Thursday, December 19, 2013

The 3 Best: Pancakes

Posted By on Thu, Dec 19, 2013 at 6:43 AM

Buttermilk pancakes from The Root
  • Buttermilk pancakes from The Root

Until it becomes socially acceptable to eat actual cake for breakfast, we’ll just have to settle for pancakes instead. But of course, that’s not such a bad thing. Pancakes are a simple, unadulterated delight. Pleasing early risers of all ages, a breakfast that warms the soul and the stomach.

Pancakes may be simply adorned—the traditional maple syrup and butter—or embellished with more fanciful ingredients imagined up by some inventive, envelope-pushing chef. We love all types—we have yet to met a pancake we did not like. Central Arkansas enjoys a plethora of pancake options. We’re fortunate to be home to a diversity of ancient diners, remnants of the old guard—the kinds of places that have been flipping flapjacks for decades. There’s much to be said for such classic eateries—they’re often friendly, simple, and inexpensive. And there’s no one I respect more in the food industry than a great short-order cook.

So, in honor of all those vigilant pancake producers, we present here our top picks for the best pancakes in central Arkansas:

1. The Root: Breakfast is always bustling at The Root—and for good reason. It’s nearly impossible to conjure up a “best breakfast” list without considering the passion presented on plates everyday at this South Main St. staple. Breakfast sandwiches piled high with egg and sausage, biscuits and gravy, or the ingenious eggs banh mi…choosing what to devour in the early morning hours becomes quite a difficult task.

But their pancakes should not be overlooked. They’re simple, a very classic buttermilk rendition with warm maple syrup and soft whipped butter. But although they’re familiar, they’re anything but plain.

These buttermilk pancakes are thick, soft, and always cooked perfectly. Never will you see the brand of an overly hot griddle, no flecks of blackened, charred breakfast remnants tainting your delightful morning cake. Douse in syrup, spread the butter with gusto. And when available, it’s not a bad idea to request a few spoonfuls of their lovely housemade jams.

Sweet potato pancakes from Ozark Country
  • Sweet potato pancakes from Ozark Country
2. Delicious Temptations: The folks behind Delicious Temptations struck culinary gold when they decided to add a key ingredient to their ever-so-popular pancakes—yogurt. The creamy yogurt enhances the otherwise basic pancake by providing a subtly tangy note, also making it lighter and more fluffy. The complexity of flavor in the pancake alone almost makes this cake too good to drown in syrup—in fact we pass on the condiment every time in order to more fully appreciate the pancakes inherent flavor. Butter? Well, that’s not even a question.

Additionally, they allow diners to choose from a variety of fillings and toppings to beautify the basic yogurt pancake. We’ve found that fruit, generally speaking, makes the best accompaniment—strawberry, apple, or blueberry. But perhaps our most inspired combination to date was banana and pecan. We find it hard to order anything else at this point.

3. Ozark Country Restaurant: There are a few things Ozark Country could improve on to boost the overall pancake breakfast experience. A higher quality syrup (preferably served slightly warm), provide better butter (instead of the small, packaged, cold and hard variety they currently place on the table), more carefully man the griddle to avoid the occasionally over-cooked, slightly charred hot cake. Just a few small things, but these would certainly enhance their plate of pancakes.

Yet when the planets align, and their griddle guy is firing on all cylinders, there is nothing finer than the sweet potato pancake at Ozark Country. It’s a favorite to many, a near legendary flapjack in these parts. The subtle hint of earthy, caramelized sweet potato that flecks each man-hole sized pancake here provides the perfect flavor companion to the light, buttery cake and the sweet and sticky maple syrup. It’s a joyful mouthful each time we’ve partaken of these popular pancakes.

(See the above links for locations, hours, and menus)

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