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Great lengths for good PANCAKES...

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Hello, everyone!
So, I'm a pancake fiend living in a Harvard dorm, with no car but a strong hankering. Any place in Boston (South End's a bit tricky but I'd welcome suggestions), Cambridge, Somerville, Newton or Brookline is do-able; further than that, depends how good they are. Where's the best place for pancakes? Especially (mmmm) blueberry ones??

Here's what I've tried and some quick thoughts on each; feel free to air your opinions.

Johnny's Luncheonette: taste too much like the butter they used on the griddle. Pretty mediocre, though they'll do in a pancake pinch...

Rosebud Diner: Bland, tasteless, flavorless blueberries. All about the maple syrup, which at least comes in a nice personal dispenser.

Greenhouse Restaurant (Harvard Square): had these several years ago. Remember they were monster-size, pretty sweet. Actually, I think I ordered chocolate chip, and you can't exactly screw those up. Are the regular ones any good?

BC Eagle deli (Cleveland Circle): Standard. From a mix. Cheap&plentiful. Nothing special.

Zaftigs: Best I've had in Boston. Fluffy, sweet, dusted with confectioners sugar. Very cheery. Excellent quality blueberries. Could maybe do without the strawberry butter. A plus: they put the berries BOTH inside AND outside the pancakes. Too bad when they only do one, or they don't even ask...

and, yeah, IHOP: It was late, we were hungry. I think they were sort of okay. Not my first choice, though I'd take some babysittees for the clown pancake. BICKFORDS, though, is just horrid.

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  1. When my daughter was researching colleges, I visited the Harvard website dining section and found that the school has an extremely high opinion of the quality and variety of food provided to students.

    Since you're looking for good pancakes off-campus, I'm wondering...

    How is the dorm food and on-campus dining, really?

    Link: http://www.dining.harvard.edu/

    7 Replies
    1. re: ironmom

      thanks for the question! I feel so...useful!

      Hmm, well, before I start the tongue-clucking, I'll say I commend Harvard for their efforts at environmentalism. They take recycling/waste reduction/conservation quite seriously, so they're always doing environment-conscious things like get rid of single-serving containers (ketchup, mustard, syrup, sugars), use recyclable everything, keep the trash minimal. All things I care about, though they're not exactly chowhound-ish.

      And the dining rooms are all SPARKLING clean. Hardly ever even see crumbs on the tables. And the staff are realy helpful and quite friendly. And they refill things fast, so that's good.

      But, you inquire about the food...alas, it doesn't exactly sing to the heavens. Often, I find myself making bizarrely combined mutant-meals, based around what doesn't look gross.

      Quick note: I'm a freshman, so I eat in a big old dining all that serves 1600. So things will be a little more hectic/of lesser quality there. I'm increasingly heading toward the upperclass 'houses' (if anyone's interested in finding out about the Harvard housing system, I'll explain sometime), where ALL the food is of significantly higher quality. Freshman ARE allowed to do that. Keep that in mind.

      Good news: There's lots of food and an unlimited meal plan. Nothing is molding or rotting (can't say the same for my high school, certainly), nothing is old, there's always cereal and many breads, and you can always get burgers/veggie burgers/grilled cheese...far more than the old "you can always have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich..." Plus, the salad bars are way above average in terms of variety/freshness. And some of the best pickles I've ever had. And the muffins at breakfast are excellent. The pancakes have their good days (tho its sometimes depressing when they become the 'vegetarian alternative' for dinner). Pasta: okay if ya like that (I'm not a big pasta eater). The fish, surprisingly, is quite high quality, especially the salmon with corn relish. Good 'mexican cuisine,' i.e. quesadillas. And opportunities abound for creativity. There's a microwave - make your own fajita pizza! Be creative and try a baked apple! Plus you can make your own salad dressings with the bottles that abound. And at brunch, they have smoked salmon!!! Every week!

      THE BAD NEWS: Most of the meat is overcooked and covered with gooey slop that they then term "mango chutney" or some such nonsense. Tofu dishes are all interchangeable, no matter WHAT they say its flavored as. The rice is highly un-pleasing. Horrid french fries. There's not much festive twists to things: she'll find no stir-fry bars like at some schools. The cakes/pies at dessert, while their presence is appreciated, are quite hit-or-miss. Not much of a homey touch, though cooking in bulk is never simple.

      Verdict: actually, more good than bad, particularly for upperclassmen. Though if you come from a meat-starch-vegetable home you'll have to learn unorthodoxy.
      And everything could be more flavorful...though if you care a lot about food, grab the jar of garlic, pick up the olive oil, and season it up! Make creative salads. Play. Most people don't, but you can.
      Also, learn the frozen yogurt culture. It's all about frozen yogurt.

