Protein Pancake Series: Kodiak Cakes Cake-Off

Let’s say you’re already late for work but desperately need a pancake fix and just don’t have the fucking time to slice strawberries. Whip these fluffers up and wham-o!

I recently updated my dating profile to note I was only interested in dating men who were good eaters. Shockingly, this has not brought the boys running to me. While my next pancake date percolates, I had a very exciting pancake-off between three Kodiak Cakes Power Cake mixes: Strawberry Chocolate Chip, Cinnamon Oat, and Almond Poppy Seed. They all have 14 grams of protein per half cup serving, and I made these with unsweetened cashew milk instead of water. Let’s start eating!

Strawberry Chocolate Chip  
I was excited about all of these, but I was most excited for the Strawberry Chocolate Chip. This is one of my favorite pancake combinations and it’s hard to get the consistency right but it can be done. There’s a risk the strawberries end up in a mushy clump in the middle of the pancake, but this problem is avoided using a mix with just the strawberry flavor.

The batter smelled slightly like strawberry milk, which was pleasant. There are adorable mini chocolate chips in the mix! That was my favorite part. The taste was good but not outstanding. The strawberry flavor is a little off. Obviously, if you’re expecting real strawberries you’re going to be disappointed, but I think you’re better off adding real strawberries.

Tasty Stacks Rating: 7.5/10

Cinnamon Oat
The Cinnamon Oat batter both smelled and resembled oatmeal cookies when mixing. Surely this bodes well, right? That’s what I thought too. I hate to write this, but these were bad. We’re talking Mel’s Drive-In bad, except still better than that because I could easily chew them. I’m not sure what to do with this mix, the side of the box suggests I can make these into muffins, which might be better.

Tasty Stacks Rating: 2/10  

Almond Poppy Seed
The Almond Poppy Seed, which I have tried once before, remained my favorite of these three. The flavor reminds me of a subdued marzipan. The batter has tiny poppy seeds in the mix so this impacts the texture slightly, though not in a negative way for my mouthfeel. You should definitely put fresh strawberries on these. I don’t think they even need syrup, but of course they are excellent with (high quality) syrup. 

Tasty Stacks Rating: 10/10  

The Winner!
The clear winner of these three was the Almond Poppy Seed, followed by the Strawberry Chocolate Chip. The Strawberry one is growing on me to be honest. Let’s say you’re already late for work but desperately need a pancake fix and just don’t have the fucking time to slice strawberries. Whip these fluffers up and wham-o! Kodiak Cakes mixes make sturdy pancakes, so you can throw these in your bag and take them with you as you journey through your day.

Uncle Bill’s Pancake House: Searching for a Taste of Fall

I was hoping for an explosion of fall in my mouth. I wanted to be reminded of crunchy leaves and impending snowstorms.

Uncle Bill’s Pancake House in Manhattan Beach, CA has appeared on several of my “best pancakes in Los Angeles” google searches. They’re blocks from the beach with an ocean view and a variety of pancakes: Buttermilk, Buckwheat, Blueberry, Cinnamon Apple, Banana Nut, Macadamia Nut, Chocolate Chip, Strawberry, and Pumpkin Spice. With fall right around the corner at the time of this tasting, the Pumpkin Spice caught my eye. 

As a former East Coaster, the fall season in LA is hard for me. Fall is delightful on the East Coast, especially in New England. The air is crisp and cool (eventually), and the leaves turn colors that make that landscape so visually pleasing not even the ocean and palm trees can compete. You start craving homemade chili, slightly less iced coffee, and pumpkin flavored foods.

Pumpkin flavored food is fucking everywhere in the fall, even in warmer LA-esque climates. I used to be irritated by all the pumpkin flavored items but now that I live where summer never really ends, I appreciate the autumnal enthusiasm and actively seek out pumpkin tastes. This led me to order Pumpkin Spice pancakes on a gorgeous summer day up the street from the ocean. 

The pancakes arrived and they were the wrong pancakes. The waitress caught it before I did due to the fact that I was busy photographing them. So I have photos of their Buttermilk and Pumpkin Spice pancakes. The Buttermilk photographed better. 

