousness. Something about mini pancakes (presumably their size) allows for the perfect bite-sized bit of fluff factor in the middle. 

I am usually a pancake topping minimalist at heart but in the name of pancake research, I wanted to try the full array of toppings. For my first round I chose nutella, strawberry, and banana, which is a guaranteed trio of deliciousness. The fruit was fresh, and in large enough quantities that you actually felt like you were getting a hearty serving. The nutella topping was well portioned and didn’t overshadow the pancakes themselves.

For my second round, I started with the same winning topping trio and added oreo crumbles, dulce de leche, and a scoop of ice cream. Too many pancake toppings can definitely overwhelm pancakes, but even with my second heavily topped serving, it was somehow the perfect symphony of sweetness and decadence. 

My favorite part was that The Pancake Spott set up a gorgeous platter of pancakes, using the rest of the pancake batter they had portioned for this event. Sprinkled with fruity pebble bits and a strawberry center, I wished I had a pancake party to take it to. 

JUST THE STACKS – 10/10 TASTY STACKS

Overall Taste: Mini bursts of deliciousness.

Mouthfeel: If whimsy were a mouthfeel these would be the definition of it.

Size: Tiny masterpieces, bite-sized wonders.

Presentation: Ten of the cutest pancakes, topped with whatever your heart desires, as long as it has been previously stocked in the pancake truck.

Location: https://www.instagram.com/thepancakespott/?hl=en

Traveling in the Wilmington, CA area, also available for catering.

Petit Soleil: Central Coast Delight

If you were to take Amtrak’s Pacific Coast Starlight (or Surfliner) train from LA up the coastline to San Luis Obispo, you too might find your face in front of some of the most delicious melt-in-your-mouth pancakes you’ve had in a long time. You would also have to have booked a room at the delightfully charming bed and breakfast – Petit Soleil, where if you are lucky enough or maybe mention your penchant for pancakes, they will whip up a batch of banana chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast.

My pancakes were served as a modest stack of two regular sized pancakes, with fresh strawberries and powdered sugar on top. One bite and I was hooked. The pancakes had an almost creamy texture, likely due to the perfect melting of chocolate chips and bananas baked inside. I can’t even recall another place that has done banana chocolate chip pancakes (with a strawberry bonus) on top as well as this. 

They received an equally high complement from my dining companion, who doesn’t even like any “detritus” on his pancakes. Some might say he is a pancake purist, so when he likes a pancake with three different ingredients all up and around the pancakes, you know this is a strongly positive review.

Bonus points: If you happen to be here celebrating a special occasion, they might give you a complementary tiny bottle of prosecco and colorful glass of juice for a mimosa with your breakfast.

I often think about skipping work and hopping a train back to this place, just to get these pancakes again. 

JUST THE STACKS – 10/10 TASTY STACKS

Overall Taste: Sweet, creamy, and delicious. 

Mouthfeel: Fucking luscious. 

Size: Two modestly sized pancakes.

Presentation: Charming, delightful, mouthwatering.

Price: Included in your stay.

Location: 1473 Monterey St, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401

Does Crunchy Food Belong in Pancakes?

Marmalade Café, a local chain whose El Segundo location I visited, has a variety of interesting sounding pancakes: Dark Chocolate Macadamia Nut, Pineapple Upside-Down Pancake, 7 Grain & Almond Granola Pancakes, and Buttermilk. My gut told me to go with the pineapple pancakes, but since I had recently had pineapple pancakes at Shoop’s (pancake mecca), I opted to go for the 7 Grain & Almond Granola pancakes. They are described in the menu as being “Smothered in crunchy granola & sliced bananas.”

I don’t think anything crunchy should ever (with very rare exceptions) go on top of or inside a pancake. It ruins the dream of pretending the pancake you’re eating is a fluffy pillow of deliciousness. Pillows aren’t crunchy. But for some reason I wanted to challenge myself and was curious how this pancake interpretation would play out. 

The pancakes arrived as described, with a heap of granola scattered on top, and a large sliced banana. A questionable presentation decision was made by whoever sliced the banana but I wouldn’t hold that against them. The pancakes smelled like freshly baked banana bread hot out of the oven. 

All in all they were soft, fluffy, mildly sweet, and pretty good. The granola was not crunchy but had softened up under the heat, which was good for me but I actually think a little more crunch contrast would have been nice. The granola also had raisins, which did not thrill me.

If I had not taken half of the pancakes home for later the TastyStacks rating would likely be better. They became very dense and heavy pancake discs. I warmed them up and they were almost slightly soggy, and no one likes a soggy pancake. Still, I would go back here to try the pancakes that caught my eye in the first place. 

JUST THE STACKS – 6.5/10 TASTY STACKS

Overall Taste: Fluffy and mildly sweet, strong banana bread aroma.

