Sage Plant Based Bistro: Cornbread Cakes

…if you’re going to carb up you might as well do it right.

Sage Plant Based Bistro in Culver City, CA was calling my name one random morning in the week between Christmas and New Years when time is in limbo and no one is quite sure what day it is. Despite being a hardcore meat lover, I’ve never missed it at this vegan restaurant. They have three locations in Southern California and one of the best meat-free taco salads I’ve ever had. But today was about pancakes.

I ordered the Cornbread Jalapeño Pancakes, served with the standard vegan butter and syrup, plus avocado, black beans, and rice. I also ordered hash browns because if you’re going to carb up you might as well do it right. These pancakes are gluten-free and soy-free too if you’re keeping track of those things. 

My first bite sans butter or syrup was good but a little plain. I added butter and an appropriate amount of syrup which easily elevated these to outstanding. Imagine perfectly moist cornbread in pancake form, lightly soaked in buttery syrup, spice, and deliciousness. 

The pancakes had tiny jalapeño flecks inside and a cute little kick to them. In case that’s not enough heat for someone (me), they also added three jalapeño slices on top. A sweet, spicy, melt-in-your-mouth cornbread pancake is hard to beat. Cafe Vida, also in Culver City, comes close but is missing that punch I can’t get enough of. 

The hash browns were similarly outstanding, perfectly crisped on top. I liked that the pancakes came with black beans, rice, and avocado. It felt like a complete (and completely decadent) meal. Go here and eat cornbread the way it should be eaten – as a pancake.

JUST THE STACKS – 9.5/10 TASTY STACKS

Overall Taste: Tasty as fuck. 

Mouthfeel: Melt-in-your-mouth happiness.

Size: Cute-sized.

Presentation: Three pancakes each topped with a delightful jalapeño slice.

Price: $16.00

Location: 4130 Sepulveda Blvd, Culver City, CA 90230

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

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