Show me the pancakes: a search for Rhode Island’s best

The Gold Standard: My beloved pancakes from the Deluxe Town Diner in Watertown, Massachusetts. Photo by möca.


Why is it that I’m always reading blog posts and newspaper articles about great breakfast places that turn out to be subpar? Surely, I am not the only pancake purist in Rhode Island. After having eagerly gone from diner to hotspot and back again in my quest for Rhode Island’s best pancakes, I’ve decided I am going about this all wrong. When I discovered the best pancakes near Boston, I discovered them not through a blog (if those even existed then) nor through a magazine or newspaper article, but through an accountant friend who happened to live in the area and really liked pancakes.

Here I am with my Deluxe Town Diner pancakes.

Here’s how I know that the Deluxe Town Diner in Watertown, Massachusetts has amazing pancakes: it is the only thing I order there. That’s not to say I haven’t been tempted by tuna melts, homemade stews with fresh (not frozen) vegetables, and burgers with sweet potato fries. But the pancakes made with sour cream and buttermilk are just too good: they rise to thick height and remain fluffy, perfectly browned, made the size of your plate in a stack of three (or two if you so choose, but you’ll be sorry), and smeared with butter with a side of real maple syrup.

I know Rhode Island is the smallest state, but I refuse to shrink my expectations accordingly. So, fellow citizens, I beg of you: show me the (amazingly good) pancakes. Post a comment with your local favorite, and I promise to go, eat and report back.

Surely Not Rhode Island’s Best Pancakes List
(or the places I’ve tried so far)

Note: My criteria for the perfect pancake includes: 1) fluffy texture; 2) neither too wet nor too dry; 3) excellent flavor, more specifically a well-orchestrated recipe of ingredients that culminate in a caramelized flavor balancing salty and sweet; 4) made and served with real butter; and 5) served with real maple syrup.

Despite a wonderful old-fashioned diner atmosphere amidst the strip malls, you won't find the best pancakes at Star Diner.

Atlantic Grille
Middletown, RI
Why not? One of the RI Monthly reader’s choices for best breakfasts, this is truthfully the only place I can stand to eat pancakes on Aquidneck Island. Yet they are no match for the perfect pancake (decent flavor, but not fluffy enough) and fail to provide real maple syrup.

Corner Café
Newport, RI
Why not? Such a cute little spot, but they use margarine — a deal-breaker in my opinion.

Eddie & Sons Diner
Providence, RI
Why not? Here you’ll find decent pancakes (although too light indicated not enough caramelizing butter, sugar, salt), but nothing spectacular, and the diner lacks real maple syrup.

Gary’s Handy Lunch
Newport, RI
Why not? Although I love this place for its atmosphere and enjoy their thin old-fashioned french toast, their pancakes are thin and mealy.

IHOP (The International House of Pancakes)
Middletown, RI
Why not? There is no better option when you absolutely need pancakes at 1 am and are too lazy to make them (yes, it’s happened to me). But, let’s face it, as good as they may taste at that moment, we all know that IHOP is not the real deal.

Louie’s
Providence, RI
Why not? Generally their pancakes have fairly good flavor, although they are always too flat and light. Plus they lack consistency: a few times, the pancakes were metallic, which Geoff says is an indicator of too much baking powder. They serve them with real butter but artificial maple syrup.

Mel’s Diner
East Providence, RI
Why not? According to Providence Journal’s food writer Gail Ciampa, these are “some of the best pancakes around.” No way. Slathered with margarine, these pancakes were bound to lose. They were the right color and thickness, but ultimately too gummy with the wrong flavor.

Modern Diner
Pawtucket, RI
Why not? Their pancakes had great texture (just a tad wet) and were quite fluffy, yet the flavor was wrong — not sweet nor salty enough.

Nick’s on Broadway
Providence, RI
Why not? In general, breakfast here was terrific, but the pancakes sadly not so. Cinnamon in the batter definitely doesn’t fit the bill.

Oatley’s Restaurant
North Kingston, RI
Why not? I had high hopes here with the homemade breads and muffins, but ultimately the pancakes missed on both flavor and fluffiness.

Star Diner
Rumford, RI
Why not? Pancakes were greasy and burnt. By the taste, I highly doubt they were made with butter in the batter or on the griddle. And they don’t serve maple syrup.

T’s Restaurant
Why not? Pancakes were dense and dry with lousy flavor. They’re also served with a butter ‘blend’ (aka margarine), blanketed with powdered sugar, and a side of phony syrup — need I say more?

