Just The Cutest: Dunkin’s Pancake Minis

Dunkin’ – my East Coast Coffee Love, recently announced a new menu item: mini pancakes! Not only that, but mini pancakes with 10 grams of protein! That’s basically the same as 1.5 eggs! I fondly remember drinking Dunkin’ iced hazelnut coffee during the winters in Boston. Because I was such a hearty New Englander back then, I insisted on drinking it during 20° degree days as well. Now, if you take me camping in Mojave in April, amidst the most gorgeous desert bloom and night stars, I will shiver at night when drops to the high forties. That desert cold hits different.

Back to the pancakes – I was excited to try these. Luckily, Dunkin’ exists on the West Coast too – though not in the same substantial numbers. I hopped to my nearest Dunkin’ and ordered a tiny stack of six super cute pancakes with a side of dipping syrup for under $3.

These were solidly good. In all honesty I found them a little dry, but it’s hard not be swayed by the adorableness of these. They are so cute they get an extra point on the TastyStacks scale. Where else can you grab coffee and a tiny stack of pancakes? Other online reviews of these says they taste like mini pancakes you can buy frozen in the grocery store. That’s probably true, but in that case I’d rather just make my own pancakes at home, and completely avoid the grocery store all together – I buy my pancake mix in bulk online.

I speed watched three YouTube videos reviewing Dunkin’ Minis and learned that 1) watching people eat online is annoying and weird and 2) the consensus is definitely “dry but cute.”

JUST THE STACKS – 7.5/10 TASTY STACKS

Overall Taste: Solidly good.

Mouthfeel: A little dry.

Size: So tiny! So cute!

Presentation: Tiny pancake sack.

Price: $2.29-$2.99

Location: Somewhere near you! Maybe!

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!

Marcy’s Diner: TSA Approved

These were, in short, fucking delicious.

On a recent trip to Portland, Maine, I had a chance to try Marcy’s Diner – an adorably tiny but mighty gem.

It was the final stop before my flight back to LA, and because it was raining and there was talk of a city-wide hornet problem, I chose to take my stack of pancakes to go. In this case, that meant to the airport and through security, one of the ultimate travel tests for pancakes. In case you’re wondering, yes you absolutely can take your pancakes through security (domestic US flights). If you happen to have four sizeable pancakes in three different containers (bacon, coconut, and plain), your bag will need to be hand searched by TSA. My pancakes were inspected to make sure they were actually pancakes and happily passed with flying colors.

Takeout pancakes are an inherently risky business. Temperature variation, packaging consideration, and fluff deflation may all come into play. Marcy’s Diner had zero issues with these potential pancake pitfalls.

These were, in short, fucking delicious. All three kinds were perfectly fluffy, another hard to attain goal. The plain pancakes were slightly sweet just on their own. The coconut pancake had little flakes of coconut cooked right in and tasted like a kind of subtly sweet coconut heaven I didn’t know existed until just then. The bacon pancake had ample bacon pieces mixed in the batter – evoking that special salty-sweet tastebud dance in my mouth.

These aren’t pancakes that are trying to do too many things. They don’t offer an avalanche of unnecessary toppings or a whole other meal on top of them. They are high caliber, delectable pancakes that stand on their own.

I’m giving these stacks a coveted 10/10 on the TastyStacks scale. For any of my New England readers out there, I highly recommend stopping by Marcy’s Diner on your next Portland outing. If pancakes aren’t your thing, the Hobo Hashbrowns (with onions, peppers, jalapenos, eggs, and cheese) were also delicious.

JUST THE STACKS – 10/10 TASTY STACKS

Overall Taste: Fucking delicious.

Mouthfeel: Slightly sweet and dreamy.

Size: Large, fluffy, extra thicc.

Presentation: Takeout containers – these did their job of keeping the pancakes from deflation and general sog.

Price: $3.50 – $7.00 (More for extra toppings)

Location: 47 Oak St, Portland, ME 04101

Shoop’s Part Two – Takeout Pancake Heaven

New year, new pancakes! Except this is more like – New year, same fucking pandemic, getting the pancakes you love to-go and hoping for the best.

Shoop’s, located in downtown Santa Monica and just blocks from the beach, previously scored a coveted 10/10 on the Tasty Stacks scale. How do they hold up in a takeout environment?