      1. re: Emma F

        I'd say that's a pretty accurate description of harvard food (I'm a senior so I've eaten my share of dining hall food). it has its off days...like a week ago when I found what looked to be a nail in my lo mein. There's some variation between the upperclass houses in terms of food. my house, for example, probably has one of the weaker dining halls. I try to improvise but there's not all that much to work with. as far as relative to other schools, I'd guess that we're decent but I still find it hard to believe that the dining services won all these awards. I once ate at Tufts and their food was way better...I guess the name carries some weight...
        nice to be back posting after having my last 2 posts censored.
        -danny

        1. re: dz

          My daughter ended up at BU. They have a lot of different meal plans there which are priced the same, but since to go back to a dorm at lunch is inconvenient, hardly anyone takes that plan. Generally, they select a certain number of meals per week or semester, and they get "points" to spend at on-campus locations for the rest of the meals. If a person doesn't spend their points carefully, they can end up running out of meals and points before the end of the semester. Somehow I feel that if I pay $3500 a year for her food (which comes to about $3.50 a meal, far more than we ate for at home) that she shouln't have to go hungry and ante up more money before the year is out.

          So I gave her my rice cooker, which she hides in her room and uses to make ramen and cook vegetables "stolen" from the cafeteria.

          I know things could be much worse. At BC they operate on a "points-only" basis. $11 for dinner, anyone? And at many colleges the students buy only as many meals as they can afford at registration time, hoping they can come up with cash at a later time when they are hungry.

          1. re: ironmom

            As a BC alumna, I just wanted to clarify this post. I don't remember many $11 meals and I only graduated a few years ago. Most came to around $5 which is what I usually spend on take out any way. The new dining hall is great and offers tons of options as well. I actually wanted a school on the poinhts system as most I looked at had better quality food and more flexibility for meal times.

            My vote for the worst food goes to UMASS Amherst. I had a friend there and meal time was the worst. The dining hall was always overcrowded and you had to each in a short time spot. If you couldn't make it at that time, then you were out of luck. Drinks were served in dixie cup-sized glasses so you either had to take 8 initially or get up constantly. I can't even begin to describe the poor quality of the entrees.

            On a brighter note, the best college food I found was at St. Anselm College in Manchester, NH.

            1. re: Maura

              Hopefully, the girl who spent $11 on dinner didn't do it too often.

              1. re: ironmom

                If your daughter insists on both good food and the Ivy League, Cornell is the college to look at.

                1. re: gary

                  I think she'll stick to BU, they do stirfry to order in her dorm.

    2. One place I'd try would be the Neighborhood Restaurant off Union Square in Somerville. It's a Portuguese place that has fantastic brunches; I can't say that I've paid particular attention to the pancakes, everything I've had there has been good, not to mention cheap & plentiful.

      1. I hate to say this because I think over all the place stinks but try Doyle's in Jamacia Plain.You can get there by T it is about a 3 minute walk from Green Street Station. This is about the only thing Doyle's does good. It is a great bar,but an absolutley terrible restaurant(IMHO).

        5 Replies
        1. re: ScoobieSnack

          Seth is right about Doyle's blueberry pancakes. I get a short stack and it's plenty. But I kinda like the place overall and wouldn't be quite so down on the food. It's definitely no better than mediocre but there's a lot to choose from and you're not paying much.

          1. re: Joanie

            Whoops, it was Scoobiesnack who wasn't into Doyle's.

            1. re: Joanie

              For the record, I like Doyle's; it's an honest joint for burgers, pizza, & beer, and doesn't pretend to be anything but.

              1. re: Joanie

                Deluxe TOwn DIner
                Mt AUburn Street Watertown
                bfast all day
                sweet potato pancakes with pecans-best pancakes I have ever had.

                1. re: TK

                  i agree, best pancakes ever, especially buttermilk ones!!

          2. Walk (or take the bus) about a mile down Cambridge St. to Inman Square in Cambridge and check out the S&S Deli. I haven't been there for a few years, but I recall having some pretty good blueberry pancakes there.

            Enjoy your search.

            1. This may not be convenient but it's worth the trip especially if you enjoy a classic diner. Try the Capitol diner in Lynn just off of 1-A. Great breakfasts including pancakes and other items and a great overall experience. I used to live in Harvard Square and the trip was worth it. You could even take the train from North Station since the diner is under the RR tracks (a real Edeward Hooper scene).

              1 Reply
              1. re: chuck s

                Good call with the Capital Diner, Chuck. They have great breakfast, yet because it is a bit out of the way, I forget about it. The train from North Station is the Rockport line and the bus also runs from Haymarket (Bus numbers 441, 442, 426).