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.

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

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

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

C&O Trattoria: Go With the Garlic Knots

So many things are pretentious in Venice, but also delicious, so this is a poor battle to wage.

I came to C&O Trattoria in Venice Beach on a date with a guy who was a twin, which was maybe the most interesting thing about him. He first suggested Great White, which is also blocks from the beach, and at the time had recently opened and was super popular. I’ve still never been; it’s probably still super popular. I suspected we wouldn’t be able to get a seat anywhere on a weekend morning, but since I had recently moved and he should have done his homework better, I agreed to meet there. It was packed. I suggested we look elsewhere, and led him to Nighthawk, despite knowing that would be packed too. I’ve stopped by Nighthawk a few times without a reservation on a weekend morning and it’s never worked out for me, but I like to be hopeful.

Image via TastyStacks.

We took a look at the Nighthawk menu (or I pretended to, knowing it already), but he vetoed the place after reading the “Duck, Duck, Goose” dish (Fois gras). He was a sometime vegetarian so I thought that was the issue, but he commented the place was a little too “pretentious.” I found this incredulous coming from someone who had first picked Great White. So many things are pretentious in Venice, but also delicious, so this is a poor battle to wage.

Increasingly hungry, we picked C&O Trattoria (yes, an Italian restaurant), on a strip a block away from the beach, and very touristy. I was not expecting great pancakes. I was surprised they even served pancakes but decided that was one of the safest options. Of their 3247 Yelp reviews, there are two that mention the word pancake, and I disagree with both of them. Perhaps the problem was that we didn’t get a side of garlic knots? The pancakes were okay. They were structurally sound and topped with slices of strawberries and bananas which was nice, but lazy looking. This isn’t even a breakfast place though, they are just capitalizing on all the tourists hanging out by the beach desperate for weekend brunch. Anyway, my date ordered the crêpes and didn’t like them, but why would anyone order crêpes from a place like this?

Just the Stacks – 5/10 Tasty Stacks

Image via TastyStacks.

Overall Taste: Fine, unremarkable.

Mouthfeel: Mediocre.

Size: Average.

Presentation: Simple, they tried to make the fruit on top look somewhat nice, but it looked slightly sad to me. Maybe I just really wanted Nighthawk?

Price: $11 for three pancakes.

Location: 31 Washington Blvd, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292

Nighthawk: Breakfast Bar


I admit I was suspicious of sweet potato pancakes because I want my pancakes to taste like pancakes, not sweet potatoes.

Image via TastyStacks.

I first ate at Nighthawk: Breakfast Bar on a trip to Venice in 2016, before I moved there in 2018, and ended up living a mile away from it. I remember my dad telling me about Nighthawk on the phone after it had just opened, he animatedly described a delicious burger with a fried egg on it. Looking at the menu in person, I was instantly sold on the description of the Big Bird and Short Stack: “buttermilk fried chicken, sweet potato pancakes, cookie dough butter, apple-cinnamon gastrique, scallions, maple syrup.” I can tell you that this description and the accessory ingredients have changed ever so slightly over the years but the pancakes are always fucking delicious. I admit I was suspicious of sweet potato pancakes because I want my pancakes to taste like pancakes, not sweet potatoes. I am happy to report these pancakes taste nothing like sweet potatoes. I’m not even convinced that’s an ingredient they really use. If you are looking for pancakes that have a sweet potato flavor you better go elsewhere. But if you are looking for super fucking delicious pancakes that elate your taste-buds in ways you might not have thought possible, Nighthawk is your spot. They hit a 10 on every category.

These pancakes arrive in a delightfully fluffy stack of three, topped with fried chicken. The fried chicken is not to be overlooked. I usually need to order a second breakfast dish to get my protein in, but Nighthawk has done the work for me. I’ve been on several dates here, and while none of the guys have been super savory, the pancakes never let me down. I won’t bore you with the dating duds but I will say that on one of my dates the guy placed a second order of the Big Bird and Shortstack, which instantly impressed me. I like men who can eat. I had to fight him for some of the second order of pancakes though. For some reason they’ve started garnishing this dish with scallions, which I find questionable. Perhaps it’s for presentation and the Instagram foodie crowd. Despite this minor critique, these pancakes get a 10/10 on the Tasty Stacks rating. I suggest going here on an off hour, or at least not during weekend brunch. It’s possible one of the reasons I moved here from Boston was to be closer to Nighthawk and their pancakes.

Just the Stacks – 10/10 Tasty Stacks

Image via TastyStacks.

Overall Taste: Heaven in cooked batter form.

Mouthfeel: Exploding pleasure.

Size: Like Goldilocks finding the perfect chair or bowl of oatmeal, these are just the right size.

Presentation: A beautiful stack of three pancakes, topped with two pieces of fried chicken, and for some reason scallions.

Price: $17 (A small price to pay for perfection.)

Location: 417 Washington Blvd, Venice, CA 90292