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!

J Nichols Kitchen: Takeout Celebration Stacks Part One

For a variety of reasons, all pandemic related, the pancakes needed to be takeout and I couldn’t even bring them to the beach to eat them.

J Nichols Kitchen, in Marina del Rey, serves a menu item called “Pork & Pancakes” that I had to have.  Described as “pancakes layered with house-smoked bbq pork, maple pecan butter, and a sunny side up egg” this seemed like the perfect excessive way to celebrate my second year in LA. Also, I learned nothing from my previous piled-high meal.

For a variety of reasons, all pandemic related, the pancakes needed to be takeout and I couldn’t even bring them to the beach to eat them. This was probably for the best because who likes sandy pancakes?  Takeout pancakes are risky. The temperature is no longer perfect once you get home to eat them. You may have to re-plate them for photos. Pancake life is tough.

The pancakes themselves were great. The mouthfeel was an explosion of taste in all the right ways. They were fluffy and buttery rich. The house-smoked bbq pork was delicious. The egg…was an egg. 

It was all too much for a pancake, or three small but hefty pancakes. I ended up scraping off the bbq pork and eating it separately. There was enough for a whole second meal. I thought there was too much bbq sauce and scraped that off as well, to a small abandoned pile on my plate. 

The lesson here is that just because you can top your pancake (or waffle) with every fucking thing you want, doesn’t mean you should.

JUST THE STACKS – 8/10 TASTY STACKS

Overall Taste: There’s no denying these pancakes were excellent.

Mouthfeel: Pretty damn good, see “explosion of taste” comment above.

Size: Pancakes were appropriately sized for their richness, though there was too much bbq pork and sauce on top of them.

Presentation: Meaty and messy.

Price: $17

Location: 4375 Glencoe Ave, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292

TastyStacks Turns One!

A brief rundown of my year in pancakes – pour yourself some syrup and enjoy.

For everyone who asks me what my favorite pancakes have been so far, I always mention Nighthawk, but with a caveat. Nighthawk was my absolute favorite, and also my first review. Then I had to break up with them, and it was not because of my shoeless date. Then Nighthawk redeemed themselves and has been back in my pancake cravings ever since, with only slight suspicion.

I ate a lot of mediocre pancakes, including an all-you-can-eat pancake date with a time limit. I had several really bad pancakes, some of which forced me to create the category “Not Pancakes.” I’ll save you the trouble of clicking that link and let you know that Erewhon makes raw vegan bullshit pancakes that are flat and circular shaped but are most definitely not pancakes. And Birch Benders, which makes one of my favorite protein pancake mixes, totally misses the mark on what makes a pancake with their dreadful “Keto Cups.” Hard pass.

I ate a ton of protein pancakes and pretended to be a runner. Just kidding, I have never pretended to be a runner, though I have finisher medals that say otherwise. You can let me have this humble running brag, as running is basically my kryptonite.

Finally, I had a lot of delicious pancakes and met a handsome pancake purist along the way (only excessive syrup allowed) who didn’t mind when I accidentally flung pancake pieces at him. I look forward to another year consuming delicious carbs and contemplating mouthfeel. And remember, you should never have trouble cutting pancakes.

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

Shoop’s: Pancake Fluff Heaven

If you’re eating cold pancakes and still find them delicious, you have a winner on your hands.

My friend and I stopped at Shoop’s Delicatessen in Santa Monica after determining that of the several other pancake contenders in the area, Shoop’s was least likely to have a long wait. You probably have to time this right as Shoop’s is a small place. It’s half cafe and half delightful deli with a variety of fun meats and candy. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about these pancakes, which edged my rating up to a perfect score.

If you’re a regular reader, and are thinking these were rebound pancakes, and I’m just desperate to fill the void that Nighthawk left me with, you are wrong. Yes, I was eager to feast on pancakes that didn’t taste like flattened disappointment, but I certainly never expected to find another all-star pancake so quickly. Life comes at you fast. 

Shoop’s offers an array of tempting pancake options: Buttermilk, Blueberry, Banana, Muesli, Pineapple, Cinnamon-Raisin, and Bacon. They also have a selection of savory pancakes including Tomato Basil, Pastrami Swiss, and Salmon. There are options to add eggs, meats, and veggie sausages to your pancake meal, which I always appreciate. 

My friend ordered the Pineapple Pancakes, and I ordered the Bacon Pancakes. I’m not a big savory pancake fan and I’m not convinced bacon belongs inside a pancake. For the sake of research, and because I love bacon, I ordered them.

Both sets of pancakes arrived in a lovely displayed stack of three, fanned out to emphasize their glory. The edges were slightly crisped and there was an impressive amount of bacon on display. Already visually delighted, I tried a small piece without syrup first. 

Pancake fluff heaven! I was so impressed with these. Do you know how hard it is to get a good pancake fluff photo? I gave up trying because I couldn’t waste any more time not eating them. You’ll just have to trust me that I know my pancake fluff. 