Mouthfeel: More dense as more time passed, beginning bites were nice.

Size: The short stack has 2 sizable pancakes.

Presentation: Nice display of granola sprinkling, questionable banana tip display.

Price: $10.99 – $16.99

Location: Multiple, I visited the El Segundo location: 2014 Park Pl, El Segundo, CA 90245

Shoop’s Part Three: Pancake Mecca

Mouthfeel: FUCKING LUSCIOUS.

It has been over a year since I last reviewed Shoop’s, and because they have clearly usurped my old favorite Nighthawk for best pancakes – this was the obvious choice for birthday pancakes in order to carb up for a hike (humble hike brag). 


As a bonus, it’s clear all those mediocre pancake dates back in the day paid off – I found someone happy to drive the opposite way of his work on the 405 at 7am to take me out for breakfast, and then drive all the way back on the 405 during rush hour. LA people will understand this as the definition of love.


Shoop’s lets you mix and match items on the regular pancake list, so we chose buttermilk, bacon, and pineapple. We also ordered one of their savory pancakes: Pastrami and Swiss. 


My 405 guy, famous for historically declaring he doesn’t like “foreign objects” in his pancakes, thought the savory pastrami and swiss pancake was delicious. Delicious may be an understatement. It was an unexpected joy to eat. Composed of one giant pancake, the batter is mixed with chopped up bits of pastrami and swiss cheese, and topped with fried eggs and grilled onions. The top of the pancake was lightly crisped, the inside was mouth-happy and marvelous. Imagine pastrami pancake angels dancing on your tongue, encased in warm buttery fluff. Even better, go eat these and experience pancake fluff heaven for yourself. 


The bacon pancake, while still excellent, almost pales in comparison to the magic of the pastrami and swiss pancake. The pineapple pancake, which is stuffed with caramelized pieces of pineapple, and one that I’ve had several times before, held up to the standard of excellence I have come to expect from Shoop’s. If you’re into (or curious about) savory pancakes, Shoop’s has several other varieties: Tomato Basil (fucking fantastic), Bacon Cheddar Jalapeno, and Savory Salmon. The latter two are on my list to try as ASAP as possible. 

JUST THE STACKS – 10/10 TASTY STACKS

Overall Taste: Sweet & savory pancake fluff heaven.

Mouthfeel: FUCKING LUSCIOUS.

Size: Goldilocks would say these are just the right size. Savory pancakes comes as one extra large one.

Presentation: Humble and unassuming. Shoop’s has no need for faff.

Price: $11.95-$17.50

Location: 2400 Main St A1, Santa Monica, CA 90405 (Blocks from the beach! Ample cheap parking in back!)

Hustler Casino Cakes: Don’t Bet On These

One Sunday afternoon, I found myself at Larry Flynt’s Bar & Grill located inside the Hustler Casino in Gardena, CA. I was in search of breakfast in the South Bay area that didn’t also come with a 45 minute wait. What I got was a relatively quiet place to eat amidst the gentle clinking of chips, an $8 mimosa, and pancakes that were pretty bad. At the time of eating here, everything was served in takeout containers due to covid policies. I also ordered eggs and bacon which were slightly below mediocre. The real standout of the meal was the bread served on the side. This wasn’t the usual trash toast you get on the side, this was real, bakery-fresh, thick cut bread.

The pancakes were a different, sadder story. The first indication was that they were hard to cut into. This is an immediate warning sign you are about to eat sad stacks. The only thing you can really do with pancakes like this is douse them in butter and syrup and hope for the best. Even sugar and fat weren’t much help. About 90% of the pancakes ended up in the trash.

I guess I might come here again if I had a hankering for a table game and didn’t want to make the hop over to Vegas.

JUST THE STACKS – 2/10 TASTY STACKS

Overall Taste: Sad.

Mouthfeel: Not enjoyable, hard to chew.

Size: Large but useless.

Presentation: These definitely looked like pancakes.

Price: Do not recall, but not expensive.

Location: 1000 W Redondo Beach Blvd, Gardena, CA 90247


More Casino Cake Reviews!

Semi-Annual Nighthawk Review

I last had Nighthawk pancakes nearly a year ago during peak pandemic. They were takeout pancakes and they “were excellent, but not outstanding.  They were perfectly fluffy, perfectly moist with an on-point mouthfeel, but something was missing.” I recently revisited Nighthawk in Venice Beach, in-person, and dined at their newly expanded outdoor back patio.

I had just come from a particularly treacherous kayak outing, where the winds picked up just as my dad and I turned around at the jetty and created impressively rough waves for being inside the marina. A sailboat lost control and very nearly careened into us, then regained steering at the last moment. So I was covered in ocean crud and extremely ready to eat pancakes.