Without any butter or syrup I found the pancakes a little gummy. This is worse than chewy. Gummy pancakes are not a great mouthfeel. I soldiered on and spread butter and syrup on them. Either I was very hungry or these additions made them pretty good, because I devoured them. 

Let’s talk about the pumpkin flavor! It was mild. I was hoping for an explosion of fall in my mouth. I wanted to be reminded of crunchy leaves and impending snowstorms. It was a nice change from regular Buttermilk pancakes, but just too subtle. Put some more allspice or New England air in there! 

I don’t agree that these pancakes should be on a “Best Pancakes in LA” list but a lot of people on Yelp disagree with me. If you want cute ocean view pancakes (and who doesn’t) you should go here but temper your pancake expectations. 

Also, if you know of any great Pumpkin Spice pancake places or tried and true recipes please send them my way! (pancakes@tastystacks.com)  

JUST THE STACKS – 7.5/10 TASTY STACKS

Overall Taste: A hint of pumpkin spice, just enough to intensify my cravings.

Mouthfeel: Gummy without the help of butter and syrup.

Size: Reasonable.

Presentation: A stack of two, as part of a combo plate served with eggs and bacon.

Price: $8 – $15

Location: 1305 Highland Ave, Manhattan Beach, CA 90266

Halfway House Cafe: The Hunt for Blueberry Pancakes

I love pancake combos but if you’re going to call something a sandwich just make it a fucking sandwich.

The Halfway House Cafe in Santa Clarita, CA has been used in a number of films and TV shows including The Twilight Zone, Space Cowboys, Gilmore Girls, and Monk. It’s a cute cafe with an adorably rustic exterior. Most importantly, they serve pancakes.

You can get regular pancakes or blueberry pancakes in a stack of two or four. I went with the Pancake Sandwich, which is sadly not an actual pancake sandwich, but rather two large pancakes with eggs and bacon. I love pancake combos but if you’re going to call something a sandwich just make it a fucking sandwich. If anyone knows where I can get an actual pancake sandwich please reach out to me – pancakes@tastystacks.com.

I have been on the prowl for delicious melt-in-your-mouth blueberry pancakes for what seems like years now. Spoiler alert: I didn’t find them here. The blueberries were good, and obviously fresh. The pancake was cooked evenly, which is tricky when using robust berries of any kind. The pancakes themselves were average, and a little too chewy on their own. I lathered butter and syrup on them which made them pretty tasty. It’s hard not to love something with enough butter and syrup. The star of this dish was the bacon, if you like crispy bacon that explodes with flavor.

I would recommend stopping here if you’re in the area but wouldn’t necessarily make a special trip out here for the food.

JUST THE STACKS – 7/10 TASTY STACKS

Overall Taste: Decent. These are standard unassuming diner pancakes. They won’t wow you but they will fill you up.

Mouthfeel: A little too chewy and bland without the help of butter and syrup.

Size: Large and hearty.

Presentation: Two blueberry pancakes are the star of the plate, with eggs & bacon. Not a sandwich. 

Price: $6.95 – $10.95

Location: 15564 Sierra Hwy, Santa Clarita, CA 91390

Keto Cakes: Birch Benders Keto Pancake Mix

These are not ideal for travel. My pancake nearly fell apart when I tried to take a photo of it next to my face.

Keto is IN and carbs are OUT. At least that’s the message I get from the Keto Corner at Erewhon in Venice, CA. Keto muffins! Keto cookies! Keto bread! All the delicious carbs you want to eat but can’t but now you CAN. Including, you guessed it, pancakes!

I am not a nutritionist (obviously) and I don’t understand how food high in fat and cholesterol is better for you than food high in delicious carbs. But in the name of keto pancake research, I tried Birch Benders Keto Pancake mix. I chose Birch Benders because they have very fucking tasty pancake mixes that have never led me astray. 

Mix, water, skillet, heat, and bam! Keto pancakes!

The first thing I noticed was a salty flavor, which was confusing. Perhaps this is to make up for the taste that went missing when the carbs took a hike. These weren’t as fluffy as full on carb pancakes either. They didn’t have that decadent buttermilk flavor that almost melts in your mouth. 

