by Liz Miller
Today, Tuesday, February 5, is National Pancake Day -- and no, it's not a fake holiday engineered by IHOP, though it does market the hell out of its celebratory free pancakes special. Nope, gulping down pancakes in February has much older roots. Next Tuesday, February 12, marks Shrove Tuesday, a medieval tradition mainly acknowledged nowadays by the Anglican church, but also Episcopalians, Lutherans and Methodists in the States. The idea is to gobble up more indulgent foods such as eggs, milk and sugar before giving it up during Lent. So maybe this year National Pancake Day comes a week early, but who are we to argue with so many carbs at stake?
Secular pancake gorging in February got a national face eight years ago when IHOP (multiple locations) launched its National Pancake Day promotion, offering guests a free stack of its buttermilk pancakes from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
With IHOP restaurants across the country offering complimentary pancakes today, Gut Check got to wondering if any other restaurants or pancake houses would be observing this most delicious day. We called six of our favorite St. Louis pancake-serving eateries to find out.
Chris' Pancake & Dining (5980 Southwest Avenue; 314-645-2088) In honor of National Pancake Day, Chris' Pancake & Dining is offering all-you-eat buttermilk or buckwheat pancakes all day for $5. The heavenly pancakes at this homey south-city spot at Chris' fairly flop over the sides of the plate, so five bones for endless amounts of pancakes is a great deal -- especially considering that a normally a plate of four pancakes at Chris' costs $5.29.
City Diner (3139 South Grand Boulevard, 314-772-6100) City Diner doesn't have anything in particular planned for National Pancake Day, but the diner will be serving its usual offering of cakes all day long. Regular pancake meals at City Diner include two buttermilk pancakes ($4.25), a full stack of three buttermilk pancakes ($5.75), two blueberry pancakes ($4.95), a full stack of three blueberry pancakes ($6.75), two banana-nut pancakes ($4.95) or a full stack of three banana-nut pancakes ($6.75). The food at this cheery South Grand spot is so comforting, you half-expect it to turn back your sheets and draw you a warm bath. You can get your three squares at City Diner, and with breakfast served all day, it's an ideal choice for chow on National Pancake Day.
The Original Pancake House (17000 Chesterfield Airport Road, Chesterfield; 636-536-4044) Though the Original Pancake House in Chesterfield isn't offering any specials for National Pancake Day, it's more than forgivable; after all, everyday is pancake day here. The original Original Pancake House opened in Portland, Oregon, in 1953. It's now a national chain, with more than 100 locations in 28 states. Like the name says, pancakes are the main attraction here, from simple buttermilk pancakes with rich whipped butter and warm maple syrup to the restaurant's two signature specials: The apple pancake, with cinnamon-glazed apples in a thick batter, is like having an entire cake for breakfast. More subtle is the "Dutch Baby," a thin, bowl-shaped pancake served with butter, powdered sugar and lemon wedges. Pancakes are available with various fruits and nuts; potato, wheat germ and buckwheat pancakes are also on the menu.
Half & Half (8135 Maryland Avenue, Clayton; 314-725-0719) Last week, in honor of National Blueberry Pancake Day, Clayton breakfast-and-lunch cafe Half & Half offered special blueberry pancakes. Though it's not officially observing National Pancake Day, the restaurant will be serving three varities of pancakes today: blueberry pancakes, its house "Clara Cakes," which include raspberry marcapone and granola, as well as its regular house pancakes.
Uncle Bill's Pancake & Dinner House (3427 South Kingshighway; 314-832-1973) As the name suggests, every day is also pancake day at this south city institution. A popular late-night dining destination, Uncle Bill's Pancakes & Dinner House (open 24/7) provides night owls with perennial breakfast/diner favorites, including omelets, biscuits and gravy, and, of course, plenty of pancakes. Specials include the "2 x 2 x 2 x 2," which fills a plate with two eggs, two pancakes, two bacon strips and two sausage links. If that won't fill you up, go for the "Supreme 2 x 2 x 2 x 2," which adds hash browns to the mix.
Benton Park Café (1900 Arsenal Street, 314-771-7200) Another popular breakfast spot, south city's Benton Park Café has no special plans for National Pancake Day other than flipping up batches of its excellent 'cakes, business as usual. Situated at the corner of Arsenal Street and Lemp Avenue, Benton Park Café offers an extensive menu heavy on breakfast items such as breakfast burritos, omelets and a slinger. Diners can also order items such as a tuna melt or the BBLT -- that would be a bacon, bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich. Benton Park Café stays open 24 hours on Fridays and Saturdays.