Pre-Pandemic Pancakes: Home Run Happiness

Slightly sweet and full of impeccable pancake flavor, these shocked me with how good they were. 

In pre-pandemic days, when you could still eat inside restaurants and breathe in people’s faces, I had pancakes at Clutch and Coffee in Torrance, CA. These weren’t just pancakes though, they were really fucking good pancakes. Spoiler alert: I’m giving them a 10/10 on the TastyStacks scale. They are only the third restaurant ever to achieve this mouth-happy rating. The other two are Shoop’s and Nighthawk.

Back when you could travel in large groups I came here with an army of seven, including myself. Doesn’t that seem incredible now? And also maybe no longer allowed depending on where you live? Anyways, the point is we met at Clutch and Coffee at 8 am, which is exactly 10 minutes before it gets crowded.

I hate to admit this, but I wasn’t in the mood for pancakes that morning. Luckily, I’m dating someone who offered to get an order of pancakes as his breakfast so I could try them.  He went with the Buttermilk Pancakes but the menu also offers Strawberry, Blueberry, and Banana Cream Pancakes.

They arrived in a large fluffy stack of three with powdered sugar and butter on top. I took a bite before my date drowned them in syrup and was taken aback by how good they were. I also instantly regretted not getting my own plate.

They were perfectly fluffy. The mouthfeel was a luscious surprise of bliss, much like my date. They didn’t need syrup or any extra “foreign objects” and therefore easily scored the highest level on the naked test. Slightly sweet and full of impeccable pancake flavor, these shocked me with how good they were. 

More good news! Clutch and Coffee is still open for pickup and delivery. They are sadly outside my delivery range at the moment, but maybe they aren’t outside yours! 

JUST THE STACKS – 10/10 TASTY STACKS

Overall Taste: Surprisingly perfect happiness.

Mouthfeel: Deceptively delicious.

Size: Large and fluffy and beautiful.

Presentation: Three marvelous stacks with powdered sugar and a dollop of butter on top.

Price: $7.95 – $9.95

Location: 1321 El Prado Ave, Torrance, CA 90501

Grand Lux Cafe: Will Run for Pancakes

The Grand Lux Cafe, located in the The Venetian in Las Vegas, has an impressive breakfast menu. They are open 24 hours for all your voracious Vegas needs. Their sister restaurant is The Cheesecake Factory, if you would prefer a menu that reads like a book.

I came here with a group of friends from November Project West LA, who were kind enough to indulge my need for a place with pancakes. If you aren’t in Vegas for the thrill of walking around with an alcoholic beverage in your hand, it might as well be for your first half marathon with a group of ridiculously talented runners.

I ordered the Lemon Poppy Seed Pancakes, described as “So Delicious with Fresh Lemon and a Sprinkle of Poppy Seeds.” They are the only pancakes on the menu with a “So Delicious” description.

When they arrived, I could tell the fluff factor was going to be high. They came with sugar drizzle on top, a single strawberry, and a sad looking piece of mint.

I cut a Vegas sized bite and dove in. The fluff factor and taste was on point. They were a little on the sweet side but overall very good and hearty. If you need to load up on carbs before a nighttime road race or a 24 hour blackjack spree, this is a great choice.  They’re served with “maple butter” which is exactly what it sounds like. More pancake places should be combining butter and syrup.

My small criticism is that the sugar drizzle on top was unnecessary, and made the top pancake too sweet for me. Also, the single strawberry wasn’t fresh. Maybe it was for display purposes only (very Vegas), but it can’t be that hard to find a fresh fucking strawberry. 

These lemon poppy seed pancakes made my mouth and stomach very happy but you’ll probably need a nap after eating them.

JUST THE STACKS – 8/10 TASTY STACKS

Overall Taste: Strong lemon poppy flavor. A little too sweet with the sugar drizzle but otherwise lovely and luscious. 

Mouthfeel: Fluffy and happy.