The menu says the Bacon Pancakes are “Sooo good with maple syrup” and they are absolutely correct. The combination of fluffy pancake, savory bacon bits, and sweet syrup was scrumptious.

I took my leftovers home and ate them cold later. Just fucking outstanding. If you’re eating cold pancakes and still find them delicious, you have a winner on your hands. My only criticism is that these needed more syrup than I usually use, but I think that was because the pancakes soaked it up so well due to the fluff factor. 

JUST THE STACKS – 10/10 TASTY STACKS

Overall Taste: Sweet & savory pancake fluff heaven.

Mouthfeel: Unexpectedly luscious. 

Size: Huge but not Griddle Cafe huge.

Presentation: A nice change from the standard stack, these arrive fanned out in a set of three.

Price: $10.50-$15.50  

Location: 2400 Main St A1, Santa Monica, CA 90405

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

Cafe Vida: Party Mood Pancakes

Fucking glorious! These were somehow both fluffy and dense with a texture you’d expect from cornbread.

I went to Cafe Vida in Culver City directly from an early morning dance party (an experience I’d recommend to almost everyone) that started at 6:30 am on a Saturday. I like to practice my terrible dancing in a sea of strangers who absolutely don’t give a fuck, and I’m pretty sure my dancing has improved (slightly) as a result. By 9 am I was very hungry and very ready to eat pancakes. What else would I eat on a Saturday?

Cafe Vida was already busy with at least a 30 minute wait. Be prepared for that if you go here on a weekend with more than just yourself. Luckily, I have not completely shed my loner roots (or is it lonely roots?), and was seated instantly at a counter. 

I quickly located my ideal pancake meal: the “2+2+2”, which is two pancakes, two eggs, and two pieces of uncured breakfast meat. I always appreciate when I can combine pancakes with a savory protein option in one dish. Cafe Vida’s pancake options include: Corn, Buttermilk, Brown Rice, and Blueberry Buttermilk.

I chose the Corn pancakes, which the waitress informed were really Blueberry Cornbread pancakes which is even better. I’m not a huge fan of cornbread. Something about the texture doesn’t work for me. It’s usually cut into big pieces like a cake square and often seems dry. Maybe I’ve been eating bad cornbread? But when cornbread pancakes are involved, it’s a whole different story. 

They arrived with fresh strawberries and blueberries on top, a heap of perfectly scrambled eggs, and a salty slab of chicken sausage. The pancakes were delicious and had a good amount of blueberries inside too. This always scores more points with me than simply dumping them on top. Though imperfectly shaped, they were perfectly cooked. The cornbread flavor was strong but not overpowering, and the delicate amount of sprinkled sugar was a nice touch. My mouth was thrilled.

If I had to find one thing to find fault with it would be the wrapped pad of butter on the side. What am I supposed to do with this? It was chilled, and I’m not about to take the extra effort to unwrap cool butter to add to my already delicious pancakes. Anyway, that’s a pretty petty complaint. These were excellent, and extended my dance party mood to a mouth party mood.

 
JUST THE STACKS – 9/10 TASTY STACKS

Overall Taste: The perfect combination of sweet corn flavor, blueberry, and quality pancake. I added a small amount of syrup for the full effect. 

Mouthfeel: Fucking glorious! These were somehow both fluffy and dense with a texture you’d expect from cornbread. I felt like I was eating cornbread the way it was meant to be eaten, in the form of a pancake.

Size: A solid stack of two, they were perfectly sized to complement the rest of the food.

Presentation: Just darn lovely. 

Price $12.50 – $13.50

Location: 9755 Culver Blvd, Culver City, CA 90232

More Birthday Stacks: The Local Yolk

If I’m eating pancakes, I don’t also need to be eating half a bag of chocolate chips. 

Continuing on the birthday celebration pancake journey is The Local Yolk in Manhattan Beach. While not directly overlooking the ocean, if you walk half a block in either direction you are gifted with a tanalizing ocean view. If you’re here on your lunch break, the desire to run toward the ocean and never go back to work is strong. 

The Local Yolk is a cute diner that offers several classic pancake choices: Banana, Blueberry, Strawberry, Cinnamon Apple, and Chocolate Chip. I ordered the Strawberry Chocolate Chip pancakes and my friend ordered the Banana Blueberry Pancakes. 

The first bite was delightful. But sometimes a celebratory mood overshadows the real quality. After the first bite, I realized the pancakes were just ok. They were chewy, and had a “gummy” quality to them that wasn’t great.  They had strawberries and chocolate chips both inside the pancake which I always appreciate, as well as on top. I thought there were too many chocolate chips on top. If I’m eating pancakes, I don’t also need to be eating half a bag of chocolate chips. 

My friend noted that her blueberry banana pancakes had hardly any blueberries inside of them, which is always a sad thing. The bananas were sliced an arranged nicely on top, with two dollops of whipped cream. 

Despite their “gummy” quality, we both finished most of our pancakes. I used a little more syrup and butter than I usually might to soften them up. I might come back here if I was in the area, but I’m not sure I would get the pancakes.

