Paula’s Pancake House: Solvang’s Well Known Pancake Gem

I tend to want to envelop my pancakes in strawberries though, so maybe the amount they use is reasonable.

Paula’s Pancake House in Solvang, CA is known for their their thin, crêpe-like Danish pancakes. I came here on a Sunday morning date which is obviously the most crowded time to go. You would think there were no other cafes or restaurants nearby serving breakfast. There are, but I don’t know if they serve pancakes. To be honest, this place had been on my radar for awhile, but I didn’t want to drive to Solvang by myself, so I convinced my date to drive me. Win-win!

Once we were finally seated, our appetites had become immense and we promptly over-ordered a variety of breakfast food. Our food platters arrived and I thought the pancakes looked lovely. My date thought the whipped cream looked “sad” which I disagreed with. I have seen some tragic whipped cream on pancakes, and this wasn’t that. I also ordered them with strawberries, which went against my dates’ “no foreign objects on pancakes” policy. This meant I got all the strawberries, so it was another win-win.

The pancakes were solidly good, but I don’t think there was anything outstanding about them. They tasted like thick crêpes (but not quite the traditional pancake) and were slightly sweet on their own. The menu describes them as “World Famous Danish Pancakes” and they can be ordered with blueberries, warm cinnamon apples, Danish sausage or ham, or even simple powdered sugar and butter.

Paula’s also serves regular pancakes (including a variety of fillings) and Whole Wheat and Honey Pancakes, which I didn’t get a chance to try. I’d like to go back and order an entire pancake variety spread someday.

Overall, this place is a little too touristy which I found off-putting, but I did thoroughly enjoy my pancakes. The strawberry quality was good, though I think they could have used more. I tend to want to envelop my pancakes in strawberries though, so maybe the amount they use is reasonable. Paula’s also has excellent bacon, some of which I tucked in my purse for a snack on the drive home. 

JUST THE STACKS – 8/10 TASTY STACKS

Overall Taste: Solidly good. Slightly sweet and creamy.

Mouthfeel: Delicate and pleasant.

Size: Large.

Presentation: Two healthy-sized thin pancakes, topped with whipped cream (which may or may not have looked sad) and strawberries.

Price: $8.50 – $11.75

Location: 1531 Mission Dr, Solvang, CA 93463

Keto Cakes: Are These Even Pancakes?

Like the rules of poetry (and pretty much everything), I believe the rules of pancakes are meant to be broken. Otherwise life would be a whole lot less fun, creative, and delicious. However, definitions make for good guidelines and it is within this framework I present this review.

Birch Benders makes one of my favorite protein pancake mixes. They are guaranteed to be easy to make and fluffy to eat. Recently, they launched a line of microwavable cup mixes, including several pancake flavors. A pancake in a cup! How cool and cute is that!

At $11.99 for a package of four, plus shipping, these aren’t inexpensive. Oh, and they are also marketed as “Keto,” because people hate carbs now. They are not low calorie though, at an average of 200 calories per tiny cup serving. I don’t really know where the calories are coming from (maybe the 17g of fat), but if I’m going to eat 200 calories or more of a small pancake, they better taste fucking good.

I bought two varieties: Strawberry Shortcake and Classic Maple. I was especially interested in the Strawberry Shortcake, which I tried first. I guesstimated the addition of three tablespoons of water. I thought the batter smelled like a strawberry Pop-Tart, which I love (not a keto food product). I microwaved my adorably decorated Strawberry Shortcake cup for 60 seconds and then looked at it very suspiciously. My first bite was…terrible. I tried another bite to be sure and then threw it away. It was dry, tasted artificial, and left me with a bad mouthfeel.

The next one I tried was the Classic Maple, and I very carefully measured three tablespoons of water, in case this was an operator error situation. I mixed, microwaved, and again looked at the finished product suspiciously. This one was better, but something was still off about it. It kind of tasted like a pancake, but I had to think pretty hard about it.

So are these even pancakes? 

The Strawberry Shortcake gets a resounding “no” and while the Classic Maple was reminiscent flavor-wise of a pancake, it was certainly not a “flat cake made of thin batter.” It was a semi dry, salty, fluffy ball of “maybe pancake.”

I want to reiterate that Birch Benders makes excellent protein pancake mixes, which I will continue to use. I might consider eating the rest of these alleged “pancake cups” in an emergency situation, where I also have access to power and a microwave. The only thing these left me with was a terrible craving for a real pancake topped with strawberries. 

JUST THE STACKS – 0/10 TASTY STACKS  

Overall Taste: Not good. I wanted to give one point for the Classic Maple, but since I have deemed these Not Pancakes I can’t even give out a point.

Mouthfeel: Sad, disappointing, and confusing.

Protein per serving:  7g*

Carbs per serving: 10g*

Price:  $11.99 for 4

Available at: Birch Benders and Amazon.

