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

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

A-Frame: The Legend of the Hidden Pancakes


“I can fucking EAT. So if we do AYCE pancakes, buckle up for a looong first date.”

I went to A-Frame in Culver City on a first date on a weekend morning. We arrived just before they opened, which is definitely something you should do unless you want a long wait. There is also the distinct possibility you will be seated at a communal table, which is a prospect that always terrifies me. This could have added an additional fun element to the date, but luckily we snagged a solo table. A-Frame was transformed from an old IHOP building, and rumor has it there are still smiley face chocolate chip pancakes hidden inside the A-frame walls.

Image via T.Tseng.

The big sell (at least to me) at A-Frame is that they offer all you can eat pancakes “Comin’ at Ya Two Stacks at a time, Order Until You Burst!” which we intended to do. The guy had warned me in advance: “I can fucking EAT. So if we do AYCE pancakes, buckle up for a looong first date.” I was instantly sold, and also instantly skeptical. Once seated, we were told we had a two hour time limit. Just in case you were feeling a little too relaxed about a first date, you now have pancake deadline, and the clock is ticking.

A-Frame has six varieties of two stack pancakes you can order. They are all buttermilk based, with different toppings: Buttermilk, Lilikoi Butter, Banana Mac Nut, P.O.G. (Pineapple, Orange, Guava), Buttermilk Chicken, and Sweet Red Bean. Having just toppings and nothing mixed into the batter always seems a little lazy to me, but there is an interesting variety to choose from.

Each of us ended up ordering only two sets of stacks, plus a couple beers, which may have cut into our pancake appetite. The pancakes were small, but dense. They were good overall, with a solid standard fluff to them, but nothing really stood out, besides the fact you could order AYCE. I was expecting my date to go for a third round after such big talk, but perhaps the pancakes just weren’t worth a third round. I have no pictures of the pancakes because I am (probably) not about to pull out my phone on a first date and start taking pictures of my food. I remember being very full, and very smitten with my date. I have no strong memories of the pancakes themselves, but there is always something appealing to AYCE pancakes.

Just the Stacks – 7/10 Tasty Stacks

Overall Taste: Quality buttermilk flavor but some toppings were overly sweet.

Mouthfeel: Good, but nothing magical.

Size: Small sets of two, but these are AYCE so pace yourself.

Presentation: Cute.

Price: $16

Location: 12565 W Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90066


It’s Not You, It’s the Pancakes: Mel’s Drive-In


You should never have trouble cutting pancakes.

The worst pancakes I ever had in Los Angeles were at Mel’s Drive-In in Sherman Oaks. It was my second date with a guy who was cute but super flaky. Our second date took place approximately six months after our first one. But also, he lived in the Valley so I didn’t have high hopes for a lasting relationship. Back to the pancakes. In an appreciated effort to be very sweet, he pre-ordered me TWO orders of pancakes before I arrived. This is a risky move. If the pancakes are super fucking amazing, lukewarm or even cool pancakes are no big deal (to me), but if the pancakes are anything less than that, there’s big trouble. I was worried the moment he texted me that he had already ordered me pancakes since I was still a good 10 minutes away.

My fears were well founded. The pancakes were terrible. I didn’t have the heart to tell him. I’ve never had so much trouble eating pancakes. I even had trouble cutting them. You should never have trouble cutting pancakes. I doused them in syrup, which I rarely do. It didn’t help. They were chewy, and a bad chewy. It was like overdone steak you have to chew and chew and finally give up and just swallow the chunk anyway. These are supposed to be your basic “Old Fashioned Buttermilk Pancakes.” You can add berries and bananas which probably would have helped. I don’t know how Mel’s fucked up these alleged buttermilk pancakes so badly, but they did. This is a chain, so I don’t know if the other locations are any better, and I can’t say I am in any kind of rush to compare.

In case you’re wondering what happened to the guy, who knows. He disappeared back into the Valley. But he did leave me with a pair of Superman booty shorts from a certain Superman production, so I don’t have any hard feelings… except about those pancakes.

Just the Stacks – 0/10 Tasty Stacks

Image via Jared from Flickr.

Overall Taste: Trash.

Mouthfeel: Trash.

Size: Decent.

Presentation: Trash masquerading as a stack of pancakes.

Price: $9.95 ($1.75 for berries/bananas added)

Location: 14846 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA 91403