Nighthawk currently has a one-hour dining limit, so the food came out pretty fast. The first thing I noticed about the “Big Bird and Short Stack” was that the fried chicken, which on several past occasions has been disappointing, looked much more robust and crispy. The second thing I noticed was the scallions. Sure, scallions are a tasty addition to fried chicken, but I just don’t agree with them being sprinkled on pancakes.

The pancakes were good, but not great. The taste seemed a little off to me, and they were slightly overcooked. The dish is served with a plate drizzle of “apple-cinnamon gastrique” which I forgot to ask they omit, because I don’t enjoy the taste of it. It adds a cloying sweetness that is not complementary to the already sweet pancakes. They were not the “perfectly fluffy” pancakes I was expecting, and the mouthfeel was a little disappointing.

In a role reversal, I thought the fried chicken was better than the pancakes this time. I ate all the fried chicken, and took half the pancakes home for “the leftover test.” I am saddened to report that they did not pass. They got worse when I reheated them, and were too dense in the middle.

I feel bad giving Nighthawk anything less than an eight on the TastyStacks scale, especially given pandemic restaurant challenges, but I know these pancakes could be better. The Candied Bacon Mary on the other hand, gets a 10/10 every time.

JUST THE STACKS – 7.5/10 TASTY STACKS

Overall Taste: Good but not great. Very good fried chicken.

Mouthfeel: A little disappointing, dense bites.

Size: Three good looking pancakes that looked fluffy but weren’t quite there.

Presentation: Excellent, even despite my scallion criticism. This looks like a stack you want to sink your mouth into.

Price: $17

Location: 417 Washington Blvd, Venice, CA 90292

Tasty Stacks Turns Two – A Pancake Celebration!

What better way to celebrate moving to LA than driving all over the LA freeways in search of a food trend you saw online?

I celebrated my third year LAnniversary and the second year blogiversary of TastyStacks the best way I know how –  Pancakes. And not just any pancakes, but mini-pancakes drenched in almost offensive toppings. 

You may remember mini-pancakes from Early Pandemic Times, when “pancake cereal” made the TikTok rounds. To be honest, it looked like a painstaking pain in the ass. If I’m making pancakes, I’m making one giant pancake because I am efficient. 

Street vendors have now taken up this idea and streamlined it in an Instagram-worthy and tasty way. If something isn’t Instagram-worthy can you even eat it? If you live in LA, the answer is no. Even if you’re vegan. Or maybe especially if you’re vegan. 

The mini-pancake food trucks near me, which I had to find mainly through TikTok without rolling my eyes too much, were actually not near me. The closest one with the cutest name was Delicious Minis in Echo Park. My handsome pancake-partner-in-crime and I drove out there on a Friday night. It only took us 45 minutes from the South Bay which tells you that LA traffic still isn’t back to normal.

Unfortunately for everyone’s pancake plans, upon arrival we were informed their generator was broken. There would be no pancakes from this tiny pancake enterprise. I was crestfallen, mainly because I knew this meant we would now have to drive to North Hollywood and I was hungry. But what better way to celebrate moving to LA than driving all over the LA freeways in search of a food trend you saw online?

Ms. Mommy Stacks, the next closest option at that point, had a similar setup: food truck style serving with speedy pancake turnaround. They offer three sizes: Kiddystack (12 minis), Mommystack (25 minis), and Daddystack (60 minis!)

We opted for two different Mommystacks – one with strawberry, banana, and Nutella; the other with a caramel drizzle and Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Other absurd pancake topping options include Fruit Loops, Fruity Pebbles, Oreos, ice cream, and a variety of syrups.

You might be thinking Cinnamon Toast Crunch doesn’t really belong as a pancake topping, and you might be right. For the sake of pancake research, we decided it was important to double check. 

They were fucking delicious. I was ready to tear these apart and categorize them as Pancake Crimes. That many ridiculous toppings?! And some of them are crunchy?! But these were great. The pancakes themselves had the most perfect fluffy mouthfeel. The fresh fruit and Nutella? You can’t go wrong there. And the caramel drizzle and Cinnamon Toast Crunch? My pancake partner in crime, who historically hates foreign objects in his pancakes, thought these were the best. We didn’t even mind that they were crunchy.

 If you’re craving super cute, super tasty, and super fun pancakes, (and also happen to find yourself in The Valley), you can’t go wrong at Ms. Mommy Stacks

JUST THE STACKS – 9/10 TASTY STACKS

Overall Taste: Scrumptious – slightly buttery, sweet, and elevated by ridiculous toppings.

Mouthfeel: Perfect miniature pancake fluff fairies in your mouth. 

Size: Mini! You can’t get cuter than these. 

Presentation: Messy, but nicely contained.

Price: $7-$20

Location: 6138 Vineland Ave, North Hollywood, CA 91606