Five local eateries making hotcakes that taste like heaven or home

By Jessica Koslow

OP Café dresses theirs with whipped cream, Nutella and banana slices

When I was a kid, my dad would often cook hot breakfasts for my brother and me. I loved them all: cream of wheat, matzo brei, French toast. But my favorite was pancakes. My dad really knows how to make pancakes.

It’s not just my brother and I who love his pancakes. A few of the neighborhood kids still remember his pancakes, and some are lucky enough to enjoy them as adults when he decides to whip them up.

Full disclosure: My dad is a hippie. His recipe for whole wheat (pastry flour) pancakes is from the Tassajara Cookbook. And his secret is separating the egg whites from the yolks, beating the whites and folding them back into the rest of the batter. It’s what makes his pancakes fluffy.

Because I always have my dad’s delicious pancakes in the back of my mind, I’m a tough customer when ordering pancakes at restaurants. But here are five local eateries that are doin’ hotcakes right:

Del Frisco’s Grille, Downtown Santa Monica: This summer, Del Frisco’s Grille launched a new brunch menu, starring lemon ricotta pancakes. Their version is fancy, dressed up with a lemon curd, blueberry compote, fresh berries and dripping with blueberry-maple syrup. Still, all the accessories in the world can’t make a bad pancake good — and these pancakes are light and tasty. Plus, you’re lounging on Ocean Avenue, staring at the lively Santa Monica Pier and the expansive Pacific Ocean. The whole experience takes the (pan)cake!

Penmar Golf Course Coffee Shop, Venice: Just off the first hole of the Penmar Golf Course, a coffee shop cooks up good old-fashioned pancakes for golfers, pre- and post-tee time. The inside of the coffee shop is bare and basic, but the outside patio offers a tranquil view of acres of greenery. Their double stack of pancakes is quite large, yet still retains the right amount of airy. Bonus: This laidback coffee shop serves real maple syrup.

Röckenwagner Bakery Café, Mar Vista: Now that their café location on Abbot Kinney Boulevard closed, Röckenwagner Bakery Café’s original space on Washington Boulevard is their only location, along with booths at myriad farmers markets. Order the “Röckenwagner” and you get a double stack of just-the-right-size buttermilk pancakes that sit beside two eggs any style and either bacon or sausage. Even though they don’t use real maple syrup, the pancakes are sweet and light, and you don’t feel like you have to roll yourself out of the restaurant.

Oma’s Puffers, Playa Vista and Mar Vista: I first discovered these mini Dutch pancakes at the Playa Vista Farmers Market. I knew it wouldn’t take long before other markets offered these treats, and now they can be found at the Mar Vista Farmers Market. Oma’s Puffers are bite-sized, hot and made to order. Melted butter drips down the sides and powdered sugar sticks on top; apparently, this is a craze sweeping Holland. Oma’s website describes the puffers like a mini-soufflé. If you’re more adventurous, you can choose other toppings like fresh fruit and whipped cream, exotic honey and spices or a chocolate-hazelnut drizzle.

The OP Café, Ocean Park: Let’s just say eating pancakes is in my DNA. Now my daughter is ordering pancakes for lunch every Monday with my parents at The Op Café (sometimes my dad orders them, too). My parents rate these the best buttermilk pancakes in town because they’re not fancy, just plain ol’ buttermilk pancakes with butter and syrup. Sure, you can order strawberries inside or Nutella, banana and whipped cream on top, but the plain short (two) or tall (three) stack with butter and real syrup tastes like home.

Everyone at OP Café knows my daughter by name, and the owner even gifted her an OP Café T-shirt and cap. The first time she came in, she declared she did not like syrup, just butter. Now, every Monday when she sits down for lunch and orders pancakes, the servers bring her syrup, just to hear her shriek, exclaiming, “I don’t like syrup.” It’s a big joke around the restaurant.

My daughter has tried my dad’s pancakes on several occasions. When I ask her if she likes his pancakes, she answers, “I love them, because I love my grandpa.” Maybe love, not just separating the eggs, is actually the secret to making the best pancakes.