Size: Large, these was a hefty three stack serving.

Presentation: Three griddled cakes topped with powdered sugar and the sugar drizzle I didn’t like, plus a sad strawberry and wilted mint.

Price: $11.50

Location: Vegas, baby.

Delicious Pizza: And Pancakes!

Fans of pizza, pancakes, and especially alliteration will appreciate this place.

How could you not immediately love a place named Delicious Pizza? They have two locations, one in Hollywood (or the Woo as I like to call it), and one in West Adams, CA.

Delicious Pizza has a variety of pizza, obviously. They also have pancakes, just one type: ricotta.

I ordered the short stack (plus a pizza) and my friendly pancake partner in crime ordered the large stack. After a minor miscommunication in which they brought out only two short stacks, which is definitely not enough pancake to go around, two more shortly arrived. All appeared uniform in fluff, size, and general delight.

Ricotta pancakes can be hard to get right. Sometimes they aren’t cooked enough, and sometimes you can’t even taste the ricotta. These were great. They were, in fact, delicious.

The menu describes them as whipped ricotta, which may be the secret to excellent ricotta pancakes. They had a high fluff factor and sweet tongue taste. I don’t think syrup was even needed and I haven’t had a pancake pass the naked test in a long time. Overall these were simple and indulgent, the perfect weekend or weekday treat.

Fans of pizza, pancakes, and especially alliteration will appreciate this place. I’m more likely to come back for the pancakes instead of the pizza, but I’m an East Coast pizza snob.

JUST THE STACKS – 9/10 TASTY STACKS

Overall Taste: Delicious, and I don’t think this word can be overused.

Mouthfeel: Sweet, fluffy happiness with a side of lusciousness, thanks to the ricotta.

Size: Medium-large, a short stack is probably not enough on its own.

Presentation: Two to four pancakes with a generous dusting of powdered sugar.

Price: $5.75 – $9.50

Locations:
5419 W Adams Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90016
6601 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028

Protein Pancake Series: Kodiak Cakes Cake-Off

Let’s say you’re already late for work but desperately need a pancake fix and just don’t have the fucking time to slice strawberries. Whip these fluffers up and wham-o!

I recently updated my dating profile to note I was only interested in dating men who were good eaters. Shockingly, this has not brought the boys running to me. While my next pancake date percolates, I had a very exciting pancake-off between three Kodiak Cakes Power Cake mixes: Strawberry Chocolate Chip, Cinnamon Oat, and Almond Poppy Seed. They all have 14 grams of protein per half cup serving, and I made these with unsweetened cashew milk instead of water. Let’s start eating!

Strawberry Chocolate Chip  
I was excited about all of these, but I was most excited for the Strawberry Chocolate Chip. This is one of my favorite pancake combinations and it’s hard to get the consistency right but it can be done. There’s a risk the strawberries end up in a mushy clump in the middle of the pancake, but this problem is avoided using a mix with just the strawberry flavor.

The batter smelled slightly like strawberry milk, which was pleasant. There are adorable mini chocolate chips in the mix! That was my favorite part. The taste was good but not outstanding. The strawberry flavor is a little off. Obviously, if you’re expecting real strawberries you’re going to be disappointed, but I think you’re better off adding real strawberries.

Tasty Stacks Rating: 7.5/10

Cinnamon Oat
The Cinnamon Oat batter both smelled and resembled oatmeal cookies when mixing. Surely this bodes well, right? That’s what I thought too. I hate to write this, but these were bad. We’re talking Mel’s Drive-In bad, except still better than that because I could easily chew them. I’m not sure what to do with this mix, the side of the box suggests I can make these into muffins, which might be better.

Tasty Stacks Rating: 2/10  

Almond Poppy Seed
The Almond Poppy Seed, which I have tried once before, remained my favorite of these three. The flavor reminds me of a subdued marzipan. The batter has tiny poppy seeds in the mix so this impacts the texture slightly, though not in a negative way for my mouthfeel. You should definitely put fresh strawberries on these. I don’t think they even need syrup, but of course they are excellent with (high quality) syrup. 

