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

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