Oh, honey!

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The first thing you should know about Tupelo Honey Cafe is that they will offer you a free biscuit when you arrive. Say yes. Oh man, say yes! Their food is delicious, but that big fluffy biscuit is like 75% of the reason I brave the lines and take out-of-town guests to Tupelo. It’s indescribable (and if you buy their first cookbook, the recipe for the biscuits is in there but you don’t get the secret to the herb & butter deliciousness they spread on it in the restaurant) and totally worth the wait.

But their food is no slouch — I tend to go for the Breakfast Bowl (pictured below), but on occasion I get their famous Sweet Potato Pancakes (pictured at end of post). To be honest, I only order one because it’s the size of a dinner plate and as thick as two ordinary pancakes combined. Still, it’s delicious. Everything here’s delicious. Nom nom nom. I mean, this is a great place for foodies looking to experience some Appalachian-inspired cooking.

*Note: I’ve categorized this restaurant as a “Local Chain” despite the fact that Tupelo is spreading to multiple states; given its roots in the Blue Ridge Mountains, I didn’t feel right lumping it together with the really big chains that have lost their region-specific flavor.

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Tupelo Honey Cafe on Urbanspoon

Swedish Breakfast

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On my last trip to Ikea (of all places) I purchased some Kungsornen Swedish Pancake Mix from their marketplace and I experimented with positive results. This lonely pancake was the third (and best) of the batch and made for a satisfying and fun breakfast on a cold Saturday morning. Plus, I got to dust it with powdered sugar which is just about my favorite thing to do.

Savory, Indeed!

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One drizzly Wednesday morning, I ended up in an eclectic little restaurant called Savory Maine, located in the village of Damariscotta, Maine. Savory Maine is housed in an old church, and they’ve made it a wonderful space. It’s full of character: one table is housed up where the altar would have been located, and the tables in the main body of the room incorporate old pews into the seating against the walls. The walls are covered with local artwork, and the food reflects this interest in the local. One feature of Savory Maine’s food is that 90% of the ingredients come from Maine, and 99% of the ingredients are organic. The result? The food is wonderful. I ordered the breakfast sampler (and the waitstaff was more than willing to substitute strawberry rhubarb for bacon to accommodate my vegetarian needs), which was delicious. It was a simple assortment of foods — a pancake, an egg, and home fries — but was very nicely done. I’ve had my fair share of mediocre breakfasts, and this was definitely not one of them. I also ordered a nice hot cuppa tea, which was delightfully presented: the tea selection came in a cute wooden basket, the cream came in a ceramic cow, and the hot water came in its own ceramic tea pot. Savory Maine is a lovely place, and the food is truly exceptional. If you’re in the area, you should definitely make time for a visit to this great little restaurant!

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Savory Maine, Dining & Provisions on Urbanspoon

Toast?

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Toast is a cute little breakfast diner in Lincoln Park (although there’s another location in Bucktown as well). We went there on a Sunday morning, and even though there was already a 45 minute wait, the hostess told us we should feel free to wander around the neighborhood rather than waiting right outside. It was a gorgeous sunny day, so we did just that.

We sat at the bar where I ordered the Stuffed French Toast — one each of the strawberry, mascarpone, and Mexican chocolate stuffed french toasts. They were all delicious (the strawberry was my favorite), and the friendly server who joked with us all through breakfast made the experience even better. In fact, for a crowded and trendy breakfast spot, Toast was really pleasant to hang out in. The staff was friendly and jovial, and the food was reasonably priced and served up unexpectedly fast. It’s definitely worth the wait!

Toast on Urbanspoon

Wild Breakfast

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The Wildberry Cafe serves up a mean short stack! Their Signature Berry Bliss Pancakes (pictured above) are topped with fresh berries, Wildberry Mascarpone, a vanilla cream sauce, and a blackberry sauce. They’re super-tasty, and extremely affordable. Given the location of the Wildberry I went to — right across the street from Millennium Park — it’s really easy to grab some pancakes as you’re running about town. The wait was only 45 minutes when I went: on a sunny and warm St. Patrick’s Day, incidentally a Saturday morning, around 11:00 (about 30 minutes after they finished dying the river green), amidst swarms of green-clad revelers. In other words, it was something of a miracle that I only had to wait 45 minutes — and that after that the service was friendly and fast, and the food was delicious. I’d visit Wildberry again if given the chance. Totally recommend!

Wildberry on Urbanspoon

danish “pancakes”

Photo by Anne Jansen

I grew up in the next town over from the Danish village of Solvang, California, so the breakfast dish known as the æbelskiver was nothing foreign to me. It wasn’t until I went to college that I realized how rare this particular food is in the US. In Solvang, the best place to get your æbelskivers is at the Solvang Restaurant. Served in sets of 3, the æbelskivers are nice and fluffy on the inside, and piping hot to boot. The smathering of raspberry jam adds flavor to them, and the dusting of powdered sugar tops off the whole thing perfectly. If you’re ever near Solvang and have the chance to swing by the Solvang Restaurant, give the æbelskivers a try! And for those omnivores out there, the medisterpølse (Danish sausage) is a real treat, too. When I ate meat, I used to love a nice meal of æbelskivers and medisterpølse. Mmmm!
Solvang Restaurant on Urbanspoon

pancake magic

Photo by Anne Jansen

The first time I drove by the Pancake Pantry in Nashville, there was a line out the door and nearly around the block. When I returned the next morning (at the bright and early time of 8:00am to ensure a short wait time), I was lucky to only have to wait a few minutes for a table…but then I had to choose which pancakes I wanted — not an easy task, with over 20 different kinds of pancakes on the menu! I settled on the Apricot-Lemon Delights. These pancakes had dried apricots, pecans, and lemon in them and were a light and refreshing way to start the day. While I was there, I couldn’t help but get a cup of hot chocolate. It was nothing special, but it was better than typical diner hot chocolate and was topped off with mini-marshmallows. I understand why the Pancake Pantry has been in business for 50 years now — it has great food for affordable prices, and the staff was friendly and warm despite the crazy-long line already forming outside the door.

