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Best Pancakes MSP

I love pancakes, blueberry, plain, corn, mango, strawberry, lemon really any kind -- I love them all. I love them so much so that was wondering what other pancake gems might be in the area that I have yet to try. Here's my rundown of best cakes in the twin cities.

Best Plain cakes: Turtle Bread. http://www.turtlebread.com/ They are thick, fluffy, and come super warm. And, they get bonus points for not putting the butter directly on the cakes before they arrive. I don't like butter on my cakes, but I always forget to ask for no butter.

Best Unique Cakes: Maria's. http://www.mariascafe.com/index.htm HUGE cakes! Maria's has 10 different flavors of cakes (Ripe Plantain, Raisin & Walnut, Blueberry, mango, banana, raspberry, pineapple, strawberry and Corn Pancakes) I have had the plantain, raisin and walnut, blueberry and the corn pancakes. The best of the ones that I have tried are the plantain. The corn cakes are not quite as good as at Victors, but still very good. It has been a while since I have had Maria's corn cakes, so it may be time for me to do a comparison of the two again.

Best Corn cakes: Victors 1959 Cafe http://www.victors1959cafe.com/
yummy. It sort of reminded me of cornbread but not mealy like corn bread. It had the nice corn-y sweetness without being over powering. perfect.

Best miscellaneous cakes: I'm not really sure how to categorize the lemon ricotta cakes at Hells Kitchen (http://www.hellskitcheninc.com/) so they are my misc cakes. They are not really fruit cakes, but they are clearly not plain either. The lemon ricotta cakes are light with a hint of lemon zest which makes these cakes just bright. They are a perfect pick me up on a Saturday morning.
Who has the best blueberry cakes in the Twin Cities? I have yet to find blueberry cakes that are outstanding. Where would be a good place to try? Maria’s and Victors blueberry cakes are good, but not the best I have ever had. (that award would go to the Blueberry cakes at the Wynn in Las Vegas).

I also have a list of cake places that I really want to be good, but I am always disappointed too. For example, at the Town Talk Diner, the cakes are fine. But that's about all I can say about them. They are just that, fine. While they are better than Aunt Jamima mix, I make better cakes at home than at TTD. When I go out I want my cakes to be better than I can make (and I'm not so skilled in the kitchen either).

The other place that always disappoints me is at the Bandbox. I really want them to be good because it is a super cool space. However, I have found the cakes to be thin, and fried on the outside from all the grease on the griddle. yuck! I prefer my cakes soft on the outside. A little crunch is ok, but with these cakes they may as well just have dropped them in the deep-fat fryer. It would have been the same effect.

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  1. Best pancakes - Al's Kitchen. The best greasy spoon in town. However, don't plan on staying long, and don't expect to be comfortable, but it's insanely good.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Nathan_1118

      I absolutely agree with Nathan. Love Al's pancakes, & i am picky about cakes. Since i am the daughter of a maple syrup maker, I can't stand fake maple syrup, so i like that at Al's I can spread lots of jelly from the pottery crocks onto my cake or just eat it with butter if i want to. I also used to love the pancakes at the Town Talk when it was just the 2 sisters who ran the place & before its rebirth as a self-conscious neo-diner :( i am usually working from 6 am on, so i usually miss breakfast out, but if i get a breakfast break i can sometimes get a plain cake at square peg, a diner off of east hennepin. it's decent diner fare, better than the Bandbox. I am afraid i have no other pancake intel

    2. You forgot to mention the pancakes at The Triple Rock. They're pretty good (but no Turtle Bread), and you can get one of my favorites, Pigs in Blankets. (Since they're vegetarian friendly, Be prepared to answer the question: Real pigs or fake pigs)

      P.S. Don't underestimate your homemade pancakes. Anyone who folds in whiped egg whites to add fluffiness is going a lot further than the 95% of pancake makers who use something out of a box.

      1. I'm not a huge pancake person but I remember the wild rice pancakes at Zumbro Cafe to be excellent.

        1. Here are my Fav 5

          1. Al's
          2. Bad Waitress (told they would have real maple syrup soon)
          3. Town Talk Diner
          4. Lucia's (when they have them)
          5. Jensen's Cafe (if one has to be in Burnsville for some reason)

          1. never had them at Lucia's. hmmm.

            also i would like to state that dh and i never order anything but breakfast food at square peg. lunch items have been uniformly mediocre denny's style crud but breakfast there is usually o.k.

            1. I love Al's pancakes. I love that you can order sour cream for them too. And the lemon ricotta cakes at Hell's Kitchen are wonderful. Mill City Cafe serves really tasty wild rice fruit pancakes.

