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in search of the best pancakes in the Boston area

donlan Nov 2, 2012 05:23 PM

I've been looking for the best pancakes in the Boston area, and have this to report so far:

Deluxe Town Diner in Watertown: Rated highly, but I didn't like their sour cream and buttermilk pancakes. Fun setup, though.

Paramount on Charles Street: Great atmosphere (I never go on weekends, just weekdays), fantastic view. But the pancakes are deadly, practically made of lead.

Beacon Hill Inn & Bistro: A little dry, and they provided maybe 1/4 cup of maple syrup, which isn't enough to warm up these cakes.

Further afield, the Wenham Tea House has fantastic pancakes (and they heat their maple syrup), but they're rather far for a weekday jaunt.

Any other suggestions? I haven't even tried the Friendly Toast, I have heard from several reliable sources that their offerings are (1) huge (2) substandard.

I'm blogging my experience (see my profile for details) and will report back here, too.

  1. FinnFPM Nov 2, 2012 05:47 PM

    I absolutely adore pancakes, which is why I rarely order them out. For some reason, this seems to be a very difficult dish for restaurants to make well. It's always sort of perplexed me. I long ago stopped trying to find really great ones in the area, because the probability of success is so low, and a sub-par pancake is psychologically depressing, nutritionally barren, and generally a hugely offensive waste of time. I think that a bad plate of cheap pancakes is actually the single most insulting dish a restaurant can serve you.

    The Friendly Toast is not worth it.

    I think that Deluxe Town Diner is generally my answer here, because they have interesting varieties that are all done right. Don't go next door to Uncommon Grounds.

    Sofra does, or did, a light, yeasted pancake that is really delicious, if that's your thing. I think that's maybe only in the summer though. Sound Bites in Ball Square, I think, does pretty good pancakes as well. Clover in Harvard Square used to do very good pancakes on the weekends, but then stopped, just when they'd figured out how to make them right.

    For what it's worth, I like pancakes that are thick, but not cakey; dense, but not hard. You might not make a bad pancake by undercooking it, but you will definitely make a bad pancake by overcooking it.

    The best place in Boston to get pancakes is from scratch in your kitchen. It's sad, but true.

    3 Replies
    1. re: FinnFPM
      viperlush Nov 2, 2012 07:50 PM

      I feel the same way. I'll order pancakes out but I'm always disappointed. But for the OP I'll suggest Highland Kitchen in Somerville. The one time I went there it seemed like every table ordered a side of pancakes to share and I overheard the table next to us raving about them. Friendly Toast is okay if you like a lot of toppings on your pancakes.

      1. re: viperlush
        mats77 Nov 20, 2012 12:16 PM

        Second, on HK

      2. re: FinnFPM
        total13 Nov 5, 2012 01:03 PM

        Have to disagree on Uncommon Grounds. At least my one experience with lemon ricotta pancakes there was excellent.

      3. ipsofatso Nov 2, 2012 05:55 PM

        ( Slightly O.T. but for pancake people: When you can try Polly's Pancake Parlor in Sugar Hill, NH try the bacon it's good too)

        5 Replies
        1. re: ipsofatso
          Mike5966 Nov 6, 2012 07:38 AM

          I love Polly's. The best thing is that the pancakes are small, and they bring out only three at a time if you order six so that they all stay warm.

          I recently tried them at Deluxe Town Diner and didn't love them, but their New York Potato Pancakes (essentially their version of latkes) were delicious.

          1. re: Mike5966
            opinionatedchef Nov 6, 2012 10:26 AM

            just fyi, those are frozen; so you might be able to ask who their vendor is and get them for home.

          2. re: ipsofatso
            Florida Hound Nov 25, 2012 06:51 AM

            I am a pancake fanatic, and had saved an article about Pollys Pancake Parlor for about 10 years, and we finally had the occasion to vacation in New Hampshire, about 3 years ago. My wife and I had big expectations for the place. Waited 2 hours to get in, and then the pancakes were nothing special. Kind of a waste of anticipation in my opinion.