 

Photo by Anne Jansen

Pancake Pantry on Urbanspoon

 

no place like home

Photo by Anne Jansen

Just around the corner of Canal Street and Magazine Street, there was a surprise waiting for me: the Ruby Slipper Cafe. It’s a cute little cafe tucked away in a quiet corner bordering the French Quarter. They had the BEST PANCAKES I’ve ever had — they were the daily special: Cookies ‘n’ Cream Pancakes. They took the cookie part of Oreos and crushed them up, baked them right into the pancake. Then they took the cream part of Oreos and melted them down, poured the syrup right on top of the pancakes. They were absolutely amazing. They were positively heavenly, and perhaps the most creative take on pancakes I’ve ever had the opportunity to eat. If you have the chance, head to the Ruby Slipper Cafe and try out their special pancake of the day.

While I was there, I also had an Abita root beer. Abita’s a local brewery, and the root beer was tasty. Sweet without being saccharine, nicely carbonated, and with a nice aftertaste. If you see this stuff in your local convenience store, pick up a bottle and try it out. It’s quite good, as far as root beer goes.

 

Photo by Anne Jansen

Finally, the interior of the cafe is also really cute, so here it is — for your viewing pleasure. It’s clean, airy, and nicely decorated with beautiful chalk menus and stories (like the story of how the cafe got its name — because when the owners returned to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, they felt that nobody said it better than Dorothy did: there’s no place like home).

 

Photo by Anne Jansen

The Ruby Slipper Cafe on Urbanspoon

 

fruity drinks, good food

photo by Anne Jansen

There’s a place in Boca Raton called the Grand Lux Cafe. This place exists in many other cities as well, but I discovered it here. It boasts exceedingly large portions, amazing blended drinks, and elaborate decor. I went twice — once for a fruity drink and good company, and a second time for brunch (and more fruity drinks). Here’s what I found.

photo by Anne Jansen

The Hawaiian Smoothie (pictured at top) is the perfect Floridian beverage. It’s blended, it’s a tropically orange color, and it has fruit on the rim. Plus, it’s delicious! The Mango Ice Swirl (above) is also amazing, although slightly less to my taste (meaning slightly more sweet and less tart than the Hawaiian Smoothie). However, it makes a splash with its presentation!

photo by Anne Jansen

Of course, there’s also the actual food. I went to Sunday brunch, and the Banana-Pecan Pancakes (above) were perfectly fluffy with a comforting topping of cinnamon, warm bananas, and chopped pecans. Even though this was a chain restaurant, it was a great dining experience!

old fashioned breakfast

 

photo by Anne Jansen

Garrett’s Old Fashioned Restaurant is just that: a great corner restaurant (with lots of windows so you can see beautiful Santa Barbara as you eat) with amazing food and great prices — especially considering its location in one of the pricier parts of California. Their blueberry pancakes were made with fresh, plump blueberries, and their eggs were cooked to perfection. I almost always order my eggs “over-medium” and not all restaurants make a distinction between that and over-easy, often leading to runny, goopy eggs that leave me less than pleased. Not so with Garrett’s — their eggs were fully cooked without being overdone (something that results in a near-poached effect), and their hash browns were fluffy and buttery without being heavy or greasy. If you are ever in the area, give Garrett’s a try! (Sorry, they don’t have a website!)

photo by Anne Jansen

 

german treat

photo by Anne Jansen

The German Village Coffee Shop is a wonderful local gem. It’s this tiny little hole-in-the-wall breakfast joint that serves up a good ol’ fashioned American breakfast for extremely reasonable prices. My pancakes (pictured above) were fluffy and light with lots of fresh, juicy blueberries. The hash browns (below) were cooked to perfection, and were surprisingly un-greasy.

photo by Anne Jansen

As if the food wasn’t good enough, the beverages were delicious as well. The attentive waitstaff kept my friend’s coffee cup filled to the brim, and my hot chocolate (pictured below) was served up with a healthy flower of whipped cream on top. It’s the perfect place to grab a tasty breakfast for a small price, and to soak up the ambiance of a cozy family favorite while you eat.

photo by Anne Jansen

inspired breakfast

photo by Anne Jansen

The Northstar Cafe in Columbus, OH, is a definite favorite of mine. Their food philosophy is a close match to mine — buy local, go organic, be humane — and their food is always a treat (even though their service is often lacking and their prices are a bit steep). However, I rarely get to experience breakfast there, and was lucky to do so the other day when I got the Big Burrito (pictured above) — a morning meal of sauteed veggies and eggs packed into a tortilla. I also got a side order of the Cloud Nine Pancakes (pictured below), which are definitely a heavenly concoction. They are light and fluffy, topped with banana slices, and they have a surprise ingredient: ricotta cheese! If you love pancakes, you really should try these. They’re one of a kind. Northstar’s breakfast menu is creative and unique — I’d recommend it to any breakfast lover.

photo by Anne Jansen

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