For the last several years, I’ve been doing a lot of travel through LAX, and generally I’ll get a hotel room in El Segundo the night. As a result, I’ve had a lot of opportunity to explore Manhattan Beach (the next town over). Several times, I’ve walked by Uncle Bill’s Pancake House, but have been unable to try it out since I was there in the evening, and my flight times in the morning have been early enough to prohibit a breakfast visit. Until last week, when I had an outgoing flight at a much more comfortable 8:25 in the morning, allowing me to have a quick trip to Uncle Bill’s right as they opened.
Like any good vacation, ours needed at least one seriously righteous breakfast. After consulting several online sources (Chowhound, Yelp, etc), we decided that Front Porch Cafe was a good place to try (and it had looked good as we passed it the day before). I’m glad we did. Situated on the north end of South Beach (i.e. the mellower and more-relaxed end of the beach), inside the Penguin Hotel (one of the apparently older Art Deco boutique hotels, albeit one that’s obviously been refurbished recently), the Front Porch is well named, since the vast majority of their seating is, well, on the front porch, or the sidewalk in front.
Before our cruise, we spent a few nights at the Doubletree Grand Biscayne Bay Hotel, which is located just north of the Venetian Causeway. However, this part of town is being redeveloped, and there just aren’t a lot of restaurants. However, one notable place we did find was The Daily Creative Food Co on Biscayne Avenue, about two blocks from the apartment. The Daily is a breakfast and lunch joint that sports an exhaustively large menu of sandwiches, salads, and breakfast items, most named after various newspapers. They also have a nice assortment of juices, smoothies, and coffee drinks.
It’s not often that I’m tempted to write a second entry for a place, but when I reviewed The Pines Cafe in Palmdale, CA back in December, I ended my review with “I need to come back.” Indeed, several people had told me that when I got my “Loco Hominy Quicky” breakfast, I had missed two better items on the menu: the Chicken Fried Steak, and the pancakes. I’m happy to report that I’ve since been back to the Pines, multiple times (I’m in Palmdale for several weeks for business), so I’ve had a chance to much more fully explore the menu.
I’ve been craving pancakes for a number of reasons (including National Pancake Day on this upcoming Tuesday), and both of my regional favorites (Polly’s and Dana’s) are seasonal and not open until spring thaw. Several people on Chowhound recommended this place to me as a good place for pancakes, and, indeed, they were right. This is probably one of the best meal deals I’ve ever found. The breakfast included pancakes (with real maple syrup), toast, corned beef hash, home fries, bacon, and eggs.
Back when I lived in Minneapolis, every day on the walk to work I’d walk past this little tiny storefront between Simms Hardware and Espresso Royale in the Dinkytown neighborhood. So tiny, that it looks like a roofed-over alley, which is exactly what it is. I also quickly noticed that quite a large number of people passed in and out of that door, enough that it was like a circus act. So it wasn’t long after moving there that I tried out Al’s. And not long after that I became a regular, going at least every Thursday (and, now that I no longer live there, I make it a point to go at least once every time I’m in town).
Anyone that has had breakfast with me knows that I’m a pancake aficionado. I’m very particular about my pancakes (they must have the right flavor, texture, crust, and toppings), and if I find a proper pancake I’ll go way out of my way for them. Which brings us to Polly’s Pancake Parlor, where we went on Saturday. We make it a point to go at least once a year, usually combining it with hiking in the White Mountains. Located in Sugar Hill, New Hampshire (about 20 minutes from Franconia Notch), Polly’s is a modestly-sized pancake dining room attached to an old sugarhouse (in which they make their own maple products). Sure, New Hampshire and Vermont, especially during mapling season, are chock full of sugarhouses and pancake joints. But, in my not-so-humble opinion, Polly’s is the queen of New England pancake joints, and forever tied for first place on my list with Al’s Breakfast of Minneapolis for Best Pancake Ever and Best Breakfast Ever.
ince I’ve basically exhausted the list of Diners in the Upper Valley, I figured I should review some of the other breakfast joints. I’ll start with one of my favorites: Dana’s by the Gorge in Quechee, VT (umm, by the gorge…). Anyone who regularly dines with me knows that my favorite breakfast items are, roughly in order, biscuits and gravy, pancakes, and waffles. So usually when I’m visiting a place for the first time I’ll have one of these three items. However, Dana’s was different, since one menu item jumped out at me: the Vermont Rarebit (pictured at right). It’s basically an eggs Benedict dish, with the hollandaise sauce replaced with a Welsh-rarebit style cheddar sauce. Very delicious, and I seem to order this 90% of the time I’m there. And, in season, I visit there often enough that they are starting to recognize me.