            1. re: Florida Hound
              Boston_Otter Nov 25, 2012 07:04 AM

              I'll second this. Maybe if Polly's was down the street I wouldn't judge them so highly, but after hearing and reading about them for years, my friends and I drove about an hour from Lincoln NH and waited for almost two hours to get in -- and then got very run-of-the-mill pancakes that were about the same as Bisquik. Lovely maple syrup, though!

              1. re: Boston_Otter
                snippet Dec 3, 2012 09:39 PM

                same here - had to get up early and drive up there with the in-laws, wait around for hours, and I really didn't see what the big deal was.

          3. BostonZest Nov 2, 2012 05:57 PM

            I like the blueberry pancakes at Trident Booksellers Cafe on Newbury. Be sure to ask for real maple syrup. They have it for a small upcharge that they often forget to add.


            2 Replies
            1. re: BostonZest
              teezeetoo Nov 2, 2012 07:11 PM

              The Spot in Watertown makes the best pancakes I've had here. Lovely little place with excellent breakfast in general.

              1. re: teezeetoo
                Crazy Egg Nov 3, 2012 04:57 PM

                +1 for Spot! Fluffy and a little buttery. Yum! They also do a kid's pancake with a bunny face made of whipped cream and chocolate eyes every time my kid orders pancake.

            2. Chris VR Nov 2, 2012 07:11 PM

              If you're willing to go farther afield, Cappa's Trackside Kitchen in Melrose makes excellent pancakes of various varieties. Their caramel apple pancakes are a treat when I am feeling really indulgent. This reminds me it's about the time of year they put gingerbread pancakes on the specials menu and I LOVE those.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Chris VR
                gimlis1mum Nov 2, 2012 08:51 PM

                2nd Cappa's. I never order pancakes out because I just don't like restaurant pancakes, but theirs are really, really good. Also had good specialty pancakes at Blue Moon Grill in Wakefield, haven't tried their regular pancakes tho.

                1. re: gimlis1mum
                  hychka Dec 4, 2012 04:59 PM

                  Blue Moon Grill in Wakefield makes great pancakes!! Maple syrup is an up charge.

                2. re: Chris VR
                  Small Plates Nov 20, 2012 12:37 PM

                  Everything at Cappa's is delicious!!! Third Cappa's!

                3. b
                  Blumie Nov 2, 2012 07:43 PM

                  Mistral has the best pancakes I've had in the Boston area, especially their lemon ricotta. Add me to the list of those who don't care for the much hyped Deluxe Town Diner pancakes.

                  1. t
                    TimTamGirl Nov 2, 2012 08:36 PM

                    I have to agree with Finn: the best pancakes are the ones I make at home. The only place in the area where I'll order pancakes is the wonderful Rox Diner in West Roxbury. (I haven't been to the newer branch out in the 'burbs, so I can't guarantee their quality.) I'm a pancake minimalist so I like them plain or with raspberries, but there's always a wide range available. Everything else on the menu there is great too.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: TimTamGirl
                      nsenada Nov 4, 2012 09:14 AM

                      I agree on the Rox diner - they're the best restaurant pancakes I've had recently.

                    2. l
                      lovethatdirtywater Nov 2, 2012 09:42 PM

                      Sugar in Roslindale for the lemon ricotta pancakes with blueberries is a worthwhile pancake excursion.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: lovethatdirtywater
                        teezeetoo Nov 3, 2012 05:05 AM

                        For those who also love bread and waffles, The Spot Cafe bakes its own bread, serves real jam with homemade baguette, and makes it own Belgian Waffles which are my grandson's favorite breakfast treat. It is small so I try not to go on prime weekend mornings.

                      2. l
                        lovejoyeater Nov 4, 2012 07:15 AM

                        I think the sweet potato pecan pancakes at the Deluxe Town Diner are delicious, but they aren't traditional. My husband had great Pancakes at Henrietta's Table when he was in town for a job interview last year.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: lovejoyeater
                          bear Nov 4, 2012 08:37 AM

                          Henrietta's blueberry pancakes are my husband's favorites. I don't think they're listed as such on the menu, but he orders them just about every time we go and is always happy.

                        2. l
                          lovejoyeater Nov 4, 2012 07:17 AM

                          Also, the semolina pancakes were still available at Sofra when we were there yesterday.

                          1. d
                            donlan Nov 4, 2012 10:46 AM

                            Has anyone tried the Village Pancake House in Rowley?