The second thing I noticed was that this was a flimsy flapjack. These are not ideal for travel. My pancake nearly fell apart when I tried to take a photo of it next to my face. This did not substantially impact my rating, but I do appreciate a sturdy stack with some heft. 

Overall these weren’t bad, and are probably a decent choice if you’re riding the keto wave, but I recommend adding chocolate chips. In the future, I don’t know that I’d choose the 11 grams of fat and 40% of my daily cholesterol intake over the 26 grams of carbs in my regular Birch Benders Protein Mix.

JUST THE STACKS – 6.5/10 TASTY STACKS  

Overall Taste: Not bad, not great. Almost pleasant.

Mouthfeel:  Slightly salty, light, and delicate. Like a cloud.

Protein per serving:  9g per 1/2 cup.

Price:  $5.99 – $8.99 for 16 oz.

Available at: So many places! Also Amazon.

Protein Pancake Series: Flapjacked

The Banana Hazelnut flavor is excellent, it’s slightly sweet and slightly nutty (much like myself).

Flapjacked was the first protein pancake brand I discovered when looking for something better than my two ingredient egg & banana pancakes. A lot of people rave about egg and banana pancakes and while it’s nifty you only need two ingredients for them, I need that perfect pancake fluff. 

Along came Flapjacked! They started off strong, with a great name, emphasizing the “Jacked” in their logo. Their mix doubles as a baking mix and I have made some delicious protein donuts from them. (You have to think about them as protein donuts and not real donuts, otherwise you’ll be disappointed.)

All you need to add to the mix is water, but you can use an egg or milk instead. Versatile! I have fond memories of making these in my tiny basement apartment in Boston especially during the occasional snow day. Snow day pancakes are a delight best experienced and not described. 

Flapjacked was my favorite until I discovered Birch Benders, which I find to have a bigger fluff factor. I recently tried the Flapjacked mix again in the name of pancake research. Also, Birch Benders doesn’t have a Banana Hazelnut flavor (hint, hint).

Half a cup gives you 20g of protein, which is plenty, unless you want to make a giant pancake. Then you need a full cup and an activity planned to put all that protein to good use. I used the Banana Hazelnut flavor and added chocolate chips. Flapjacked also has Buttermilk, Carrot Spice, and Cinnamon Apple mixes in addition to a line of Mighty Muffins, Protein Cookie Mixes, and Cookie Bars.

My pancake was not as giant as I would have liked, but that’s hardly a criticism. The Banana Hazelnut flavor is excellent, it’s slightly sweet and slightly nutty (much like myself). It’s also slightly grainy, so if you don’t like that in pancakes you might not love this mix. They’re fluffy, but Birch Benders still exceeds them in the fluff factor. Something about the texture didn’t thrill my mouth, but overall Flapjacked is a solid and sturdy choice for a protein pancake mix.

JUST THE STACKS – 7.5/10 TASTY STACKS  

Overall Taste: Slightly sweet, nutty, & grainy. Good but not outstanding.

Mouthfeel: Something was a little off in this department.

Protein per serving:  20g per 1/2 cup.

Price: $6.99 – $12.99

Available at: Amazon, the Internet at large, grocery stores.

Killer Cafe: Strong Stacks

Have these pancakes been lifting?


The Killer Cafe (open 24 hours!) in Marina Del Rey, CA has always struck me as a tourist restaurant, so I wasn’t expecting outstanding pancakes. And I didn’t get outstanding pancakes. What I did get was a giant fucking plate of pancakes. They weren’t as large as The Griddle Cafe, these were stacks you could actually work through. They were fluffy and hearty and very visually appealing. My friend described them as good value pancakes, and at $11 he was right. 

We both ordered the plain Buttermilk pancakes. You can get these topped with blueberries, strawberries, or bananas, for a slightly outrageous three dollars more. As two sets of massive stacks were placed in front of us, a woman stared in astonishment and asked a server what they were. They were quite impressive, and I guess to some people, bewildering. 

