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Aug 6, 2007 11:54 AM

SF - Sears Fine Food and the saga of the "Swedish pancake heresy''

I've been thinking of checking out Sears to check things out since the remodel. A friend sent me a SF Chronicle letter to the editor where the writer is so distressed that the pancakes changed that ...

"I am now forced to write the Swedish consulate here in the hope they will apply some pressure to force Sears to cease and desist from calling its chubby, dollar-size hotcakes "Swedish pancakes," a slap in the face to the fine Swedish people and their national delicacy."

So of course Sears replies ... but it was the coolest reply that kind of makes me want to try the place again ... after a few decades. They said that the only maker of a key ingrediant closed and so they sent the recipe off to a lab to recreate and after months of testing ... voila ... (or whatever the Swedes say) the pancake was perfected. To verify ...

"However, with the recent letter to the editor, we wondered ... could we be slipping? So we called everyone together (managers, servers, cooks, guests), including Joanie Boyajian (previous family ownership), and went to the kitchen. We mixed. We compared side-by-side samplings. We tasted, looked at texture and preparation. Plates and plates of Swedish pancakes were tasted, with and without lingonberries. The answer is: Sears recipe for our Swedish pancakes remains the same. Period."

Ok, ... this is two-fold.

I'm thinking I want to do a Swedish pancake crawl if I go to Sears. Who else makes good Swedish pancakes in the Bay Area?

There was a third letter to the editor saying Millbrae Pancake House made great Swedish pancakes.

In the past dishes like the corned beef hash and liver and onions had favorable mentions. Anyone tried those recently?

Looking at the website they mention their raised waffles based on an 1896 recipe from the Fanny Farmer cookbook. Anyone tried them?

BTW, Sears serves breakfast until three and closes at 10 pm. There's some plays I'm planning to see and I might do a pre-matinee breakfast or try something dinner-wise for a later show. The Swedish pancakes are available at dinner. They serve the lingonberry sauce with the roast turkey dinner.

I have to say that I was never a Sears fan. The Sears rec along with a North Beach Restaurant rec that I tried based on Zagat left me resentful of that publication to this day ... that was long ago when I first moved to SF .. no Chowhound and the internet wasn't even yet a twinkle in Al Gore's eye.

However, I'm thinking there might be long-term consistancy problems at Sears that remain to this day. It is what the Sears suggest as the problem ... an off day. Maybe I hit it on the wrong day at the wrong day.

Previous Sears posts since it re-opened in 2004 under new management:

Sears Fine Food
439 Powell Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

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  1. In my limited knowledge of Swedish pancakes, Boulevard Cafe in Daly City makes really good Swedish pancakes. They are thin, eggy, and are served with lingonberry butter. Price: $6.95.

    At a Sears breakfast with visiting relatives about 3 weeks ago, my 8-year-old niece ordered the Swedish pancakes. I hadn't paid attention to the description on the menu, so I was surprised when they came without lingonberries. They were not "chubby" as the letter writer describes, but they certainly were not thin and lacy either. They were very ordinary dollar pancakes. Without the lingonberries and the thin, eggy, lacy nature, they just don't seem like actual Swedish pancakes. Price: $10.95. With lingonberries: Add $1.95.

    I think I've had them at Millbrae Pancake House, but I've only been there once and it was probably 9 months ago or so. No recollection of price, but I know I liked what I had there. A fine reason to go back!! Not even has their menu available.

    Boulevard Cafe
    2 Poncetta Dr, Daly City, CA 94015

    Millbrae Pancake House
    1301 El Camino Real, Millbrae, CA 94030

    1 Reply
    1. re: Atomica

      You can't be serious...$10.95 for Swedish pancakes! And extra for ligonberries? I never was a big Sears fan, but that seems a ripoff. But...I suppose if the customer will pay, why not? IKEA has a mix that is quite good...not eggy and lacy, but tasty. I happen to like Swedish pancakes...have them 2 or 3 times a week. I remember Sears as being plain, dollar sized pancakes with no Swede in them.

    2. Copenhagen Bakery in Burlingame has "Danish crepe-style pancakes" with lingonberry jam on their breakfast menu.

      Menupages is SF only.

      Copenhagen Bakery & Cafe
      1216 Burlingame Avenue, Burlingame, CA 94010

      1. Haven't been in three years, but I go there (early) whenever I'm in town. My father became a fan of Sears' Swedish pancakes while growing up in the city. I have fond memories of eating them throughout my childhood. In my experience, they have always been the same: not chubby, but not eggy and lacy, either. I've eaten many Swedish pancakes at various places, and none have been eggy or lacy but they should be very thin. I would be upset if they came without lingonberries!

        1. That letter to the Chron's claim that Sears's pancakes were once "thin, lacey and came with lingonberry jam" does not match my experience. I had them 20-30 years ago and they were just small regular American pancakes. I think whoever wrote that letter must be thinking of some other place.

          Real Swedish pancakes are made from a wetter, often eggier batter than American pancakes and are unleavened--in other words, they're really a kind of crepe. The batter is traditionally so thin and runny that they're made in a special "plett pan" with seven shallow depressions.

          21 Replies
          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            They certainly awlays came with lingonberries. Does Sears really charge extra for them now? I've been lucky enough to eat Swedish pancakes in Solvang, Door Co., Wisconsin (the best, IMO), and in Sweden, as well as at Sears. They're always (or should be) very thin, but definitely not a crepe. More a crepe/pancake hybrid, very different from the typical "fluffy" (read "doughy") American pancake.

            1. re: pikawicca

              The last time I was at Sears was before the renovation (1999/2000?). I remember them to be not that thin (btw a crepe and traditional American pancake) so I was also wondering what the letter writer meant as well.

