The Kettle: A Manhattan Beach Gem (Except for the Pancakes)

The Kettle restaurant, located in Manhattan Beach, CA has been serving food 24 hours a day since 1973. This Manhattan Beach landmark is adorned with, you guessed it, a giant kettle and a view of the ocean, depending on where you sit. 

I have walked by The Kettle dozens of times, but as it always looks packed with tourists and locals, never gone in. I decided it was time to change that on a Saturday afternoon during peak brunch hour. 

For how busy it was, the Kettle runs like a well-oiled machine. Service was swift, and the Lemon Pancakes I ordered arrived quickly given the crowds. They were pretty to look at, with powdered sugar and sliced fresh strawberries, but that is where the compliments end.

Was there lemon in them? Maybe. There were tiny flecks of what was probably lemon zest, but ultimately the pancakes were flavorless and disappointing. I added butter and syrup, which made them tolerable, but ended up leaving the majority of them behind. The older I get the less tolerant I am of bad pancakes. How hard can this be? It makes me wonder if some people don’t know what a good pancake tastes like, or maybe they just don’t care. The opportunity for crafting unexpectedly delicious pancakes was missed here. 

The best thing about The Kettle is anything other than the pancakes (my friend and I also both ordered egg dishes which were quite good), and its ocean proximity.

JUST THE STACKS – 2/10 TASTY STACKS

Overall Taste: The best thing on this plate was the strawberries, which were indeed fresh.

Mouthfeel: These bordered on a two-ply yoga mat mouthfeel, and looking back on that previous review makes me realize I have been real fucking lax with these arbitrary numbers.

Size: Average.

Presentation: Appealing. But an appealing presentation with a sad taste makes the whole experience even worse.

Price: $13.95

Location: 1138 Highland Ave, Manhattan Beach, CA 90266

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!

Jiggly Pancakes: When the Hype Doesn’t Match the Bite

“Like biting into a memory foam mattress.”

In the heart of Pasadena, CA (with a second location in San Gabriel), lies Motto Tea Café—a haven for tea enthusiasts and seekers of Japanese souffle pancakes. Their menu boasts an extensive selection of teas and beverages, as well as a variety of souffle pancakes. While they warn that the pancakes may take 20-30 minutes or longer during peak times, my visit on a late Saturday afternoon rewarded me with a relatively short wait of about 10 minutes at most.  

Japanese souffle pancakes may best be known (at least on social media) for their jiggle. These ultra-light and ultra-fluffy stacks are made by incorporating whipped egg whites into the batter. This, along with cooking the pancakes at a low heat, gives them their signature airy texture and wiggle. 

I took along my pancake tasting partner and we ordered two kinds: Nutellamisu Mousse Souffle and Matcha Strawberry Pancake. 

Both stacks were served with a small amount of fresh fruit on the side and a large amount of sauce poured over top. Visually, they were fun and good looking and whimsical. And yes, they had a very satisfying jiggle. Taste-wise, the pancakes were a little disappointing.

They were a little bland, and very eggy, and very light. While the eggy element wasn’t unpleasant, it lacked the richness found in Dutch baby pancakes (also eggy). They resembled a mildly flavored eggy cheesecake, though without the expected burst of taste. The Nutellamisu Mousse Souffle arrived half-deflated, which isn’t anyone’s fault. It’s just that as soon as these pancakes come off the heat, you only have so much time to take your Instagram Tik Toks before you lose the fluff-jiggle effect. They were also overly drenched in Nutella sauce and Oreo crumbles. I admit this was my fault as I had been swayed by the social media videos of the sauce all over them, and I wanted to experience the pancakes the way they were portrayed.
I do not recommend this. Get the sauce on the side so it doesn’t overpower the lightness of the pancake.

