- March 9th, 2006
- Comments Off on Chicago Tribune – At Play, March 2006
This time, it’s personal
Readers spoke, Phil listened–and ate lots more flapjacks
By Phil Vettel
Tribune restaurant critic
Published March 9, 2006
Back in January, I wrote a story evaluating some of Chicago’s top pancake chains, from Walker Brothers to Lumes Pancake House.
I wasn’t surprised that a few of you wrote in to suggest a few places I had overlooked.
“You totally missed [fill in the blank],” went a typical e-mail. “Their pancakes are perfect.”
“You must try [another restaurant],” went another. “It has the best pancakes around here.”
I figure anybody who takes the time to read my stuff must have something on the ball. So, based on the most glowing testimonials, I set out once again. As in the original story, I focused on multi-unit restaurants–though one reader’s impassioned e-mail moved me to add one independent to the mix.
Remember: These are the places you recommended.
(And please feel free to write in with more of your favorites. Just understand that I’m a little pancaked-out for the foreseeable future.)
Egg Harbor Cafe
Location visited: Yorktown Shopping Center, Lombard; 630-792-0724
Other locations: 11 others in the Chicago suburbs; www.eggharborcafe.com
Comments: There are only two pancakes on the menu of this 20-year-old suburban chain (not counting the Swedish pancakes, a different animal). The Signature pancakes are made with a whole-wheat batter, though they don’t have an appreciably different texture than that of regular pancakes. The same batter goes into the blueberry pancakes. Both are decent enough, but no great shakes; I much preferred the excellent French toast that my son ordered on one visit.
Flapjack rating: Two spatulas
Kingsberry Waffle House & Restaurant
Location visited: 3345 Vollmer Rd., Flossmoor; 708-922-1799
Other locations: Mokena, Oak Forest
Comments: This family-run breakfast-lunch spot looks like a house of Pancake Worship because its vaulted ceilings and sun windows bathe the restaurant in light. Wall murals depict naive-style pioneer scenes, including one in which a woman carries a plate of impossibly large pancakes. At least they seemed impossibly large until my order arrived. Big, airy buttermilk pancakes cover the whole plate, and come with whipped butter and warm syrup in ceramic pitchers. The complimentary fruit is a friendly touch.
Flapjack rating: Three spatulas
Location visited: 1855 W. Diehl Rd., Naperville; 630-778-6699
Other locations: Hundreds, in 41 states; www.crackerbarrel.com
Comments: The readers who said I missed out on this one were so right. Amidst down-home (some might say corny) country atmosphere sit some of the fluffiest, golden-brown pancakes around. And they’re served with warmed, 1.7-ounce bottles of pure maple syrup (sugar-free syrup available). Toppings include apples, blackberries and peaches; I especially liked the wild-Maine blueberry pancakes (with blueberry syrup) and the pecan pancakes. The syrup and the pancake mix are available for purchase in the attached Old Country store.
Flapjack rating: Four spatulas
Wildberry Pancakes and Cafe
Location visited: 1783 N. Milwaukee Ave., Libertyville; 847-247-7777
Other locations: Algonquin restaurant opening in summer; www.nextleveldining.com
Comments: Owned by the same company that owns Seasons of Long Grove and Dunhills in McHenry, Wildberry has space for 220 diners in a warm and wood-trimmed interior divided into four distinct areas. Owner George Archos says his people worked for a year perfecting their buttermilk-based pancake batter, which is a little thinner than some of the fluffiest flapjacks but has a wonderful, almost malty flavor. The cranberry-pecan pancakes are really good, the cranberries’ tartness offsetting the sweet pancakes perfectly. There’s a coffee kiosk by the front door, handy for grab-and-run weekday commuters and weekenders waiting for an available table.
Flapjack rating: Four spatulas
Southport Grocery & Cafe
Location visited: 3552 N. Southport Ave., 773-665-0100
Other locations: None; www.southportgrocery.com
Comments: This cute-as-a-button shop combines a comfort-food cafe and a grocery store of upscale foodie items, not to mention carryout and catering services (some devotees stop in for the cupcakes alone). Chef/owner Lisa Santos also makes sinful, bread-pudding pancakes (the batter has pieces of bread in it) topped with homemade cinnamon-sugar butter and vanilla custard sauce; and buttermilk pancakes studded with her homemade cornflakes, stuffed with vanilla-roasted walnuts and topped with wild-berry yogurt. The bread-pudding pancakes are a pure sugar rush; you need to order a side of bacon just to balance things out. The buttermilk ‘cakes are less sugary and more textural. Organic maple syrup from Wisconsin tops ’em both off.
Flapjack rating: Five spatulas