My friend and I ordered the Pineapple Pancakes and the Savory Tomato Basil Pancakes to share. The latter comes with “fresh tomato and basil, topped with 2 over-medium eggs, fresh pesto, and feta.” We scooped up our pancakes from the ever-friendly Shoop’s staff and walked them down to the beach. This is the second best way to eat pancakes if you can’t eat them right then and there at the restaurant.

What’s the most common pitfall of takeout pancakes? The fluff deflates, leaving you with a flat circle of sad flapjack. I was expecting at least some fluff deflation, based on past takeout pancake experiences. Instead, we were gifted with two stacks of unexpectedly luscious and perfectly fluffy pancakes.

Most notably, the Savory Tomato Basil pancakes, which I thought for sure would be soggy and weird with the amount of egg and pesto on top, were outfuckingstanding. They were soft inside, not soggy, and Shoop’s has managed to perfect the stuffed pancake technique – these had delicate morsels of tomato and basil in every bite. The eggs and pesto on top elevated the experience – this is a satisfying pancake on every level.

The Pineapple Pancakes were the perfect complement to the savory pancake. The pineapple morsels are caramelized which gives the pancake that coveted ever so slightly crispy edge. If you are looking for pancakes that not only hold their own, but go above and beyond considering the takeout environment, Shoop’s is one of the best choices you can make.

JUST THE STACKS – 10/10 TASTY STACKS

Overall Taste: Sweet & savory pancake fluff heaven.

Mouthfeel: Unexpectedly luscious – even more so considering the deflation danger.

Size: Three substantial discs of deliciousness per stack.

Presentation: These are as good as you can make pancakes look in takeout containers. Take them to the beach for bonus aesthetic points!

Price: $10.50-$15.95  

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

Morongo Casino: Gambling With Pancake Basics

They looked fluffy, but of course the real test happens in the mouth.

If you ever find yourself at Morongo Casino Resort & Spa and craving pancakes, you might want to go somewhere else. Morongo is located outside Palm Springs just before the wind turbines and is well equipped with lovely poolside cabanas, a very good steakhouse, AND Panda Express, but they fall short on their pancake performance.  

The Good Times Cafe, located within Morongo, seemed promising enough for pancakes. At the very least, it seemed like they had food we could eat. On the omelette menu, you can substitute toast for two large pancakes for only $2.99, a tempting offer after a night throwing your money at $25 blackjack tables.

Visually, the pancakes looked good. They were large and golden brown. The edges were lightly crisped, and the stack was topped with powdered sugar. They looked fluffy, but of course the real test happens in the mouth.

My fellow dining companion described them best, slicing them was “like cutting into a yoga mat.” One of the most important rules of pancake eating is that you should never have trouble cutting into a pancake. It does not foreshadow deliciousness, only dread. Anyways, these weren’t terrible but they weren’t that good. Ample amounts of butter and syrup improved them, obviously. 

I neglected to take any pancake photos, or least any worth viewing, so instead please enjoy this photo of wind turbines I could see from the hotel room. 

JUST THE STACKS – 5/10 TASTY STACKS

Overall Taste: Extreme mediocrity bordering on bad. 

Mouthfeel: Two-ply yoga mat.

Size: Two large pancakes – good value but not good taste.

Presentation: Deceptively nice.

Price: $2.99 – $8.99

Location: 49500 Seminole Dr, Cabazon, CA 92230

Mini Review: Japanese Pancake Balls

Moto Azabu Sushi Bar & Grill, in Marina Del Rey, CA has reopened under social distancing guidelines, and is the perfect place to have your temperature taken and wear a mask in between sunny, sushi bites. I’ve been here several times and this was the first time I noticed Japanese Pancake Balls on the menu. The pancake signal rang out, and I answered.

They were cute. Four perfectly browned pancake balls with veggies and octopus inside, topped with bonito, seaweed flakes, pickled ginger, mayo, and “special sauce.”

The balls tasted like pancakes, maybe slightly more fried. The octopus inside was tasty, and all the toppings worked well. We may never know what the special sauce contains, but the whole appetizer was flavorful with a savory, complex mouthfeel.

JUST THE STACKS – 9/10 TASTY STACKS

Overall Taste: Slightly sweet and definite pancake flavor, plus octopus bites.

Mouthfeel: A little bit crunchy, a little bit creamy, a lot of delicious.

Size: Four large pancake balls.

Presentation: Nice small-sized ingredient stacking on top.

