They go by a lot of names—hot cakes, flapjacks, griddle cakes—but the best pancakes in America have one thing in common: light, fluffy centers that, when done right, can only be described as cloud-like. And damn delicious, of course. From options flecked with chocolate chips to the classic buttermilk variety (and even some health-conscious versions), these takes on the breakfast staple are worthy of a syrup-fueled road trip. If you’re a lover of all things flat and fluffy, hit up these cafés, coffee shops, breakfast restaurants and diners for the best pancakes in America. Follow Time Out USA on Facebook; sign up for the Time Out USA newsletter
Best pancakes in America
The Dutch pancake is only available on Outerland’s weekend brunch menu, but it’s a worthy reward at the end of a long week. Baked in a cast-iron pan, you can opt for either a sweet version with apples or a savory one with smoked bacon. Can’t decide between the two? Ask them to mix in both, then top with homemade ricotta for an extra $2. Either way you go, you’re getting one of the stars of the Outer Sunset haunt’s menu.
Clinton Street’s warm, mammoth buttermilk biscuits—flaky, savory goodness incarnate—may get a lot of the attention, but their fat, plate-sized blueberry pancakes have equal star wattage. If you want to avoid the onslaught (the place gets packed), the homey restaurant is just as reliable at lunch and dinner, when locals drop in for fish tacos or breakfast for dinner (and the blueberry pancakes are on the menu day and night).
Photograph: Michael Harlan Turkell
Clara cakes from Half and Half, St. Louis, MO
The brunch lines at chef Mike Randolph’s Clayton café are epicly long, in part because of the must-order pancakes. Randolph perfected the rounds for his daughter, using a simple mixture of flour, buttermilk, leaveners, plus a touch of oil. The light-as-air rounds come draped in a tangy raspberry sauce that’s balanced out by nutty granola and creamy mascarpone. Clara, dad did you proud.
At breakfast and brunch, Fran Camaj and chef-partner Travis Lett feature some of the city’s most sumptuous pancakes at this very L.A. restaurant. Gjelina’s lemon buckwheat ricotta pancakes involve three fluffy cakes folded with lemon zest and pockets of ricotta. On top, you’ll find a tangy, cooling dollop of crème fraîche, plump blueberries, sweet-tart syrup made from blueberry compote and maple syrup, and a light dusting of powdered sugar. Dig in.
At this brunch powerhouse in Miami’s Design District, the morning staple toes the line between breakfast and dessert. Frothed until airy with an immersion blender, the vanilla-scented batter bakes inside a wood-fired oven to form a delicate souffle-like cake. Presented in a cast-iron skillet with roasted pears and honey on top, the custardy treat is nothing short of a showstopper.
The whole wheat and carrot say “healthy,” the maple cream cheese and pecans say “who the hell do you think you’re kidding?” These pancakes are like the lightest, fluffiest carrot cake you can imagine, with the whole wheat taking out some of the cloying sweetness. The maple cream cheese isn’t too heavy and the pecans add a perfect crunch.
The breakfast menu at this Philly favorite is a dessert lover’s dream come true. Along with creme brulee French toast, there’s the platter of equally decadent red velvet pancakes. Not only does each chocolate chip-studded layer sandwich a hefty smear of mascarpone, the gloriously rich stack is finished with maple syrup, chantilly cream and fresh strawberries.
Guava chiffon pancakes at Cinnamon’s, Oahu, HI
This breakfast-food specialist is home to the island’s most creative pancakes (think carrot cake and cinnamon-apple), but it’s the tropical rendition featuring a beloved local fruit that deserves a spot in the pantheon of best pancakes. Smothered in a duo of guava-infused sauces—one creamy, the other delightfully tart—the pile of ethereal buttermilk cakes will have you shouting “ono” at first bite.
Photograph: Iris We
Pancakes are great. Pancakes that taste like pie are even better. Such is the case at this growing ATL chainlet, where earthy sweet potato circles are doused in a warm caramelized brown sugar butter and covered toasted pecans. If only all Thanksgiving desserts came in pancake form.
Brunch is currently only available on the weekends at Chris Phelps and Zak Walters’ culinary wonderland, and changes based on what’s seasonal and available, but the Oatmeal Griddle Cakes ($10) are a constant. The stack arrives as a trio, with crispy edges still smoky from the griddle. They’re crafted with a mixture of oatmeal, butter, sugar and eggs, and come dusted with powdered sugar. Instead of being doused with syrup, these griddle cakes come topped with a dollop of molasses butter, which melts to form a de facto syrup. Phelps’ mom started making oatmeal griddle cakes for him starting at age two, and they’re still going strong.