Tasty Stacks Rating: 10/10  

The Winner!
The clear winner of these three was the Almond Poppy Seed, followed by the Strawberry Chocolate Chip. The Strawberry one is growing on me to be honest. Let’s say you’re already late for work but desperately need a pancake fix and just don’t have the fucking time to slice strawberries. Whip these fluffers up and wham-o! Kodiak Cakes mixes make sturdy pancakes, so you can throw these in your bag and take them with you as you journey through your day.

Halfway House Cafe: The Hunt for Blueberry Pancakes

I love pancake combos but if you’re going to call something a sandwich just make it a fucking sandwich.

The Halfway House Cafe in Santa Clarita, CA has been used in a number of films and TV shows including The Twilight Zone, Space Cowboys, Gilmore Girls, and Monk. It’s a cute cafe with an adorably rustic exterior. Most importantly, they serve pancakes.

You can get regular pancakes or blueberry pancakes in a stack of two or four. I went with the Pancake Sandwich, which is sadly not an actual pancake sandwich, but rather two large pancakes with eggs and bacon. I love pancake combos but if you’re going to call something a sandwich just make it a fucking sandwich. If anyone knows where I can get an actual pancake sandwich please reach out to me – pancakes@tastystacks.com.

I have been on the prowl for delicious melt-in-your-mouth blueberry pancakes for what seems like years now. Spoiler alert: I didn’t find them here. The blueberries were good, and obviously fresh. The pancake was cooked evenly, which is tricky when using robust berries of any kind. The pancakes themselves were average, and a little too chewy on their own. I lathered butter and syrup on them which made them pretty tasty. It’s hard not to love something with enough butter and syrup. The star of this dish was the bacon, if you like crispy bacon that explodes with flavor.

I would recommend stopping here if you’re in the area but wouldn’t necessarily make a special trip out here for the food.

JUST THE STACKS – 7/10 TASTY STACKS

Overall Taste: Decent. These are standard unassuming diner pancakes. They won’t wow you but they will fill you up.

Mouthfeel: A little too chewy and bland without the help of butter and syrup.

Size: Large and hearty.

Presentation: Two blueberry pancakes are the star of the plate, with eggs & bacon. Not a sandwich. 

Price: $6.95 – $10.95

Location: 15564 Sierra Hwy, Santa Clarita, CA 91390

Keto Cakes: Birch Benders Keto Pancake Mix

These are not ideal for travel. My pancake nearly fell apart when I tried to take a photo of it next to my face.

Keto is IN and carbs are OUT. At least that’s the message I get from the Keto Corner at Erewhon in Venice, CA. Keto muffins! Keto cookies! Keto bread! All the delicious carbs you want to eat but can’t but now you CAN. Including, you guessed it, pancakes!

I am not a nutritionist (obviously) and I don’t understand how food high in fat and cholesterol is better for you than food high in delicious carbs. But in the name of keto pancake research, I tried Birch Benders Keto Pancake mix. I chose Birch Benders because they have very fucking tasty pancake mixes that have never led me astray. 

Mix, water, skillet, heat, and bam! Keto pancakes!

The first thing I noticed was a salty flavor, which was confusing. Perhaps this is to make up for the taste that went missing when the carbs took a hike. These weren’t as fluffy as full on carb pancakes either. They didn’t have that decadent buttermilk flavor that almost melts in your mouth. 

The second thing I noticed was that this was a flimsy flapjack. These are not ideal for travel. My pancake nearly fell apart when I tried to take a photo of it next to my face. This did not substantially impact my rating, but I do appreciate a sturdy stack with some heft. 

Overall these weren’t bad, and are probably a decent choice if you’re riding the keto wave, but I recommend adding chocolate chips. In the future, I don’t know that I’d choose the 11 grams of fat and 40% of my daily cholesterol intake over the 26 grams of carbs in my regular Birch Benders Protein Mix.

