Sugar and Spice (Mendon, VT)

Our annual trip over to Lake George, NY for the Ohana Luau By The Lake (“The Best Little Event in Tiki”) had us doing a nice morning drive across Vermont. I rarely take US-4 all the way across Vermont (I usually find Route 9 or Route 11 to be more efficient if I’m heading to Albany or someplace south of that), so this trip gave us a nice opportunity to stop and have a late breakfast at a spot that’s long been on my hit list.
When we moved to Northern New England, we quickly discovered that most any long drive through Vermont (and quite a bit of New Hampshire as well) inevitably brings you by several sugarhouses, all performing the seasonal New England rite of boiling sap down into maple syrup. In-season, it is rather fun to go to a bunch of sugarhouses, see the boiling process, and try the different syrups (I used to buy a lot, but once we started tapping our trees, I now have more syrup than I can easily consume). But the sugaring season is a short one, and a lot of the sugarhouses around the state augment their wintertime operations by pairing their product with its most natural partner: the pancake. As a result, rural Vermont is peppered with all sorts of pancake houses, including some of my favorites, like Eaton’s Sugarhouse in Royalton (which I oddly haven’t reviewed, I’ll have to fix that…), Johnny Boy’s in Rutland, and Sugar and Spice in Mendon, VT. The last of these was right on our route, so we stopped in and gave them a try.

Sugar and Spice is an actual, working sugarhouse, built around a large evaporator, with the balcony serving as both an observation deck when mapling is going (I’ve been by their sugarhouse when it is in full mapling operation, belching steam out the top of the building), and as a pancake house during the off-season (with the evaporator level converted to a gift shop, as is the way with Vermont tourism). But it’s a pretty spacious dining area, so even when it is busy, they frequently turn tables, so we managed to get seated quickly.

The menu at Sugar and Spice is a combined breakfast and lunch (after 11) menu, with an array of omelets, sandwiches, soups, and breakfast items. Oh, and pancakes (at least eight varieties, including daily specials) and waffles (several variations including waffles with ice cream). For us, the decision was easy, we were craving pancakes, so we ended up ordering two different pancake plates: a Sugar and Spice pancake plate for me, and a Maple Walnut pancake plate for Carol.

First of all, if you find yourself at Sugar and Spice, a reminder that the normal pancakes are huge, filling a large plate (although they’ve got Silver Dollar pancakes as well), so each of us had a stack of three pancakes, so that was a lotof food. The Sugar and Spice pancakes weren’t just their regular pancakes with maple sugar and spicing thrown on them, but their own batter with heavy amounts of maple sugar (making these crisp up quite a bit compared to a lot of other pancakes) and a cinnamon-forward spice blend folded in a well. These were nice, firm, and well-crisped pancakes, served up with a dusting of powdered sugar.

The maple walnut pancakes were enjoyable as well. The batter on these was quite different, having a bit of cornmeal in it to make them a bit more toothy, and in this case, it worked. Enough maple was mixed into the batter to give it a robust taste, and they didn’t skimp on the walnuts either, so these were pleasantly nutty. I wouldn’t mind getting these again, either.

Overall, I really likes Sugar and Spice, it is one of the better Vermont pancakes houses out there (regionally, I still give the nod to Polly’s over in NH, however). They’ve got a lot of good varieties (I should try their plain buttermilk or blueberry at some point), and a friendly, efficient operation. It’s definitely one of the better stops on Route 4.

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