              I can't believe the Square Peg is being touted as good breakfast food. It's OK at best, super greasy, kind of crummy, totally forgettable diner fare. And they serve the worst coffee I've ever had.

              Is there any place in town to get a good buckwheat pancake?

              10 Replies
              1. re: Mill City Modern

                ALthough I haven't cared much for the rest of their food these days, IMO the Day by Day Cafe (on West 7th St. in St. Paul) has pretty darn good buckwheat cakes (especially if you add blueberries nd pecans).


                1. re: diesel

                  Ah, yes. That used to be a weekly spot for me, but I haven't been there in years, so I kind of forget about it!

                2. re: Mill City Modern

                  I'm not sure I'm familiar with Mill City Cafe--can you tell us a little more about it?

                  Thank you!


                  P.S. Great post, by the way, Chowish Lurker!

                  1. re: The Dairy Queen


                    It's located on 22nd and California in NE Minneapolis. I believe it's under new ownership in the last year or so. For a while, we ate breakfast there at least once per week, but we haven't had time to go out for breakfast lately.

                    It's a great space. Unfortunately, the service often borders on embarrassing. I have always enjoyed the food (as has my boyfriend), although we have one friend who refuses to eat there on the premise that he was once served cold toast. The service is friendly, but very casual—they'll refill your water if they happen by with a pitcher, but also have a water cooler up at the front counter so that you can refill it yourself. I think at times my boyfriend has even refilled his own coffee.

                    It's definitely not a place to go if you are in a rush, because of the slow service. It's a fine place to go, though, if you want to linger over your Sunday paper. Also, the coffee is quite good. Which is important to me, since I'm sick of suffering through terrible cups of coffee at almost every breakfast place in town.

                    1. re: Mill City Modern

                      "although we have one friend who refuses to eat there on the premise that he was once served cold toast."

                      So, I would presume that he doesn't really eat breakfast out much at all, since toast is hot for what, about 2 seconds? :-)

                      1. re: djohnson22

                        Oh, I know. His standards for eating out are bizarre. When he told me that, I think I said, "When have you EVER been served hot toast?" I kind of stopped taking any advice from him on restaurants, since I finally realized that his recommendations never ever match up with mine.

                  2. re: Mill City Modern

                    hey i said it was o.k. diner breakfast (better than band box) & that i wouldn't order lunch there. sheesh. sometimes you HAVE to go across the street from work when you've only got 20 minutes. i agree that their coffee is nasty, but it's not as bad as egg & i's-- what's up with bad coffee at breakfast places anyway?

                    1. re: soupkitten

                      I know! Is it so hard to make a decent cup of coffee? Even Folgers out of a can can be OK if you brew it correctly, but most of the coffee at breakfast places around here tastes like it's been fermenting in an underground sewer chamber. Most places, I don't even order coffee anymore unless I know it's good; I just get tea instead.

                      1. re: Mill City Modern

                        The Best Cakes category would go to Bette's Oceanview in Berkeley. On the local front stay away from the Stack of Three at the Grandview Cafe, unless you have the metabolism to handle a truckload. Zumbro does a very credible cake.

                        Good coffee is about cleanliness and consistancy in addition to quality roast. What's laughable is that years ago my father changed the coffee program at a local hospital system thinking that the brown water could easily be improved upon. He put in the quality ingredients and method and what came out on the other end was an insurrection. The hospital wanted their lousy coffee back immediately.

                    2. re: Mill City Modern

                      I know it's not a pancake, but Barbette has buckwheat crepes for brekkers.

                    3. Thinking of pancakes prompted a thought about a breakfast place on University Ave that opened nearly the same time as Cupcake ... and now I can't find it anywhere.

                      It was called Becky's? or Betty's? or Betsy's? or Bertha's? and it was reviewed as serving good solid "workingman's" breakfast and lunch. Kind of a gruff, no-frills place, but in the spirit of a lunch counter that was never yuppified into a coffee shop.

                      Anyone remember the spot? About two blocks west of Cupcake, I think. Is it still there?

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: KTFoley

                        Do you mean Bonnie's Cafe? It's a mile or so down from Cupcake, in St. Paul (Cupcake is in Minneapolis - but only by 2 blocks or so.) I've never been there, but other posters have recommended it.



                        1. re: AnneInMpls

                          Bonnie's has good cakes if I remember right. My memory on this place is kinda sketchy because I have not been there in well over a year. I think I remember that they had good blueberry cakes. I'll have to add this to my list of places I need to try again.