JUST THE STACKS – 6.5/10 TASTY STACKS  

Overall Taste: Not bad, not great. Almost pleasant.

Mouthfeel:  Slightly salty, light, and delicate. Like a cloud.

Protein per serving:  9g per 1/2 cup.

Price:  $5.99 – $8.99 for 16 oz.

Available at: So many places! Also Amazon.

Killer Cafe: Strong Stacks

Have these pancakes been lifting?


The Killer Cafe (open 24 hours!) in Marina Del Rey, CA has always struck me as a tourist restaurant, so I wasn’t expecting outstanding pancakes. And I didn’t get outstanding pancakes. What I did get was a giant fucking plate of pancakes. They weren’t as large as The Griddle Cafe, these were stacks you could actually work through. They were fluffy and hearty and very visually appealing. My friend described them as good value pancakes, and at $11 he was right. 

We both ordered the plain Buttermilk pancakes. You can get these topped with blueberries, strawberries, or bananas, for a slightly outrageous three dollars more. As two sets of massive stacks were placed in front of us, a woman stared in astonishment and asked a server what they were. They were quite impressive, and I guess to some people, bewildering. 

I tasted these “naked” first, without butter or syrup, and found them a little on the chewy side and not incredibly flavorful. There are debates to be had about whether pancakes should be able to stand alone or are made to be enjoyed doused in syrup or butter. 

I can see both sides to this. All I’m going to say is it’s a lot of fun to watch someone pour syrup over a giant pancake stack, sticky sugar cascading in all directions, and then dive right in and eat the entire fucking thing. Really impressive work. If I were flirting, (which I never am) I would call it really fucking sexy. 

In any case, after treating my pancakes with a healthy helping of butter and syrup, they were greatly improved. Thick pancakes soak this stuff up really well. These would also make great travel pancakes. They have the heft to withstand a decent journey.

Would I go back to Killer Cafe? Absolutely. But it would probably be for the Killer Shrimp, served in a spicy sauce that is out-of-this-world outstanding. The pancakes here just can’t compete with that. 

JUST THE STACKS – 7/10 TASTY STACKS

Overall Taste: Good but definitely needed the butter & syrup enhancements.

Mouthfeel: A little too chewy on their own, but nice doused in butter & syrup.

Size: Beefy. Have these pancakes been lifting?

Presentation: Impressive and astonishing to bystanders.

Price: $11 – $14

Location: 4213 Admiralty Way, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292

Ted’s Bulletin: Summer Stacks

The clump of berries and chocolate tasted like a clump of berries and chocolate.

Ted’s Bulletin in Washington D.C. boasts about their homemade Pop-Tarts, “Ted’s Tarts”, but because I am a rebel I ordered the pancakes. The pancakes come with eggs, hash browns, and a choice of meat. You can add blueberries, strawberries, or chocolate chips. If you’re into decadence like I am, you can choose a combination. I went with both chocolate chips and strawberries.

The pancakes arrived in a solid stack of three. For a moment I was concerned they had forgotten the semi-critical chocolate chip strawberry components. A quick check of the underside revealed they had not. It also revealed a messy clump of berries and chocolate. I did not find it aesthetically pleasing, so there’s no picture of this jumble.

The pancakes were good, but not great. The clump of berries and chocolate tasted like a clump of berries and chocolate. Not necessarily a bad thing, but not outstanding. I have had chocolate chip strawberry pancakes done right. It’s tricky but not THAT tricky. The strawberries could have been cut into smaller pieces and spread out more. The batter could have been a little less chewy and a little more on the melt-in-your-mouth side.

Overall, this is a fun breakfast place. I’d come back, but probably to try “Ted’s Tarts”. I can also recommend following it up with truffle popcorn and frosé at Commissary, but you have to watch out for that one creep who interrupts your afternoon with your friend and nearly reaches his hand into your popcorn bowl.