              1. re: pikawicca

                When I was in 7th grade, my best friend was Swedish. When I would stay over, her mom would sometimes make Swedish pancakes. The description is basically what RL wrote. However, they did not always come with lingonberries. Sometimes just butter and sugar.

                I grew to prefer Swedish pancakes and my friend grew to prefer American so we would swap them at school.

              2. re: Robert Lauriston

                Yeah, thanks Robert. That was the time frame that I ate them and it seemed to me they were just small regular pancakes. The lingonberries don't stick in my mind at all ... so at least they weren't memorably bad.

                They also have the "Al's Special" which comes with nine small pancakes so I was wondering if maybe those are different and maybe I ordered that by mistake. However, somewhere buried in my brain is the recollection that I asked at the time if they were the same as the Swedish pancakes and was told they were.

                And yes, according to the pdf menu, the default syrup with the Swedish pancakes is maple. Lingoberries are an extra charge.

                Sears Fine Food
                439 Powell Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

                1. re: rworange

                  Sears is a Swedeish Pancake wanna be...they NEVER had real / really good pancakes...
                  My favorite (alas no longer there) were served in a little Swedish luncheon place on Upper Market (don't recall the name) It along with chunky pea soup with copious amounts of sausage were the Thursday special...These were thin eggy, lacey and large crepe like, with butter and lingonberries!!!
                  Wednesday for lengua and salsa, at La Perla...and Thursday for pancakes and pea soup...the good old days....
                  I am definitely ready for a Swedish pancake crawl...and I thank everyone who has shared (or will share) their favorite places!!!

                  1. re: ChowFun_derek

                    I'm sorry, but if you go to Stockholm and order pancakes, you will not find what you are describing ( although they do sound delicious). Swedish pancakes ARE very thin, but they are not particularly eggy, and they are certainly NOT "lacey."

                    1. re: pikawicca

                      I think that place on Market might be what that letter-writer was thinking of.

                      Larger Swedish pancakes are sometimes lacy-looking:



                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        Whoa, Robert, those look mighty fine and I would gobble them up in a minute. BUT -- those are NOT Swedish pancakes: They seem to be Dutch pancakes that I happily gobbled up in Amsterdam.

                        1. re: pikawicca

                          yeah, those look like abvelskivers, not Swedish pancakes.

                            1. re: wally

                              I think he/she meant Danish...And they don't look a think like Aebleskivers.

                            2. re: pikawicca

                              I don't know who made the abvelskiver post, but it wasn't me, the real pikawicca. I know what the roly-poly abvelskiver looks like. The pancakes I had in Amsterdam looked like Robert's photos -- very large and crepe-like and folded into quarters. I believe these things are called "Pfannkuchen," or something close to that. These pancakes are made on special griddles and sold in special Pfannkuchen restaurants. They can have sweet or savory toppings and are quite delicious.

                            3. re: pikawicca

                              There seems to be a lot of contradictory images as to what a Swedish pancake IS. Some of the images looked like crepes, others more Americanized. It seems everyone has a version.

                              edited: I didn't realize RL already posted Ikea link...

                              This pretty much looks like what I had:

                              1. re: pikawicca

                                There are at least two kinds of Swedish pancake, small ones made in the special pan and large ones (like Ikea's) made in a regular pan. Recipes vary quite a bit and the appearance is affected by the heat of the pan and how much butter's used to grease it.

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  That seems true. Asked on the general board to get a little more input.

                                  Searching around, a few more places to try
                                  - Sam's Log Cabin in Albany
                                  - Ihop seems to get high marks
                                  - The Original Pancake House
                                  - Country Waffles in Pleasant Hills
                                  - Savor, SF
                                  - Taylor St Coffee House, SF
                                  - Crepevine
                                  - Sweden House Bistro, Tiburon
                                  - Alana's Cafe, Redwood City
                                  - Matt's Place, Alameda
                                  - Fred's Coffee House, Sausalito (haven't been there in ages)

                                  A few Sears threads on Chowhound that I missed:

                                  1. re: rworange

                                    Those places all serve Swedish pancakes?

                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                      IHOP serves crepes - the "Swedish" rendition comes with lingonberry butter and jam. These are definitely eggy crepes and are very good.

                                      1. re: Sharuf

                                        I haven't had them in a donkey's age, but I used to love IHOP's Swedish pancakes. They did call them pancakes in those days, and were of the thin, lacy variety.

                                      2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        Just found mention they did. I was hoping it would jog some memories and people would confirm if they were served or not and whether they were good.

                                        I know for sure Sweden House Bistro has them but it has been so long since I've had them that I remember nothing about them Only the princess cake at Sweden House is what I recall.

                                        Sam's Log Cabin sells them because ... of all people ... I mentioned them on Chowhound in a report. Just saw another table that ordered them and didn't try them personally. I should start there since it is closest to me.

                                        Matt's in Alameda seems to get lots of thumbs up, so I'm interested in that.

                                        The menu for The Original Pancake House has them on the menu and there are lots of positive Chowhound mentions.

                                      3. re: rworange

                                        Looked at Savor's menu, since it's pretty close to me and we go out for breakfast a lot. The Swedish pancake entry on their menu reads: "Oatmeal with seasonal compote." Oatmeal?!?

                                        Savor Restaurant
                                        3913 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94114

                                        1. re: Atomica

                                          In a website on Regional Swedish food.... it states Swedes will often take leftover hot cereals, and make them into a pancake using the special pan that turns out the silver dollars.

                                          Same site talked about other regional variations including Apple Pancakes as well as adding Pork Cracklings (fried pork skin) to the Lingonberry version.