* The nutrition facts listed on Amazon and Birch Benders are slightly different from each other for the same products and I don’t know why this is, but surely someone is going to get upset if they don’t know if something has 7 or 10 grams of protein.

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

Protein Pancake Series: Kodiak Cakes

Do you know how hard it is to get perfect pancake fluff with a protein pancake mix? These knock it out of the park every time.

I swiped right on a guy with a beaming smile and muscular arms holding a chicken in his lap. It was the chicken that really intrigued me. “Is that your pet chicken?,” I asked, half jokingly. Not only was it his pet chicken, it was one of several, and they even have their own social media account.

The subject of my pancake blog came up pretty quickly, and he told me his favorite protein pancake mix was from Kodiak Cakes. He made sure to note he could also make excellent pancakes from scratch, but I have yet to verify this. 

Kodiak Cakes is a popular pancake mix with the tagline: “Nourishment for today’s frontier.” The packaging has an aggressive but cute looking bear on the front. They have delicious sounding varieties including: Buttermilk, Dark Chocolate, Cinnamon Oat, Almond Poppy Seed, Chocolate Chip, Strawberry Chocolate Chip (!!!), Peanut Butter, and Buttermilk Chia. 

Up until recently, I had been so happy with Birch Benders mix I hadn’t made room in my belly to try Kodiak Cakes. My date raved about these and I humored him by letting him make me some. He used the Almond Poppy Seed mix and substituted cashew milk for water. This is a brilliant taste-bud discovery we should all be using in our protein pancake mixing. It adds a delicate and silky lushness that makes for a brilliant mouthfeel. 

The pancakes were out-fucking-standing. I topped them with fresh strawberries and syrup but you could eat them plain. They passed the standalone test, or the “naked” test as I like to call it when I’m flirting, which I am absolutely doing here. The Almond Poppy Seed is not a flavor I might have picked on my own and that would have been so sad because these were so damn scrumptious. They were fluffy, creamy, and substantial with a mild, sweet almond flavor. In short, I had found protein pancake heaven.

For the full effect, I recommend these with eggs from your backyard chickens (and bacon, but hopefully not from your backyard pig). Sure, you could use eggs from the grocery store, but what fun is that?

To make sure I really loved the pancakes and was not just smitten with my date, I tried the Buttermilk mix on my own. Absolutely outstanding. Do you know how hard it is to get perfect pancake fluff with a protein pancake mix? These knock it out of the park every time. I prefer the Almond Poppy mix to the Buttermilk but I’m confident in saying these are my new favorite protein pancakes.

Who knows what the future holds, aside from the obvious burning planet and impending zombie outbreak, but one thing is for sure: Kodiak Cakes have seized the coveted golden protein pancake skillet from Birch Benders in a delicious and unexpected twist. You should all be eating these. I’m about to buy every single fucking variety on KodiakCakes.com (because Amazon doesn’t have all the varieties).

JUST THE STACKS – 10/10 TASTY STACKS  

Overall Taste: Pancake bliss; perfectly sweet & fluffy & filling.

Mouthfeel: Really fucking luscious.

Protein per serving: 14g per 1/2 cup (I usually use 1 cup).

Price: $5.50 for 18 oz.

Available at: KodiakCakes.com, Amazon.com

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



Protein Pancake Series: Birch Benders Peanut Butter Protein Mix

Several minutes, a sprinkling of chocolate chips, and a giant serving of chopped strawberries later, my giant pancake was cooked to perfection.

I don’t mean to fitness brag, but after completing a 6.2 mile trail run with a group of people and being the very last to finish, I was fucking starving. I raced home (but because I live in LA it was a 35 minute race with traffic) with only one thing on my mind: pancakes. And I needed them to be fast, filling, and semi-nutritious. This meant protein pancakes. Because I was so hungry I didn’t want to chance using a new mix I hadn’t vetted, I went for my tried & true brand: Birch Benders

Birch Benders has come out with an incredible variety of options my mouth has yet to experience. I chose a new one: Peanut Butter Protein. One flick of the oven, one cup of mix, and roughly two-thirds of a cup of water later, I was already halfway done making these. The batter looked and smelled like peanut butter, which I usually try to stay away from. If left unattended with a jar, I am likely to take cheap white bread and use it as a vehicle for loading massive amounts of peanut butter on it. But it seemed doubtful I could get into the same kind of trouble with a protein pancake mix. 

Several minutes, a sprinkling of chocolate chips, and a giant serving of chopped strawberries later, my giant pancake was cooked to perfection. Part of why I like Birch Benders so much is that I have nailed the technique and find that the batter cooks evenly and deliciously every time. (Every time except the times that I get distracted and burn them, which isn’t their fault. Making pancakes, even from a mix, involves a degree of adoration and care.)

