Nighthawk Returns…Or Does It?

If you’ve ever thought you could lay your head on a soft stack of perfectly shaped pancakes, these would be it.

After my disastrously disappointing Nighthawk experience, I wasn’t sure when I’d be ready to go back. The opportunity presented itself to me in an unlikely way. To make an awkward story short, a guy came up to me at a show, introduced himself, and asked me out for pancakes. He was wearing shoes and everything so I said yes. Then he suggested…Nighthawk.

Before I broke up with Nighthawk, I would have agreed instantly. Was I ready to go on another date and have more sad, deflated pancakes? Even if the guy was wearing shoes? I decided that yes, this would be a good opportunity to see if my previous experience was more of a fluke than a regular thing. Sure, it helped that the guy was cute too.

I told my date about my previous disheartening Nighthawk experience, which heightened the pancake anticipation. What would the Big Bird and Short Stack be like this time? Would I get heaven cooked in batter form or a sad stack of mediocrity?

I was dumbfounded when the pancakes arrived. They were large and fluffy, with crispy fried chicken on top. If you’ve ever thought you could lay your head on a soft stack of perfectly shaped pancakes, these would be it. They looked like an old love returned to me, but I was suspicious. 

I usually refrain from taking food photos on a first date, but I couldn’t help myself this time. This was a good looking stack that needed to be documented. Luckily, my date was similarly photographically inclined. We proceeded to engage in an eye-rolling, “very LA” display of food photography.  

I couldn’t get over how perfectly sized and fluffy these pancakes looked compared to last time. As I usually do, I tried them without butter or syrup first to determine their natural mouth feel. They were good, but the magic was gone for me. Even after adding syrup and butter, I just wasn’t getting that surge of exploding pleasure. And the butter Nighthawk uses is fucking delicious. The fried chicken was also good, it was substantially crispier and more flavorful than last time. 

Unfortunately, the X factor that pushed these into a 10/10 rating previously was missing. Once your pancake crush crushes you, there’s just no going back (though you’ll notice these are still rated highly).  This is sad, but there are other pancakes out there. I know, I already found them

JUST THE STACKS – 8.5/10 TASTY STACKS

Overall Taste: Pretty good, objectively tasty, but not outstanding.

Mouthfeel: Fluffy & pleasant.

Size: Perfect.

Presentation: Really fucking good looking.

Price: $17

Location: 417 Washington Blvd, Venice, CA 90292

Shoop’s: Pancake Fluff Heaven

If you’re eating cold pancakes and still find them delicious, you have a winner on your hands.

My friend and I stopped at Shoop’s Delicatessen in Santa Monica after determining that of the several other pancake contenders in the area, Shoop’s was least likely to have a long wait. You probably have to time this right as Shoop’s is a small place. It’s half cafe and half delightful deli with a variety of fun meats and candy. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about these pancakes, which edged my rating up to a perfect score.

If you’re a regular reader, and are thinking these were rebound pancakes, and I’m just desperate to fill the void that Nighthawk left me with, you are wrong. Yes, I was eager to feast on pancakes that didn’t taste like flattened disappointment, but I certainly never expected to find another all-star pancake so quickly. Life comes at you fast. 

Shoop’s offers an array of tempting pancake options: Buttermilk, Blueberry, Banana, Muesli, Pineapple, Cinnamon-Raisin, and Bacon. They also have a selection of savory pancakes including Tomato Basil, Pastrami Swiss, and Salmon. There are options to add eggs, meats, and veggie sausages to your pancake meal, which I always appreciate. 

My friend ordered the Pineapple Pancakes, and I ordered the Bacon Pancakes. I’m not a big savory pancake fan and I’m not convinced bacon belongs inside a pancake. For the sake of research, and because I love bacon, I ordered them.

Both sets of pancakes arrived in a lovely displayed stack of three, fanned out to emphasize their glory. The edges were slightly crisped and there was an impressive amount of bacon on display. Already visually delighted, I tried a small piece without syrup first. 

Pancake fluff heaven! I was so impressed with these. Do you know how hard it is to get a good pancake fluff photo? I gave up trying because I couldn’t waste any more time not eating them. You’ll just have to trust me that I know my pancake fluff. 

The menu says the Bacon Pancakes are “Sooo good with maple syrup” and they are absolutely correct. The combination of fluffy pancake, savory bacon bits, and sweet syrup was scrumptious.

I took my leftovers home and ate them cold later. Just fucking outstanding. If you’re eating cold pancakes and still find them delicious, you have a winner on your hands. My only criticism is that these needed more syrup than I usually use, but I think that was because the pancakes soaked it up so well due to the fluff factor. 

JUST THE STACKS – 10/10 TASTY STACKS

Overall Taste: Sweet & savory pancake fluff heaven.

Mouthfeel: Unexpectedly luscious. 

Size: Huge but not Griddle Cafe huge.

Presentation: A nice change from the standard stack, these arrive fanned out in a set of three.

Price: $10.50-$15.50  

Location: 2400 Main St A1, Santa Monica, CA 90405

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

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