Price: $6

Location: 517 W Washington Blvd 2nd Floor, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292

The Nighthawk Saga Continues: Takeout Celebration Stacks Part Two

 Obviously, I am going to keep eating Nighthawk pancakes. How could I not? 

Nighthawk and I have a delicious, yet complicated relationship. They were my first pancake loves of Los Angeles, and it’s hard to forget those early days of “super fucking delicious pancakes that elate your taste-buds in ways you might not have thought possible.” Then I had to end things due to poor pancake behavior. Then I decided to give them another chance and was pleasantly surprised, for the most part.

That brings us to May of 2020, in which we find ourselves in the midst of an actual pandemic, which is something we all used to read or watch disaster porn about (well I did), but never truly expect to live through. It also brings us to my annual celebration of another trip around the sun which called for a pancake celebration. 

My three person Quarantine Crew (who shall remain masked and anonymous) and I decided we would venture out to Nighthawk for takeout pancakes. Actually, I decided, because #birthdayrules. We were immediately shocked by the normalness of Venice Beach; people were biking in big groups and others were strolling mask-less without a care in the world. It was wild. We picked up our pancakes and to-go Candied Bacon Mary’s and got the hell out of there. 

I have acknowledged that takeout pancakes are going to have a tough time competing with the dining-in experience. So with that in mind, these sweet potato pancakes that don’t taste like sweet potatoes were excellent, but not outstanding.  They were perfectly fluffy, perfectly moist with an on-point mouthfeel, but something was missing.

Maybe it was the fried chicken, which was nearly inedible. Because this is an integral part of this dish, Nighthawk lost points on the TastyStacks scale (which has been adjusted to account for pandemic takeout times).  It was pretty sad, because Nighthawk used to have really fucking good fried chicken. 

The Candied Bacon Mary’s here are outstanding; they pack a spicy and exciting punch. I was thrilled we could get them for takeout. One person in my three person Quarantine Crew strongly disagreed with my taste buds on this and didn’t even want to finish his, which was a win-win for me.

Obviously, I am going to keep eating Nighthawk pancakes. How could I not? 

JUST THE STACKS – 8/10 TASTY STACKS

Overall Taste: Delicious stacks of almost-heaven.

Mouthfeel: Fluffy and moist. 

Size: Standard Nighthawk three-piler. 

Presentation: Great. How do people like my re-plating skills?

Price: $17

Location: 417 Washington Blvd, Venice, 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.

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

Country Touch Cafe: More Than a Touch Too Chewy

Immediately, I knew there would be trouble. You should never have trouble cutting a pancake.

Country Touch Cafe, located in Torrance, CA is an adorable hole-in-the-wall diner with delightfully decorated mugs and charming decor which include painted saws hanging from the wall. As lovable as this place is, it is not a good place to order pancakes. In fact, it is a bad place to order pancakes.

I came here on a date with the aforementioned blue-eyed space guy (who I guess was not terribly put off by my food flinging) and we both ordered omelettes. I was unable to resist trying their pancakes too, labeled only as “Hot Cakes” on the menu.

I tried to cut a piece of pancake with my fork, which should be easy to do, but was challenging. Immediately, I knew there would be trouble. You should never have trouble cutting a pancake. It’s a sign they will be chewy and unpleasant to eat.

I sampled a mouthful and it was bad. I tried them with butter and syrup and they were still bad. My date, who continued his disturbing pancake preferences by revealing he liked to “murder his pancakes with syrup” did so and also found them bad.

Honestly, I felt guilty because this place is so sweet. I think I ate half trying to convince myself they were not that bad. On the plus side, these weren’t as inedible as the infamous Mel’s, which is why they have a higher rating.

My date was kind about my pancake disappointment, and told me it was ok I didn’t like them. At one point, while trying to decide if his eyes were actually blue or some delicate variation I couldn’t quite put my finger on, I picked up the milk saucer instead of the syrup and proceeded to pour milk over the pancakes. Despite this extra moisture, the pancakes were still hard to cut.

If you’re in the area and craving standard diner food or maybe the Bul-Goki Omelette I saw on the menu, you should come here. I’d come back for the mugs, which I wanted to steal (but didn’t). Just don’t order the pancakes.

JUST THE STACKS – 2/10 TASTY STACKS

Overall Taste: Not good.

Mouthfeel: Bad.

Size: Large.

Presentation: Standard pancake on pancake.

Price: $5.95 – $8.45

Location: 3717 W 190th St, Torrance, CA 90504