I tasted these “naked” first, without butter or syrup, and found them a little on the chewy side and not incredibly flavorful. There are debates to be had about whether pancakes should be able to stand alone or are made to be enjoyed doused in syrup or butter. 

I can see both sides to this. All I’m going to say is it’s a lot of fun to watch someone pour syrup over a giant pancake stack, sticky sugar cascading in all directions, and then dive right in and eat the entire fucking thing. Really impressive work. If I were flirting, (which I never am) I would call it really fucking sexy. 

In any case, after treating my pancakes with a healthy helping of butter and syrup, they were greatly improved. Thick pancakes soak this stuff up really well. These would also make great travel pancakes. They have the heft to withstand a decent journey.

Would I go back to Killer Cafe? Absolutely. But it would probably be for the Killer Shrimp, served in a spicy sauce that is out-of-this-world outstanding. The pancakes here just can’t compete with that. 

JUST THE STACKS – 7/10 TASTY STACKS

Overall Taste: Good but definitely needed the butter & syrup enhancements.

Mouthfeel: A little too chewy on their own, but nice doused in butter & syrup.

Size: Beefy. Have these pancakes been lifting?

Presentation: Impressive and astonishing to bystanders.

Price: $11 – $14

Location: 4213 Admiralty Way, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292

Ted’s Bulletin: Summer Stacks

The clump of berries and chocolate tasted like a clump of berries and chocolate.

Ted’s Bulletin in Washington D.C. boasts about their homemade Pop-Tarts, “Ted’s Tarts”, but because I am a rebel I ordered the pancakes. The pancakes come with eggs, hash browns, and a choice of meat. You can add blueberries, strawberries, or chocolate chips. If you’re into decadence like I am, you can choose a combination. I went with both chocolate chips and strawberries.

The pancakes arrived in a solid stack of three. For a moment I was concerned they had forgotten the semi-critical chocolate chip strawberry components. A quick check of the underside revealed they had not. It also revealed a messy clump of berries and chocolate. I did not find it aesthetically pleasing, so there’s no picture of this jumble.

The pancakes were good, but not great. The clump of berries and chocolate tasted like a clump of berries and chocolate. Not necessarily a bad thing, but not outstanding. I have had chocolate chip strawberry pancakes done right. It’s tricky but not THAT tricky. The strawberries could have been cut into smaller pieces and spread out more. The batter could have been a little less chewy and a little more on the melt-in-your-mouth side.

Overall, this is a fun breakfast place. I’d come back, but probably to try “Ted’s Tarts”. I can also recommend following it up with truffle popcorn and frosé at Commissary, but you have to watch out for that one creep who interrupts your afternoon with your friend and nearly reaches his hand into your popcorn bowl.

JUST THE STACKS – 7/10 TASTY STACKS

Overall Taste: A solid “good,” but I didn’t swoon over these.

Mouthfeel: A little on the chewy side. Not the good kind of chewy.

Size: Adequately sized especially since they were served with several other breakfast items.

Presentation: Messy on the underside, pristine on the top.

Price: $10.95 – $13.95

Location: 1818 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009



Chain-Cakes: IHOP (Marina Del Rey, CA Location)

I don’t know whose pancakes are in the photo but they aren’t the ones IHOP is serving. I suspect this is a case of pancake catfishing. 

Sometimes when I disclose my pancake infatuation to people, they ask if I go to IHOP (International House of Pancakes) a lot. The answer is no. IHOP has done some impressive marketing in that when people hear “pancakes” they automatically think of IHOP. The truth is they have mediocre pancakes and they know it. 

That’s why they started a marketing campaign in 2018 where they fake re-branded themselves as IHOB, International House of Burgers. Flip the P in IHOP and it becomes a B. Super clever, right? A lot of people thought this was a cheap gimmick and told them to stick to pancakes. This year IHOP is telling people to check out their new “pancakes” that are really burgers. IHOP is trolling the Internet, and also your taste-buds. 

I hadn’t been to an IHOP in a long time, and as a pancake researcher it was time for an updated visit. They have a lot of pancakes that sound tasty: Buttermilk, Italian Cannoli, Mexican Churro, Cupcake, Strawberry Banana, New York Cheesecake, Double Blueberry, and Rooty Tooty Fresh ‘N Fruity® Pancakes to name a few.  I chose the Build Your Pancake Combo with blueberry pancakes, eggs, bacon, and hash browns. 