                          1. re: The Chowish Lurker

                            I tried the blueberry pancakes this morning. I was a bit disappointed because they were a little dry. Also, the blueberries seemed to be more of the candied variety. I wasn't expecting great blueberries. After all, it is December in Minnesota. However, I think that a decent bag of frozen blueberries or even canned would have been better than the berries in the cakes. Overall, the blueberry cakes are average. On the other hand, the atmosphere is great. It feels like the cafe should be in Small Town, MN rather than the Twin Cities and I love that!

                          2. re: AnneInMpls

                            Bonnie's has been there seemingly forever (or at least for the past nine years, as long as I've worked on University Ave).

                            I think there was a newish place called Betty's on East Hennepin in Mpls - a biker breakfast place? Not sure if it is still open.

                            1. re: kdf

                              Yes, it must have been Bonnie's. My recollection was that it had gotten some press sometime in the last 18-24 months. Following the link to the City Pages, that squib was what I had remembered reading (2 blocks, a mile, details details ;).

                              Odd that the Best-Of nod would go to a place that has been around for nine years and yet completely off the radar screen. Kind of cool in a way, if it turns out to be an overlooked gem.

                              1. re: kdf

                                "betty's bikes and buns"-- the biker place on east hennepin is now indeed closed

                          3. Check with Moose and Sadie's on weekends. They serve brunch till 2pm. Fab blue corn pancakes and huevos rancheros. Enjoyed some weekend before last. It's one of my regular haunts, because I live in the 'hood, but if you're on a quest for 'cakes, it's worth a visit.

                            A couple of reviews:



                            1. It sounds like I really need to try Al's. That's one of those places that I always mean to try but never make it. I think Al's has just been moved up to spot #1 on the "places to try" list. Thanks for the suggestions!

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: The Chowish Lurker

                                yes go to Al's-- you will not regret it. DO NOT go on a saturday, and go VERY EARLY-- before 8 am for best results. don't go in a group of more than 3-- there are only about 10-12 stools, and everyone shuffles around to accomodate each other. you will have a great meal if the grill cook is a crotchety old white guy pontificating about nearly everything under the sun. once we had time to get to Al's around 7, had a nubie cook who wrecked my cake and my hashbrowns. . . i swear i almost cried because they're normally so good.

                                the toing and froing of the staff behind the counter is worth the price of breakfast for entertainment value, by the way.

                                1. re: The Chowish Lurker

                                  Yes, you MUST go to Al's! It's on my list of the 10 best things in the Twin Cities. (Right up there with lilacs, the art car parade, and the Mississippi River...)

                                  Ditto on soupkitten's tips, or try going when the U of M is on break. Less people in Dinkytown = more chance of getting a seat in a finite amount of time. But waiting is part of the experience - just don't bring a bulky bag or wear a puffy coat. (The place is memorably narrow.)



                                  1. If you do not go to Al's Breakfast, your life will not be complete. Really.

                                    The hollandaise is also very good.

                                    I don't like to go with more than 2 people. It just gets too complicated.

                                    Just remember that Al's is largely a participatory theater experience, not just a dining experience.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Cassandra

                                      Just read that Al's is to renovate, due to 45 health code violations in the last few years.

                                      1. re: jaycooke

                                        oh no! Sounds like there are some legitimate things that need fixing to meet the health code, but I hope they don't ruin it.

                                        You know how on Antiques Roadshow they are always telling people not to strip or refinish the antique furniture? Well, Al's has the same kind of patina. Part of the charm.

                                    2. Hell's Kitchen's Lemon Ricotta pancakes are a favorite of mine. They are so light and tender.

                                      I'm also a fan of Bon Vie Café (on Selby in StP). I had pumpkin pancakes there that were toe-curlingly good. They serve excellent tea, too.

                                      I looked up their url and just saw that they are currently serving pomegranate pancakes. I may have to make a special trip very soon.

                                      1. I almost never order pancakes because I love the oat, buttermilk ones we make at home, but I had some plain ones at Key's on Raymond and they were fantastic...They are incredibly large and still cooked to perfection (I always find it is difficult to cook the large ones right, but that is just me).

                                        Also, on the coffee front, I haven't been in almost a year, but when we were going often, we loved the coffee at Sunny Side Up.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: staceymn

                                          Stacey, would you consider posting your pancake recipe on the home cooking board? Oat-buttermilk pancakes sound fantastic!!!


                                          1. re: staceymn

                                            I love Sunny Side U- but we always come in with our own coffee. Tacky but functional.

                                          2. Al's is great.

                                            I thought Bad Waitress was only so-so.

                                            I *love* the multi-grain pancakes at the Egg and I on Hennepin and 28th.