JUST THE STACKS – 6/10 TASTY STACKS

Overall Taste: Not bad, but not glorious.

Mouthfeel: Good to gummy. My friend guessed they were made from a mix.

Size: A nice hefty serving of three pancakes.

Presentation: Cute just like the diner, nice topping arrangements.

Price: $7.75 – $9.75

Location:  3414 Highland Ave, Manhattan Beach, CA 90266

Birthday Stacks: Haute Cakes Caffe


Three different mouthfeels!

If you’re me, birthday celebrations almost always involve decadence and pancakes. I went to Haute Cakes Caffee, in Newport Beach, with some friends as the second stop in my pancake birthday tour. (The first stop was Nighthawk, obviously.) Haute Cakes, besides having a cute name, offers a variety of tempting pancake options: Buttermilk, Blueberry Cornmeal, Gluten-Free Oatmeal Blueberry, and Orange Ricotta Haute Cakes.

We tried all of them except the plain Buttermilk. People on Yelp rave about the Orange Ricotta Haute Cakes, and I was most excited for those. They were good, but I found the orange flavor overpowering. I also found the consistency inside to be more like a regular pancake, and less like a ricotta pancake. I was expecting a slightly crispier outside and a slightly more moist inside.

The Blueberry Cornmeal pancakes tasted exactly like cornbread, which isn’t a bad thing unless you don’t like cornbread. These were my favorite, but my mouth was continually confused, because I’m not a huge cornbread fan. Apparently it really works for me in pancake form. You should definitely use the generous tab of butter they give you with these for the full cornbread pancake experience.

The Gluten-Free Oatmeal Blueberry Haute Cakes were impressively fluffy for gluten free pancakes and I am all about pancake fluff. I didn’t get a lot of oatmeal flavor in my mouth with these, which was a little disappointing, but these were still solid, well-crafted pancakes.

The Orange Ricotta and Blueberry Cornmeal Cakes were both topped with a medley of blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries. Sadly, the berries were clearly previously frozen. There is absolutely no reason I would accept for this restaurant to be serving frozen fucking berries. I am pretty sure that even Mel’s Drive-In, the recipient of my worst pancake review, serves their pancakes with fresh berries.

Overall these pancakes were a lot of fun because I was in birthday mode and I get a kick out of ordering extreme quantities of food. Taste-wise they were all good but not great, and my craving for perfectly moist ricotta pancakes is still unfulfilled.

JUST THE STACKS – 7/10 TASTY STACKS

Overall Taste: Good, not exceptional.

Mouthfeel: Three different mouthfeels! Cornbread, gluten-free, and semi-moist ricotta. Yes, these are all mouthfeels.

Size: Appropriately sized, not too big or small.

Presentation: Definitely aesthetically pleasing, especially if you order at least three plates of pancakes. The berry presentation looked nice, I admit, but I can’t get over the fact that they weren’t fresh.

Price: $9.50 – $10.75

Location: 1807 Westcliff Dr, Newport Beach, CA 92660

Erewhon: Are These Even Pancakes?


Pancakes should bring joy and delight, and maybe evoke pleasant memories of smiley-face chocolate chip pancakes.

I have been irritated by these pancakes ever since Erewhon started selling them. They’re tiny. They cost $10.95 and don’t even have any gluten in them. Gluten is delicious but I understand some people can’t or won’t eat it. 

I gave these pancakes the benefit of the doubt. I put them on a real plate and heated them up, but not too much, because I didn’t want them to lose their “raw” integrity. I tried to eat them with an open mind and paired them with a good cup of coffee.

I felt like I was eating mashed up fruit & nuts sculpted into a circular shape. They tasted exactly like their ingredients: pecan, cashew, banana, apple juice, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, Himalayan salt, red maca. This wasn’t necessarily bad, but it did not delight my taste-buds. I felt cheated out of a pancake experience.

These mini “pancakes” come with syrup and a coconut cream spread. The coconut cream was pretty tasty and added an interesting layer of sweetness but didn’t do much to improve my opinion. The syrup was a nice touch but didn’t make me feel like I was eating pancakes. 

Do these even meet the definition of a pancake? 

Merriam-Webster defines a pancake as “a flat cake made of thin batter and cooked (as on a griddle) on both sides.” I don’t mean to be a pancake militant, but according to this definition and my gut feeling, these aren’t pancakes. Pancakes should bring joy and delight, and maybe evoke pleasant memories of smiley-face chocolate chip pancakes. These did none of that for me.

If I wanted an expensive fruit nut mush snack, I might get these again, but I doubt it. I think there are better vegan, gluten-free pancake options out there. But if you are desperately craving pancakes and you pretend real fucking hard, these might work for you.

Just the Stacks – 2/10 Tasty Stacks 

Overall Taste: These had a definite health bar taste to them.

Mouthfeel: Sweet and mushy, but the coconut cream had a very nice texture to it.

Size: Perfect for a dollhouse.  

Presentation: Not the most aesthetically pleasing.

Price: $10.95

Location:  585 Venice Blvd, Venice, CA 90291