The second stack, Matcha Strawberry Pancake, was significantly fluffier and looked exactly like it did online, sauce and all. Nestled between the pancakes, was a delightful surprise of crushed blueberries and a light cream. This souffle stack was much tastier. The matcha sauce, with its delicate flavor, complemented the souffle’s own delicateness. Though we both liked this one better, there is just something about the souffle texture that didn’t appeal pancake-wise. Unfortunately, I would not come back here for the pancakes but I would come back here for the massive tea menu.

JUST THE STACKS – 6/10 TASTY STACKS

Overall Taste: A little boring. 

Mouthfeel: “Like biting into a memory foam mattress.”

Size: Tall and thicc.

Presentation: Cascading sauce and a nice jiggle, the presentation is the high point for these pancakes. 

Price: $15.50-$16.95

Location: Pasadena and San Gabriel, CA

The Pancake Spott: Bring A Pancake Truck to Work Day

If whimsy were a mouthfeel these would be the definition of it.

As the return-to-work debate lingers on, many employers have turned to creative work perks to encourage employees to return to the office. One of the best things to come out of this pretty stupid circular discussion, was that I had the opportunity to bring in a pancake truck to one of my former workplaces. 

There is no shortage of pancake trucks and mobile pancake stands in the LA area that specialize in mini pancakes. I reached out to several via social media and ended up hiring The Pancake Spott

The Pancake Spott pulled up in a neon pink and purple trailer, decorated with giant mini pancakes all over. I know I’m not rating truck designs here, but it really set the pancake mood. 

Because this was a catered event, each person could order, in theory, as many pancakes as they wanted. Unlimited mini pancakes! Served in portions of ten mini pancakes, toppings included nutella, caramel sauce, dulce de leche, chocolate sauce, oreo crumbles, strawberries, bananas, fruity pebble cereal, and ice cream.

The pancakes were slightly sweet on their own, like little whimsical puffs of deliciousness. Something about mini pancakes (presumably their size) allows for the perfect bite-sized bit of fluff factor in the middle. 

I am usually a pancake topping minimalist at heart but in the name of pancake research, I wanted to try the full array of toppings. For my first round I chose nutella, strawberry, and banana, which is a guaranteed trio of deliciousness. The fruit was fresh, and in large enough quantities that you actually felt like you were getting a hearty serving. The nutella topping was well portioned and didn’t overshadow the pancakes themselves.

For my second round, I started with the same winning topping trio and added oreo crumbles, dulce de leche, and a scoop of ice cream. Too many pancake toppings can definitely overwhelm pancakes, but even with my second heavily topped serving, it was somehow the perfect symphony of sweetness and decadence. 

My favorite part was that The Pancake Spott set up a gorgeous platter of pancakes, using the rest of the pancake batter they had portioned for this event. Sprinkled with fruity pebble bits and a strawberry center, I wished I had a pancake party to take it to. 

JUST THE STACKS – 10/10 TASTY STACKS

Overall Taste: Mini bursts of deliciousness.

Mouthfeel: If whimsy were a mouthfeel these would be the definition of it.

Size: Tiny masterpieces, bite-sized wonders.

Presentation: Ten of the cutest pancakes, topped with whatever your heart desires, as long as it has been previously stocked in the pancake truck.

Location: https://www.instagram.com/thepancakespott/?hl=en

Traveling in the Wilmington, CA area, also available for catering.

Shoop’s Part Three: Pancake Mecca

Mouthfeel: FUCKING LUSCIOUS.

It has been over a year since I last reviewed Shoop’s, and because they have clearly usurped my old favorite Nighthawk for best pancakes – this was the obvious choice for birthday pancakes in order to carb up for a hike (humble hike brag). 


As a bonus, it’s clear all those mediocre pancake dates back in the day paid off – I found someone happy to drive the opposite way of his work on the 405 at 7am to take me out for breakfast, and then drive all the way back on the 405 during rush hour. LA people will understand this as the definition of love.


Shoop’s lets you mix and match items on the regular pancake list, so we chose buttermilk, bacon, and pineapple. We also ordered one of their savory pancakes: Pastrami and Swiss. 