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: donlan
                              brandywiner Nov 4, 2012 02:19 PM

                              When I was much younger, this was our "go-to" special treat breakfast place. It was still very good when I was there last, but that was 3-4 years ago.

                              1. re: brandywiner
                                donlan Feb 27, 2013 03:11 PM

                                donlan tried the village pancake house in rowley. Unimpressed.

                                1. re: donlan
                                  teezeetoo Feb 27, 2013 03:29 PM

                                  if you try the Spot in watertown, let me know what you think. still my favorite.

                            2. rlh Nov 4, 2012 11:28 AM

                              The Neighborhood in Union Square Somerville used to have great, huge pancakes, but I haven't been in a long time - hopefully they haven't changed them - the specials with fruit, berries, and /or bananas cooked into, vs. piled on top of, the pancakes were always great - and they come with a whole additional breakfast on the side....

                              1. 9
                                9lives Nov 4, 2012 12:47 PM

                                I'm in the DIY camp and don't eat breakfast out very often.

                                I don't know that I'd call it the Boston area but since you mentioned Wenham, I'll mention a South shore place that's worth a try if you're in the area. Phin's on Front St in Scituate makes great pancakes, especially the blueberry. CB hash too.

                                1. w
                                  Weiszguy Nov 5, 2012 11:11 AM

                                  Get thee to HIghland Kitchen this Sunday. I make pancakes at home at least twice a week (two little kids) and I have been trying for over a YEAR to replicate the pancakes I had there. They are magical.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Weiszguy
                                    CulinaryColleen Nov 6, 2012 09:53 AM

                                    I 100% agree...Highland Kitchen's pancakes are the absolute best. I'm more of a savory breakfast eater, but I always have to get a side order or pancakes when I go to Highland.

                                  2. Dave MP Nov 5, 2012 01:29 PM

                                    I recall that the pancakes at Charlie's Sandwich Shoppe on Columbus Ave are pretty good!

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Dave MP
                                      Pietime Nov 6, 2012 10:08 AM

                                      I second that! Their cranberry pancakes are the best. The rest of the breakfast menu is awesome.

                                    2. s
                                      Splendid Spatula Nov 6, 2012 09:24 AM

                                      Not pancakes per se, but I love the johnnycakes at Deluxe Town Diner, with a side of their spectacularly homemade corned beef hash.

                                      1. opinionatedchef Nov 6, 2012 10:27 AM

                                        I love multigrain pancakes with a lot of grains and toothsome texture. I've never seen any in a restnt., including all the places mentioned in this thread. Anyone? TIA!

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: opinionatedchef
                                          total13 Nov 20, 2012 07:41 AM

                                          Don't laugh but the harvest pancakes at IHOP were their best item at one point. It's been a while though.

                                          1. re: total13
                                            viperlush Nov 20, 2012 07:44 PM

                                            Same here. It's been a while since I've eaten them, but I remember them being better than I expected.

                                          2. re: opinionatedchef
                                            Madrid Nov 21, 2012 06:30 AM

                                            I've seen them, but not tried them, several places in NH and VT and I think also in Western Mass around Williamstown/Niorth Adams. I also remember one place where you could get one cornmeal, one buckwheat, and perhaps one sourdough pancake as a group,but the place and name elude me. Is Deluxe the only greater boston restaurant to offer them?

                                            1. re: Madrid
                                              opinionatedchef Nov 21, 2012 10:52 AM

                                              i've only seen ployes at deluxe, but we don't go there anymore. I had buckwheat blueberry pancakes at Penny Cluse in Burlington VT, but they weren't ploye/they included egg , butter, milk in their ingred's. delicious.

                                          3. f
                                            Fultura Nov 19, 2012 05:23 PM

                                            Hands down, Queen Anne's in Canton offers the best pancakes! This place is truly a hidden gem for home cooking, and the pancakes and omelettes usually fall of the plate! There is serve-your-own FREE coffee, too! Check it out!!!!!