Top Photo Credit: möca

Seven Stars Bakery

Seven Stars Bakery

The plethora of breads and sweets at Seven Stars Bakery.

The olive bread at Seven Stars Bakery comes damn close to matching the fougasse from Bread & Roses in Paris, which is no easy feat. But that’s not all. Seven Stars Bakery offers a stunning assortment of breads, pasteries, cookies, and muffins — all baked fresh daily. For lunch, they offer a few sandwiches made on their artisan breads like ham and cheese on a buttered baguette — also very Parisian. I’ve fallen for their cinnamon twists (twisted dough rolled in cinnamon sugar), rich fudge brownies that look like little cakes, and crisp gingerbread star cookies. I haven’t tried everything, although I’m working on it.

Seven Stars Bakery
www.sevenstarsbakery.com

820 Hope Street
Providence, RI 02906

342 Broadway
Providence RI 02909

Rumford Center
20 Newman Avenue
East Providence, RI 02916

Also at the Winter Farmers’ Market Saturdays in Pawtucket, RI

Hewtin’s Dogs Mobile: Gourmet Food Truck

Locals line up at Hewtin's Dog Mobile at the Roger Williams Memorial Park.

I am usually not the biggest fan of food conceived in a truck, but I have to make an exception for Hewtin’s Dogs Mobile. This gourmet food truck, created by the owners of Chez Pascal, serves up a tasty on-the-go lunch. Emblazoned with their motto, “If it ain’t in a casing, then it’s not worth tasting,” the truck can be found at Roger Williams National Memorial Park and the Pawtucket Winter Farmers’ Market (see below for times). The menu features freshly made soups, sandwiches and sausages — such as a hand-smoked ham with gruyere and apple compote on foccacia and brined pork belly with sunny side up egg sandwich. Of course, you can also opt for a plain old cheeseburger or hot dog (a Grote & Weigel), but even those exceed their ordinary names. Not surprisingly, even their condiments are homemade.

And if you need a little something sweet after your meal, get one of their wonderful chocolate chocolate chip cookies — soft on the inside and crisp on the outside.

Hewtin’s Dogs Mobile
Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays 11:30 am to 2:30 pm
North Main Street alongside the Roger Williams National Memorial Park
Providence, RI

Saturdays 11:30 am to 2:30 pm — during the Pawtucket Winter Farmers’ Market
Hope Artiste Village
1005 Main St
Pawtucket, RI

www.chez-pascal.com/HewtinsDogsMobile.htm

Pawtucket Wintertime Farmers’ Market

apples

Apples aplenty at the first Pawtucket Winter Farmers' Market. These are from Hill Orchard in Johnston, Rhode Island.

Today marked the opening day of the Pawtucket Wintertime Farmers’ Market season.  Held inside the the central atrium of the Hope Artiste Village in Pawtucket,  the market gathers over a dozen farms, bakeries, and other vendors come together.

pawtucketmarket

Pawtucket Wintertime Farmers' Market

I have a penchant for farmers markets, it’s true, but this one may be my Rhode Island favorite. First of all, it’s such a wonderful concept to begin a market’s season in November, when all the rest have already ended.  Winter can be so barren in New England, and it’s nice to know that whatever can be grown in the coming months (presumably indoors), I’ll be able to buy.  According to Farm Fresh RI, the market offers lettuces, greens, apples, potatoes, onions, leeks, garlic, radishes, fresh herbs, beets, carrots, parsnips, turnips, and winter squash all year round.  And of course, the meats (from grass-fed beef to pastured pork) along with cheeses, jams, honey, maple syrup, milk, and eggs will certainly be available year-round.

The architecture of the building reminded us a bit of Chelsea Market in New York, but in fact the market itself is more like a Paris market where you’ll find everything you need for a balanced meal — bread, meat, legumes, cheese.  You’ll also find local sweet and savory vendors such as The Cupcakerie, Olga’s Cup+Saucer, Seven Stars Bakery, Kafe’ Lila (for ice cream), Tina’s Caribbean Food, and even Hewtin’s Dogs (Chez Pascal’s food truck) so you can stop for lunch and dessert as well as get your food shopping done.

Pawtucket Wintertime Farmers’ Market
Saturdays 11am-2pm from November 7, 2009 to May 29, 2010
Hope Artiste Village
1005 Main St.
Pawtucket, RI
www.farmfresh.org/food/farmersmarkets_details.php?market=29