My 405 guy, famous for historically declaring he doesn’t like “foreign objects” in his pancakes, thought the savory pastrami and swiss pancake was delicious. Delicious may be an understatement. It was an unexpected joy to eat. Composed of one giant pancake, the batter is mixed with chopped up bits of pastrami and swiss cheese, and topped with fried eggs and grilled onions. The top of the pancake was lightly crisped, the inside was mouth-happy and marvelous. Imagine pastrami pancake angels dancing on your tongue, encased in warm buttery fluff. Even better, go eat these and experience pancake fluff heaven for yourself. 


The bacon pancake, while still excellent, almost pales in comparison to the magic of the pastrami and swiss pancake. The pineapple pancake, which is stuffed with caramelized pieces of pineapple, and one that I’ve had several times before, held up to the standard of excellence I have come to expect from Shoop’s. If you’re into (or curious about) savory pancakes, Shoop’s has several other varieties: Tomato Basil (fucking fantastic), Bacon Cheddar Jalapeno, and Savory Salmon. The latter two are on my list to try as ASAP as possible. 

JUST THE STACKS – 10/10 TASTY STACKS

Overall Taste: Sweet & savory pancake fluff heaven.

Mouthfeel: FUCKING LUSCIOUS.

Size: Goldilocks would say these are just the right size. Savory pancakes comes as one extra large one.

Presentation: Humble and unassuming. Shoop’s has no need for faff.

Price: $11.95-$17.50

Location: 2400 Main St A1, Santa Monica, CA 90405 (Blocks from the beach! Ample cheap parking in back!)

Hustler Casino Cakes: Don’t Bet On These

One Sunday afternoon, I found myself at Larry Flynt’s Bar & Grill located inside the Hustler Casino in Gardena, CA. I was in search of breakfast in the South Bay area that didn’t also come with a 45 minute wait. What I got was a relatively quiet place to eat amidst the gentle clinking of chips, an $8 mimosa, and pancakes that were pretty bad. At the time of eating here, everything was served in takeout containers due to covid policies. I also ordered eggs and bacon which were slightly below mediocre. The real standout of the meal was the bread served on the side. This wasn’t the usual trash toast you get on the side, this was real, bakery-fresh, thick cut bread.

The pancakes were a different, sadder story. The first indication was that they were hard to cut into. This is an immediate warning sign you are about to eat sad stacks. The only thing you can really do with pancakes like this is douse them in butter and syrup and hope for the best. Even sugar and fat weren’t much help. About 90% of the pancakes ended up in the trash.

I guess I might come here again if I had a hankering for a table game and didn’t want to make the hop over to Vegas.

JUST THE STACKS – 2/10 TASTY STACKS

Overall Taste: Sad.

Mouthfeel: Not enjoyable, hard to chew.

Size: Large but useless.

Presentation: These definitely looked like pancakes.

Price: Do not recall, but not expensive.

Location: 1000 W Redondo Beach Blvd, Gardena, CA 90247


More Casino Cake 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

Bru’s Wiffle: The Inaugural Waffle Post

Back in early March, when it was still fun to watch the movie Contagion and go to crowded restaurants, I ate at Bru’s Wiffle in Marina Del Rey. Bru’s Wiffle specializes in waffles, making this the very first TastyStacks waffle review.

The waffle combinations here are wild. I don’t know how anyone can make a decision or expect to not be in a food coma. The full menu is worth reading if you are into dessert porn. In brief, they serve every kind of sweet or savory waffle explosion: Banana Split, Red Velvet, Churro, the King (peanut butter, banana, bacon), Green Salsa, Golden Goat, Huevos Rancheros, and the list goes on. 

The savory waffle combinations all come with fried chicken. If you’re thinking the “Chicken on Fire”  waffle that comes with onions, peppers, jalapenos, cheese, “blazing sauce,” and fried chicken might be too much, you would be correct. I was tempted to try it because of the spice implication. For some reason, the waitress asked if I wanted to add eggs to this already monstrous combination and I said yes.