JUST THE STACKS – 7/10 TASTY STACKS

Overall Taste: A solid “good,” but I didn’t swoon over these.

Mouthfeel: A little on the chewy side. Not the good kind of chewy.

Size: Adequately sized especially since they were served with several other breakfast items.

Presentation: Messy on the underside, pristine on the top.

Price: $10.95 – $13.95

Location: 1818 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009



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

Chain-Cakes: IHOP (Marina Del Rey, CA Location)

I don’t know whose pancakes are in the photo but they aren’t the ones IHOP is serving. I suspect this is a case of pancake catfishing. 

Sometimes when I disclose my pancake infatuation to people, they ask if I go to IHOP (International House of Pancakes) a lot. The answer is no. IHOP has done some impressive marketing in that when people hear “pancakes” they automatically think of IHOP. The truth is they have mediocre pancakes and they know it. 

That’s why they started a marketing campaign in 2018 where they fake re-branded themselves as IHOB, International House of Burgers. Flip the P in IHOP and it becomes a B. Super clever, right? A lot of people thought this was a cheap gimmick and told them to stick to pancakes. This year IHOP is telling people to check out their new “pancakes” that are really burgers. IHOP is trolling the Internet, and also your taste-buds. 

I hadn’t been to an IHOP in a long time, and as a pancake researcher it was time for an updated visit. They have a lot of pancakes that sound tasty: Buttermilk, Italian Cannoli, Mexican Churro, Cupcake, Strawberry Banana, New York Cheesecake, Double Blueberry, and Rooty Tooty Fresh ‘N Fruity® Pancakes to name a few.  I chose the Build Your Pancake Combo with blueberry pancakes, eggs, bacon, and hash browns. 

My pancakes arrived looking small and sad. I’ve ordered many pancake combo meals and this was pretty glum looking. Take some fucking pride your namesake IHOP.  I saw someone else with a full stack that did look fluffier and more like the menu pictures, so maybe that’s the way to go. Or perhaps it’s because I decided to forgo the blueberry topping. Based on past experiences, this is way too sweet and serves to only shroud the pancake in unnecessary sugar, though it probably would have been aesthetically pleasing. I can make excuses all day for this alleged pancake house, but the truth is these pancakes are mediocre, and that may even be too generous.

My stack looked nearly nothing like the menu photo. The pancake fluff in that photo? Lovely and admirable. The pancake fluff in my stack? Underwhelming and dejected. I don’t know whose pancakes are in the photo but they aren’t the ones IHOP is serving. I suspect this is a case of pancake catfishing. 

The blueberries were not evenly distributed, but rather clumped mostly in the middle of the pancake, resulting in an automatic rating downgrade. The taste was slightly off somehow, and they were a little sticky in my mouth. No pancake fluff heaven here.

My friend ordered The Big IHOP Pancake Burger™ and reported he only caught hints of the pancake they randomly inserted in there, though the burger was good. The “unlimited fries” were the most comical part of the meal. They were served a small handful at a time in a small bowl. It was weird. The fries themselves were good, very crispy and appropriately salty. Maybe they should change their name to IHOF, and also serve a real portion of fries to get the party started.

Though I will likely never be impressed with their pancakes, I remember IHOP fondly from my childhood. They had smiley face chocolate chip pancakes that I adored and wanted every weekend. But now that I’m in my 30’s I can make my own smiley face chocolate chip pancakes that are much tastier, and much creepier. Being an adult is fun like that.

JUST THE STACKS – 5.5/10 TASTY STACKS

Overall Taste: Underwhelming.

Mouthfeel: Not quite right. 

Size: Too small, I should have just ordered a full stack.

Presentation: Pretty sad.

Price: $6.29 – $11.59

Location: 4070 Lincoln Blvd, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292

Pancake Face via TastyStacks.