                                            1. MC Slim JB Nov 20, 2012 11:24 AM

                                              I like the ployes and the jonnycakes at Deluxe Town, but for some reason, the ployes I got the other day at Deluxe Station were terrible, nearly indistinguishable from their buttermilk pancakes, which I think are just so-so. Did enjoy the sweet-potato waffle I got recently at Deluxe Town, but it was sweeter than I'd hoped for; will try a different version next time.


                                              11 Replies
                                              1. re: MC Slim JB
                                                opinionatedchef Nov 20, 2012 10:50 PM

                                                mc, the ployes (Canadian buckwheat cakes)> i always wanted to try them but i was told by a waitress there that they are made w/ buckwheat flour and water only; no butter or eggs or milk or leavener. I couldn't imagine that being good, so i never got them. No butter or egg? Do your taste buds tell you they are only flour and water? that would be awfully dense/flat; same ingredients as chapati (except not using buckwheat flour.).


                                                1. re: opinionatedchef
                                                  Science Chick Nov 21, 2012 10:57 AM

                                                  Being a lover of all things whole-grainy, I've always considered myself a lover of buckwheat pancakes.....but I think I've been fooling myself to some extent. The recipes I've sampled have all had a *mixture* of buckwheat and regular wheat. Last summer, we ordered some gluten-free buckwheat pancakes at Hanger B (Chatham), and they were awful. Very sour/intense flavor that I attribute to pure buckwheat without dilution from other grains. We wanted to like them, but finally just sent them back. The chef said they were fine, which leads me to believe that pure buckwheat just ain't for me. So I'm thinking that those cakes OC describes would be similarly vile!

                                                  1. re: Science Chick
                                                    Torolover Nov 25, 2012 05:30 AM

                                                    Best Pancakes are easily Craigie on Main! They use whole wheat pancakes, but are pricey at $15!!

                                                    1. re: Torolover
                                                      Science Chick Nov 25, 2012 06:26 AM

                                                      If I live to be 100 years old, I will never spend $15 for a plate of pancakes that I make at home for 50 cents!

                                                      1. re: Science Chick
                                                        Blumie Nov 25, 2012 06:41 AM

                                                        You underestimate the value of your labor!

                                                        1. re: Science Chick
                                                          Torolover Nov 28, 2012 03:53 AM

                                                          Then why is it people pay $22 for pasta that you can also make home for 75 cents? Sometimes when you have a great meal, and it's under $20, it's worth it!!

                                                          1. re: Torolover
                                                            Science Chick Nov 28, 2012 07:14 AM

                                                            Pasta with a skillfully made sauce in a nice atmosphere....sure. PANCAKES???!!! NEVER!

                                                      2. re: Science Chick
                                                        Florida Hound Nov 25, 2012 06:54 AM

                                                        Whenever we make "buckwheat" pancakes at home, I have learned to cut the intense buckwheat flavor with some regular flour, for just the reasons you mentioned. Maybe it's an acquired taste over time to do the buckwheat full-force. But I'd rather just enjoy my breakfast.

                                                        1. re: Florida Hound
                                                          chompie Nov 27, 2012 09:57 PM

                                                          i started this topic too, last year here for north shore and people said Blue Moon and Village Pancake but havent made it to either yet. I still am waiting to hear if anyone has been to Johnie Ds in Somerville lately. They are the pancakes that I crave, but havent been there for years. They were thick and soft and most inside and just crispy enough outside with a great flavor. And the brunches also came with delicious brown sugar raisin oatmeal and live jazz. Please go there and let me know if they are still great! Otherwise I still find primaily your soft, semi rubbery Jemima type most places. I usually opt for blueberries since they keep pancakes plumper and moister and less dissapointing. West Side in Peabody and Brothers in Wakefield and Family Fare in Peabody have the most decent, cheap hubcap size standard ones I've tried., and once in a while for a change will go for the Big Apple at Bickfords which is a baked pancake with tons of sticky cinnamon sugar apples. Am looking forward to trying Cappa and Wenham. Were you at Wenham Tea lately? cuz i know they changed hands a while ago. Were they overpriced? Enjoyed the tea treats there a couple yrs ago.

                                                          1. re: chompie
                                                            Chris VR Nov 28, 2012 05:18 AM

                                                            It's just abut time for Cappa's to put their gingerbread pancakes back on the menu. Try to check it out in the next month or two while those are an option!