Our waffles arrived and all looked like they were on steroids, with the exception of my date’s waffle. Regular readers will remember him from his “no foreign objects” preferences.  Holding true to this, he went with the basic Chicken and Waffles combo, which is the way to go.

The fried chicken and waffles on their own are both very good. They don’t need to be drowned with toppings. It’s too much for even the most sturdy waffle to handle. There are only so many toppings you can dump on before you start asking “what’s the point?

The Chicken on Fire waffle combination was disappointingly not spicy. There was too much sauce which was a turn off. There was also too much cheese, which is not something people usually complain about. All in all, I wished I had gotten the basic Chicken and Waffle combo (“Dwight’s Special). It was fun to order a truly egregiously topped waffle, but the flavors didn’t hold up, it was overwhelming and not in a delicious way.

JUST THE STACKS – 6.5/10 TASTY STACKS

Overall Taste: The score is mainly for the basic chicken & waffles, which are very good on their own. Points were subtracted because of the excessive ingredient dumping on most of the other waffles and false spice advertising. 

Mouthfeel: Basic chicken & waffles had as close to a perfect mouthfeel as you can get with waffles and the fried chicken was well done and crispy.

Size: Massive. My order veered into egregious and overwhelming territory.

Presentation: Fun!

Price: $12.95 – $18.95

Location: 3105 Washington Blvd, 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.

Loaded Cafe: A Burst of Berries

Some people, like my date, would argue that a syrup-moist pancake is the only way to go.

Despite swearing off eating pancakes with boys after my last failed pancake dating experience, I recently ended up at The Loaded Cafe in Lawndale, CA with a handsome blue-eyed boy who immediately impressed me with his knowledge of rockets as well as an interest in ordering lots of food.

The Loaded Cafe has six locations in Los Angeles and offers several hefty pancake options: Strawberry Banana, Strawberry Blueberry, New York Strawberry Cheesecake, and Chocolate Chip. 

I chose the Strawberry Blueberry Combo which comes with eggs, hash browns, and bacon or sausage. Places that offer pancake combos get an automatic extra point on the Tasty Stacks scale. 

My pancakes arrived in a cute stack of two topped with strawberries and a deflated mound of whipped cream. They were obviously fluffy and had a substantial amount of blueberries inside.

It was at this point that my date disclosed several disturbing pancake preferences that I tried to be open-minded about; namely that he didn’t like “foreign objects” in his pancakes. Not even chocolate chips, which is fucking egregious.  

He tried several bites, trying to excavate pancake pieces without berries. The blueberries, by the way, were excellent. They were cooked into the batter just about perfectly, which is hard to do without compromising consistency. I must have had an offended look on my face, because my date did try a loaded bite, complete with a strawberry on top. 

“I was right, that’s just unnatural.” 

Have you ever met someone so wrong about something it’s more fascinating than offensive? That’s what was happening here. 

We both agreed the pancakes had a rich buttery flavor, except when I agreed I did so by emphatically gesturing with my knife which had pancake pieces on it. Yes, they flew in my date’s direction and narrowly missed him. So maybe there will be another date. 

My only pancake criticism is that they did not pass the “naked” test with flying colors (few pancakes do) but were improved with syrup. Some people, like my date, would argue that a syrup-moist pancake is the only way to go.  Overall, these pancakes lived up to the their “loaded” namesake and were pretty tasty. They had a slightly crisped top, a high fluff factor, and an abundance of juicy berries.

JUST THE STACKS – 8/10 TASTY STACKS

Overall Taste: Solidly “good” and improved with syrup.

Mouthfeel: Buttery and fluffy and bursting with berries.

Size: Medium and appropriately sized for being part of a combo.

Presentation: A short stack of two pancakes, topped with powdered sugar, strawberries, and deflated whipped cream. 

Price: $11.99

Location: 15126-B Hawthorne Blvd, Lawndale, CA 90260