My giant peanut butter protein pancake was fluffy and slightly sweet, solid traits that I have come to expect from Birch Benders mix. Compared to the strong smell of peanut butter when I was mixing the batter, the taste was mild. It was more like a hint of peanut butter rather than a full on mouth blast. I don’t want to say it was disappointing, but this is obviously not the same thing as shoving spoonfuls of peanut butter in your mouth. It was a nice change from my usual plain Buttermilk Birch Benders mix though, and the chocolate chips brought out more of the flavor. If you’re looking for a strong peanut butter taste I’d recommend lathering real peanut butter on top, but if you’re happy with a gentle mouth hint of nutty goodness, these will do the trick. 

JUST THE STACKS – 8/10 TASTY STACKS  

Image via TastyStacks.

Overall Taste: Mild peanut butter flavor but overall a solid & satisfying pancake experience.

Mouthfeel: The perfect blend of sweet fluff and protein.

Protein per serving:  16g per 1/2 cup (I usually use 1 cup).

Price:  $5.99 – $8.99 for 16 oz

Available at: So many places! Also Amazon.

More Birthday Stacks: The Local Yolk

If I’m eating pancakes, I don’t also need to be eating half a bag of chocolate chips. 

Continuing on the birthday celebration pancake journey is The Local Yolk in Manhattan Beach. While not directly overlooking the ocean, if you walk half a block in either direction you are gifted with a tanalizing ocean view. If you’re here on your lunch break, the desire to run toward the ocean and never go back to work is strong. 

The Local Yolk is a cute diner that offers several classic pancake choices: Banana, Blueberry, Strawberry, Cinnamon Apple, and Chocolate Chip. I ordered the Strawberry Chocolate Chip pancakes and my friend ordered the Banana Blueberry Pancakes. 

The first bite was delightful. But sometimes a celebratory mood overshadows the real quality. After the first bite, I realized the pancakes were just ok. They were chewy, and had a “gummy” quality to them that wasn’t great.  They had strawberries and chocolate chips both inside the pancake which I always appreciate, as well as on top. I thought there were too many chocolate chips on top. If I’m eating pancakes, I don’t also need to be eating half a bag of chocolate chips. 

My friend noted that her blueberry banana pancakes had hardly any blueberries inside of them, which is always a sad thing. The bananas were sliced an arranged nicely on top, with two dollops of whipped cream. 

Despite their “gummy” quality, we both finished most of our pancakes. I used a little more syrup and butter than I usually might to soften them up. I might come back here if I was in the area, but I’m not sure I would get the pancakes.

JUST THE STACKS – 6/10 TASTY STACKS

Overall Taste: Not bad, but not glorious.

Mouthfeel: Good to gummy. My friend guessed they were made from a mix.

Size: A nice hefty serving of three pancakes.

Presentation: Cute just like the diner, nice topping arrangements.

Price: $7.75 – $9.75

Location:  3414 Highland Ave, Manhattan Beach, CA 90266

Protein Pancake Series: Birch Benders Micro-Pancakery


My favorite way to eat these is to cut up fresh strawberries and make a strawberry smiley face.

I was lucky to find my current favorite protein pancake mix, Birch Benders, through a short trial and error period. A good protein pancake is tricky, you want it to be healthier than regular pancakes but you also want it to taste good, and be sustainable. One cup of this mix (two servings) is enough to power me through all sorts of activities: kayaking, Tough Muddering, and staying awake until my midday weekend nap. However, these pancakes do not have perfect stats. For example, they have six grams of sugar per serving, and that’s probably part of why I like them. Pick your pancake battles.

When I first tried these, I was instantly delighted with their sweet taste and fluff factor, two items that had been lacking in previous protein pancake mixes I’d tasted. Some people may roll their eyes at mixes, but not me. I appreciate being able to “just add water”, stir until smooth, and pour the entire bowl of batter into a pan. These make fantastic giant pancakes, too.   


This mix is the closest thing to regular pancakes I’ve come across so far. My favorite way to eat them is to cut up fresh strawberries and make a strawberry smiley face. I suggest adding chocolate chips for a little extra oomph. Yes, adding chocolate chips makes these less healthy but like I said, pick your own pancake battles, don’t pick mine. 

These also travel well. I have brought them on planes, in cars, on hikes, and to a Wilderness First Aid class, where people asked with envy if I was eating pancakes. Yes, I’ve gotten some weird looks. I don’t know if that was due to the pancakes or not. I pulled these out of the seat pocket on a plane once and paired them with a tiny, expensive bottle of prosecco which is an experience I highly recommend. 

Birch Benders makes several other pancake mix varieties: Paleo, Banana Paleo, Keto, Chocolate Chip Keto, Chocolate Chip, Pumpkin Spice, Six Grain Cinnamon, Plant Protein, Gluten-Free, and Classic. Whew!

