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

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