My pancakes arrived looking small and sad. I’ve ordered many pancake combo meals and this was pretty glum looking. Take some fucking pride your namesake IHOP.  I saw someone else with a full stack that did look fluffier and more like the menu pictures, so maybe that’s the way to go. Or perhaps it’s because I decided to forgo the blueberry topping. Based on past experiences, this is way too sweet and serves to only shroud the pancake in unnecessary sugar, though it probably would have been aesthetically pleasing. I can make excuses all day for this alleged pancake house, but the truth is these pancakes are mediocre, and that may even be too generous.

My stack looked nearly nothing like the menu photo. The pancake fluff in that photo? Lovely and admirable. The pancake fluff in my stack? Underwhelming and dejected. I don’t know whose pancakes are in the photo but they aren’t the ones IHOP is serving. I suspect this is a case of pancake catfishing. 

The blueberries were not evenly distributed, but rather clumped mostly in the middle of the pancake, resulting in an automatic rating downgrade. The taste was slightly off somehow, and they were a little sticky in my mouth. No pancake fluff heaven here.

My friend ordered The Big IHOP Pancake Burger™ and reported he only caught hints of the pancake they randomly inserted in there, though the burger was good. The “unlimited fries” were the most comical part of the meal. They were served a small handful at a time in a small bowl. It was weird. The fries themselves were good, very crispy and appropriately salty. Maybe they should change their name to IHOF, and also serve a real portion of fries to get the party started.

Though I will likely never be impressed with their pancakes, I remember IHOP fondly from my childhood. They had smiley face chocolate chip pancakes that I adored and wanted every weekend. But now that I’m in my 30’s I can make my own smiley face chocolate chip pancakes that are much tastier, and much creepier. Being an adult is fun like that.

JUST THE STACKS – 5.5/10 TASTY STACKS

Overall Taste: Underwhelming.

Mouthfeel: Not quite right. 

Size: Too small, I should have just ordered a full stack.

Presentation: Pretty sad.

Price: $6.29 – $11.59

Location: 4070 Lincoln Blvd, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292

Pancake Face via TastyStacks.

Chain-Cakes: The Cheesecake Factory (Marina Del Rey, CA Location)

More lemon zest please!


One of the best things about The Cheesecake Factory is the massive amount of calories they can fit into a meal. The second best thing is that they post the calorie counts so you can openly marvel at them. For example – 1,620 calories in ONE slice of Oreo® Dream Extreme Cheesecake? Fucking incredible. 

The Cheesecake Factory has several types of pancakes: Lemon Ricotta (1,560 calories), Cinnamon Roll (2,040 calories), Buttermilk (1,370), and Buttermilk with Blueberries (1,460). The downside to posting calorie counts is that I really wanted the Cinnamon Roll pancakes but for some reason could not justify the 2,000 plus calorie price tag. Instead, I opted for my second choice, the Lemon Ricotta pancakes. Were the 480 calories I saved worth it? I’ll have to go back another time to check.   

My friend, who has only ever been to The Cheesecake Factory twice(!), the second time being the time I am describing now, ordered the Monte Cristo. I know this is a pancake blog, but this dish looked delectable and I have been stuck with Monte Cristo cravings ever since. The Monte Cristo clocks in at an impressive 1,880 calories for anyone keeping track.

My Lemon Ricotta pancakes arrived in a Cheesecake Factory sized stack of three, with lemon zest curlicues sprinkled on top, and a small pile of strawberries. The strawberries weren’t super fresh, but at least they weren’t previously frozen.

Ricotta pancakes are hard to get right. These were good, but not great. The middle of the pancakes were slightly underdone. In addition, the syrup resembled sugar water in taste and consistency which is sad. I ended up only eating half and taking the other half to go.

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from these leftovers. I even debated throwing them out. But I had a small taste of them cold and was surprised. They were actually kind of delightful. There was a creamy sweetness, without being overpowering. I reheated the rest in a pan and concluded that cooking them longer was a definite improvement. 

