In search of tasty, inexpensive pancakes
Can anyone point me toward a place in the city, relatively near downtown, that has good pancakes at a reasonable price with good sized portions?
I've been to the Original Pancake House on Bellevue and the tab seems to add up to $13+ with pancakes, coffee, tax and tip. Times are tough...would like to get out the door for closer to $6 or $7.
Try Hollywood Grill on Ashland and North Avenue -- open 24 hours I believe. Not sure what their prices are, but my guess is they beat the Pancake House on Bellevue (given its location in the Gold Coast, they need to keep their prices higher).
You can always go to Bongo Room, either the location in the South Loop or the one in Wicker Park. They have the best, most creative pancake dishes in town, such as their pretzel pancakes with white chocolate sauce. Their standard prices for the pancake dishes aren't particularly low, but the standard portion is three absolutely HUGE pancakes, and they also offer one-third or two-thirds portion sizes at reduced prices. So you can get one or two pancakes instead of three, and still have a decent amount to eat without spending as much as you would otherwise.
And no, the prices at the Original Pancake House on Bellevue are NOT higher because of the Gold Coast location! The prices there are not signficantly different from those of the same chain's locations elsewhere in the city and suburbs. Note that the $13 price quoted above includes coffee, tax, and tip; I'm betting it also includes either juice, or bacon, or one of the $7-9 specialty pancakes rather than the standard buttermilk pancakes for $5ish. (Otherwise, you'd be looking at a total with coffee/tax/tip around $10, maybe $11 at most.) Those prices are about the same as you'll pay at other top-quality breakfast places like M. Henry, Lou Mitchell's, Orange, etc.
Aside from the partial portion strategy at Bongo Room, you may be able to find cheaper pancakes by going to a neighborhood diner and hash slinging counter type place rather than a somewhat upscale breakfast-focused restaurant. (Although even diner-type places you *think* might be cheaper, such as Nookies, often aren't significantly different in price.) You can definitely get cheaper pancakes at McDonald's, which only posts prices on the board for their "combos" with bacon etc, but where they also sell orders of only pancakes for anywhere from $.99 to $1.59.
I LOVE pancakes. I love the big, puffed-up, baked apple pancake at Walker Brothers and other locations of the Original Pancake House. I love the "pancakes with sauce" at Bongo Room. I love the "blisscakes" (pancakes stacked with mascarpone and fruit) at M. Henry.
However, pancakes don't have to be elaborate and creative to be delicious. I love the plain buttermilk pancakes that they give you for free as a side with the omelets at the Original Pancake House. And I make them myself at home, using the recipe from the Joy of Cooking, either plain or with blueberries (in season).
To me, those creative versions distinguish a great pancake place from a merely good pancake place. There are several additional things that, for me, distinguish a good pancake place from a not-so-good pancake place: real butter instead of margarine, fresh squeezed orange juice instead of OJ from concentrate, and real maple syrup instead of imitation.