Just the Stacks – 9/10 Tasty Stacks  

Overall Taste: Really fucking good.

Mouthfeel: Sweet fluff and protein fairies dancing on the tongue. 

Protein per serving:  16g per 1/2 cup (I usually use 1 cup).

Price: $4.99-$5.99 for 16 oz

Available at: So many places! Also Amazon.

Tallyrand: The Valley Redeems Itself


…like biting into a cloud, or what I imagine biting into a cloud would be like if it wasn’t just water and air.

After my disastrous pancake experience in Sherman Oaks, I wasn’t in a rush to head back to the Valley for pancakes, but the Valley is vast, and there are better options out there. The Tallyrand in Burbank is known for having great pancakes, and has been around since 1959 so they must be doing something right. Sometimes it’s better to have two pancake opinions instead of one, so I took a friend with me to confirm.

The Tallyrand offers a couple simple pancake options, including a whipped cream option, but that risks overshadowing the natural integrity of the pancake. I ordered the Strawberry Short Stack (four pancakes topped with strawberries) and my friend ordered the Tall Stack (six pancakes).

The pancakes were excellent. Slightly sweet and fluffy, but not excessively so. They were soft too, like biting into a cloud, or what I imagine biting into a cloud would be like if it wasn’t just water and air. My friend was impressed his stack stayed together throughout, and had “good adhesive quality.” This means you can visually enjoy the pancake layers while eating, which is an experience people aren’t talking enough about.

The strawberries on top were just sweet enough and complemented the pancakes perfectly. My only complaint was that there weren’t enough of them, which slightly affected my rating. I told my friend I wanted to bring my own strawberries next time (BYOS) but he said that was probably frowned upon. Actually the words he used were more like “not allowed,” which is understandable, and did not impact my rating.

We both agreed the amount of pancake was satisfying without leaving an overstuffed feeling. In fact, these are a perfect pre-hike snack and sustain well for at least 9.5 miles. No protein pancakes needed, just Valley buttermilk bliss.

Just the Stacks – 9/10

Overall Taste: Absolutely delightful.

Mouthfeel: Soft and luscious, these had that coveted melt-in-your-mouth quality.

Size: Whether you go with a stack of four or six these are just the right size.

Presentation: The pancake layers were quite visually pleasing. The strawberry topping looked a little haphazard.

Price: $8.75 – $11.45

Location: 1700 W Olive Ave, Burbank, CA 91506

C&O Trattoria: Go With the Garlic Knots

So many things are pretentious in Venice, but also delicious, so this is a poor battle to wage.

I came to C&O Trattoria in Venice Beach on a date with a guy who was a twin, which was maybe the most interesting thing about him. He first suggested Great White, which is also blocks from the beach, and at the time had recently opened and was super popular. I’ve still never been; it’s probably still super popular. I suspected we wouldn’t be able to get a seat anywhere on a weekend morning, but since I had recently moved and he should have done his homework better, I agreed to meet there. It was packed. I suggested we look elsewhere, and led him to Nighthawk, despite knowing that would be packed too. I’ve stopped by Nighthawk a few times without a reservation on a weekend morning and it’s never worked out for me, but I like to be hopeful.

Image via TastyStacks.

We took a look at the Nighthawk menu (or I pretended to, knowing it already), but he vetoed the place after reading the “Duck, Duck, Goose” dish (Fois gras). He was a sometime vegetarian so I thought that was the issue, but he commented the place was a little too “pretentious.” I found this incredulous coming from someone who had first picked Great White. So many things are pretentious in Venice, but also delicious, so this is a poor battle to wage.

Increasingly hungry, we picked C&O Trattoria (yes, an Italian restaurant), on a strip a block away from the beach, and very touristy. I was not expecting great pancakes. I was surprised they even served pancakes but decided that was one of the safest options. Of their 3247 Yelp reviews, there are two that mention the word pancake, and I disagree with both of them. Perhaps the problem was that we didn’t get a side of garlic knots? The pancakes were okay. They were structurally sound and topped with slices of strawberries and bananas which was nice, but lazy looking. This isn’t even a breakfast place though, they are just capitalizing on all the tourists hanging out by the beach desperate for weekend brunch. Anyway, my date ordered the crêpes and didn’t like them, but why would anyone order crêpes from a place like this?

Just the Stacks – 5/10 Tasty Stacks

Image via TastyStacks.

Overall Taste: Fine, unremarkable.

Mouthfeel: Mediocre.

Size: Average.

Presentation: Simple, they tried to make the fruit on top look somewhat nice, but it looked slightly sad to me. Maybe I just really wanted Nighthawk?

Price: $11 for three pancakes.

Location: 31 Washington Blvd, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292