                                                            1. re: chompie
                                                              fantundo Jan 28, 2013 07:46 PM

                                                              I have been to the at the Wenham Tea House the past two summers for my birthday, and it was lovely. It's such a pretty little setting, and the set tea was good - my friend loved the scone in particular, and they were accommodating about food allergies around the sandwiches. It's half the price of tea at a downtown hotel. If I lived closer, I'd go more often, so perhaps it's just as well....

                                                    2. hychka Dec 4, 2012 05:01 PM

                                                      As folks have taken this far a field, I can say that pancakes at Ken's Corner Breakfast & Lunch in Glastonbury, CT are great! Last time I was there Ken's featured fresh raspberry pancakes with maple syrup and they were very large and very good!

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: hychka
                                                        chompie Dec 4, 2012 11:56 PM

                                                        Donlan, do you have more to report, or has your pancake search gone flat? groan

                                                      2. l
                                                        libertywharf Dec 5, 2012 03:50 AM

                                                        The best pancakes are at home.
                                                        Trident is good, paramount is inconsistent but can be very good. Yes, they're heavy but you will not be hungry too soon.
                                                        Unless you're by the window, there's no view and even then just a few stores across the street.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: libertywharf
                                                          donlan Dec 5, 2012 06:07 PM

                                                          donlan always sits by the window at the Paramount. The leaden pancakes are deadly when one has to go to work after consumption.

                                                          Beacon Hill Inn & Bistro was attempted again, but they still didn't bring enough syrup (even after asking), although their omelet was absolutely perfect.

                                                          The next pancake taste test will be The Liberty Hotel on Charles Circle (there will be a subsequent report).

                                                          It can be difficult to get out of Boston during the week.

                                                        2. d
                                                          donlan Dec 7, 2012 03:32 PM

                                                          I tried Clink at the Liberty Hotel on Charles Circle today.

                                                          The pancakes were probably a B, not too huge, served with a closed jar of bottled syrup (I asked for and received more). The accompanying omelet was the right size, but the bacon inside was not well done (even though I'd asked for well done).

                                                          The service, on the other hand, was absolutely fantastic. Coffee in a carafe on the table, no need to ask for refills. The waiter walked the line between being attentive and intrusive successfully.

                                                          On the menu for future attempts:
                                                          XV Beacon
                                                          Omni Parker House

                                                          Still searching for pancakes as good as Wenham Tea House.

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: donlan
                                                            Torolover Dec 8, 2012 04:55 AM

                                                            Really, the best pancakes are at Craigie on Main!! There is no question about it! Go try and tell me what you think!

                                                            1. re: Torolover
                                                              chompie Jan 28, 2013 04:30 PM

                                                              Has anyone tried Red's Kitchen and Tavern's pancakes in Peabody? I saw them on Phantom and they looked really golden and puffed up and very tempting, but our dinner experience there was really awful so wondering what anyone here thought...

                                                          2. l
                                                            l0b0SKI Feb 27, 2013 04:21 PM

                                                            I am with every one who says the best pancakes are at home. I can never understand getting up early waiting in line just to get pancakes. I am okay waking up late, staying in my pajamas and grabbing the bisquick.

                                                            I have had them at both Deluxe Town Diner and Sound Bites
                                                            and was unimpressed. I am just not a fan of Sound Bites.

                                                            That being said I look forward to see if there are any pancakes out there worth me getting out of bed early.

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: l0b0SKI
                                                              Swankalicious Feb 27, 2013 05:11 PM

                                                              The best pancakes I've ever had are served at the Owl Diner in Lowell, MA. It's the ultimate greasy spoon, and they serve a truly gut-busting cheez-sauce-bacon-homefries combo, but man, those enormous pancakes are delightful.

                                                              1. re: Swankalicious
                                                                chompie Feb 27, 2013 10:47 PM

                                                                sstill wondering if anyone recommends Reds in Peabody?

                                                            2. t
                                                              tweetie Mar 1, 2013 05:25 AM

                                                              not exactly the Boston area but Vic's Waffle House in Tewksbury has great pancakes and a very eclectic menu of breakfast goodies. Don't miss the Elvis waffle...banana, bacon, peanut butter and honey.


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