My other criticism was the small amount of lemon flavor. More lemon zest please! The tendrils that arrived on top added a nice spark, and these could have used more of them. I did not get any lemon flavor in the pancakes themselves.

My rating increased a notch due to the leftover factor. But if you’re like most people and are expecting your ricotta pancakes to be cooked correctly on the first pass, you may want to try another dish here. Maybe the Barbeque Ranch Chicken Salad for a measly 2,150 calories?

JUST THE STACKS – 7/10 TASTY STACKS

Overall Taste: Mediocre on the first try, better re-heated. Good sweetness level.

Mouthfeel: Creamy & quite pleasant, but too much mush in the middle.

Size: Standard Cheesecake-size, which is large.

Presentation: A good looking stack with powdered sugar on top, but the berry pile seemed a little too small.

Price: $8.50 – $11.95

Location: 4142 Via Marina, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292


Nighthawk: I Love You but I’m Not in Love with You

This was not the meaty, fluffy stack of heaven I had come to expect. In fact, there was no fluff factor to talk about at all.

I first wrote about Nighthawk: Breakfast Bar in Venice here. I extolled their pancakes, and described the mouthfeel as “exploding pleasure”. No other place has achieved a 10/10 on the Tasty Stacks scale yet. I kept going back because they were dependably delectable on all fronts. Nighthawk could do no wrong with their pancakes in my eyes. 

Well, nothing lasts forever. Not even pancakes.

I came here most recently on a first date. My date wasn’t wearing shoes. Instead, he was wearing a thin strip of cloth, that at a glance, could pass for weird sandals. This was so he would still be served at restaurants, he explained. He was also a vegetarian, which I try to be open-minded about as a card-carrying meat eater.

I ordered my usual – the Big Bird and Short Stack – which is three sweet potato pancakes (that taste less like sweet potatoes and more like “heaven in cooked batter form“) topped with fried chicken.

Of course, I had raved about the pancakes here. My date asked if he could have some and I hesitated. Share my Nighthawk pancakes? I barely knew this person. I agreed because I didn’t want to seem completely pancake crazy on the first date. I like to save that for at least the second date.   

The pancakes arrived and I could tell immediately something was off. They looked thin, like someone had squished all the joy out of them. This was not the meaty, fluffy stack of heaven I had come to expect. In fact, there was no fluff factor to talk about at all. Already anguished, I took a bite sans butter or syrup. The flavor was still there, kind of, but it just wasn’t the same. I felt as deflated as the pancakes. 

The chicken was similarly flattened into thinner than usual cutlets. There was a fried coating, but it wasn’t crispy, which is a sin in the fried chicken world. Even worse, there was very little flavor. 

I gave my date a sizable pancake piece, and I wonder if this was where things went south. These were not up to the standards I had talked about. Maybe he thought I didn’t know what a good pancake was. 

The highlight of the meal was the cookie dough butter. It’s hard to go wrong with butter but this stuff is fucking outstanding. I lathered it on my un-fluffy pancakes. They needed a boost and this helped. 

I would have taken photos of this sad stack, but didn’t want to blow my undercover pancake cover on the first date. Not that it mattered. Though I was fond of my humorous and shoe-less date, he texted me the next day that he wasn’t interested. I didn’t even get a chance to ask him his pancake opinion. I belatedly realized this was because he had been talking so much that I let him run away with the conversation which devolved into backhanded novel writing bragging and a long Coachella acid story (his).

Most importantly, will I go back to Nighthawk? Maybe. But I’m not sure my heart can take another un-fluffy mediocre pancake stack from here. 

JUST THE STACKS – 7/10 TASTY STACKS

Overall Taste: Disappointing, but not bad.

Mouthfeel: Something was missing. That something was the perfect pancake fluff that used to be here.

Size: The size of these was still ok, but they were so flattened they seemed much smaller.

Presentation: A very flat stack of three pancakes, topped with two very flat pieces of fried chicken. 

Price: $17 (Expensive for the unremarkable quality.)

Location: 417 Washington Blvd, Venice, CA 90292