                                            1. Maria's Corn Pancakes.

                                              1. Yay, someone finally mentioned Egg & I. LOVE their sourdough pancakes with blueberries and bananas!

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: SungSook

                                                  I used to go to the Egg & I for these very pancakes, but stopped because the cakes were always terribly undercooked. This was at Egg & I East - perhaps the Lyndale location is better about cooking their pancakes all the way through. (There's more competition among breakfast joints in Uptown, so they've gotta do a better job.)


                                                2. I finally have time to update my pancake thread - yay! I have had pancakes at quite a few places recently so here's my rundown on the Twin Cities Pancake Scene - if there is one :)

                                                  Colossal Cafe - I had the plain cakes and I found them to be quite good. Probably not my favorite in the twin cities, but very good. I enjoyed the slightly tangy taste - maybe from the yeast? Whatever it was, they were great - fluffy and not with that fried outside that seems to happen at a lot of places. yummy..

                                                  Al's: Wow! I finally tried Al's this morning. This place is killer! How is it that I had not been there before? The coffee was so strong I thought I mistakenly ordered espresso - well not quite but wow. That coffee will wake you up - no problem. Since I like espresso a lot, I love strong coffee and this was perfection! It was strong but not burnt or overpowering. Fantastic. As for the pancakes - I had the blueberry cakes. These were great! In fact, are my new best-in-the-twin cities cakes. The berries were sweet and juicy. My guess is that they were canned or frozen, and even so, they were much better than some of the blueberries I have had in pancakes in MSP. The cakes themselves were hot, fluffy and full of blueberries. I was pleased that the cakes had a nice proportion of berries to cake. I want to try the other cake varieties at Al's again.

                                                  My mom had the summer egg special - she said it tasted like Caprese salad with eggs and was quite pleased with it.

                                                  I now understand why this place consistently wins best breakfast in the Twin Cities - the atmosphere is fascinating and the food is awesome. I only wish I was a student at the U.

                                                  French Meadow - I had the buttermilk pancakes. Wow these are huge! I found them to be good because they were fluffy and again they didn't have that I-was-fried-in-the-guy's-bacon-grease-before-you greasy-ness. If I remember correctly, these also had a bit of the tangy-ness similar to Colossal Cafe. The only downside to French Meadow's cakes was that it was a bit hectic to line up and then wait for a table to open up.

                                                  I went back to turtle bread and was not as impressed with their basic buttermilk pancakes this time. Perhaps it was all the cake eating and comparing I have been doing recently. This time I found them a little too flat. They still tasted good, but the texture has changed. I also had their multigrain and blueberry cakes recently and those were better. The mulitgrain batter was interesting - it was unlike any other cake I have had before so that was a pleasant surprise. On top of the cakes they added a handful of blueberries and granola. Yum - they almost tasted healthy.

                                                  1. Oh I forgot to mention that I also had the Town Talk Diner pancakes again a few weeks ago. I remember why I didn't like them. This time, the cakes were not completely done in places! Not that it made much difference because they were so huge that I just ate around the uncooked areas. I know I could have sent them back, but I didn't bother because like I said, they were so big I knew I couldn't possibly eat them all. They were good, but disappointing again.

                                                    1. I really enjoyed the yeasty pancakes at Collossal Cafe - with real maple syrup. Dee-lish
                                                      Also, I enjoy the corn cakes at Maria's.........

                                                      1. thanks for the update-- didn't know that town talk was making pancakes-- i assumed that you meant the old, (retro? pre-retro? pre-hipster? i don't even know) town talk. does town talk open for breakfast, or are the pancakes just a carryover from before?

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: soupkitten

                                                          Town Talk is open for brunch on weekends. They also have pancakes on the dinner menu, though for $8 for a pancake, it may be the worst deal in town.

                                                          1. re: Jordan

                                                            okay got it. thanks Jordan.

                                                            $8 pancakes! soupkitten is speechless at the thought!

                                                        2. I highly recommend the blueberry oatcakes at The North Pole Restaurant in Newport. It's a down home, comfort food cafe. You can order more than one...but by the time you finish indulging in the first one, you will be asking for a doggy bag for the second one. It will fill you up and you'll go home happy and satisfied.

                                                          1. I liked the corn cakes at Wilde Roast Cafe-they had blueberries inside-it was really good.

                                                            1. Top 3

                                                              1. Al's Breakfast: original buttermilk
                                                              2. Al's Breakfast: blueberry walnut
                                                              3. Al's Breakfast: banana pancakes (they had them on the specials chalkboard in Spring 2006 -- haven't seen them since)