Johnny Boys Pancake House (Rutland, VT)

This summer we also had annual trip over to Lake George, NY for the Ohana Luau By The Lake (“The Best Little Event in Tiki”), which had us doing another nice morning drive across Vermont. We were craving breakfast, and pancakes in particular, and I realized an interesting change in Vermont over the last 20 years or so: Despite the very active, well-published, and well-earned reputation of “Vermont Maple”, Vermont doesn’t actually have a lot of pancake houses any more.

When we moved to Northern New England, there were a lot of places in Vermont, but the ranks have thinned. Don’t get me wrong, there are a good number of decent pancake houses still sprinkled around Vermont, including Sugar and Spice in Mendon, VT, but even more that have closed (like Eaton’s Sugarhouse in Royalton, Blanche and Bill’s in Bridgewater), and a few more that are closing down (like Penny Cluse). This is one place where New Hampshire seems to be holding on a bit better (with Polly’s up north, Parker’s and Stuart and Johns down south being the most notable. But one Vermont place that I knew was still in business that I hadn’t yet checked out was Johnny Boys Pancake House in Rutland, VT. While it too has seen some downsizing (their original location was in Killington, their second location in Rutland is the one remaining), our trip through VT to Lake George was the perfect opportunity to stop by and finally check out Johnny Boys.

Located just a short drive down the road from the abovementioned Sugar and Spice, Johnny Boys is located right on the south side of Route 4 on the edge of Rutland. Walking in the door, it’s one of those cases where I wasn’t immediately expecting the ambiance encountered when I walk in the door. I was expecting “Vermont Sugarhouse”, but the overall ambiance at Johnny Boys is definitely a little closer to “roadhouse”. Indeed, that’s one notable thing about Johnny Boys: they actually do have a liquor license, so you can get beer, a Bloody Mary, or other light cocktails if you are in the mood. And there’s more than a little baseball, Rat Pack, and mobster paraphernalia around the joint, but it makes for a surprisingly homey atmosphere, if a bit unusual.

Menu-wise, Johnny Boys basically has American diner food. A hearty breakfast include a good dozen varieties of pancakes, egg and omelet dishes, including a very extensive list of custom omelet offerings; steak and eggs, breakfast wraps, and breakfast sandwiches (this was even a place I spotted the relatively rare Taylor Ham on the menu; the owners hearken from New Jersey…). The lunch menu is basically burgers, wraps, and sandwiches, served up with fries.

While the primary purpose of our stopping at Johnny Boys was to check out the pancakes, I actually was drawn in by an unusual omelet combination offered on the menu: a three-egg omelet with bacon, tomato, and… horseradish. Served up with some home fries and wheat toast, this was actually a really good omelet, and a very good, unique combination: a bit of tang from the tomato, a bit of smoke from the bacon, and more than a little zing from the grated horseradish. I loved it, and would definitely get it again.

Carol, meanwhile, was also lured in by a non-pancake breakfast item, opting for their Huevos Rancheros. Done up as a classic scramble served over chips with a fair bit of melted cheese, this was a nice, spicy, and flavorful huevos, and also quite enjoyable.

However, since this is a pancake house, we had to get some pancakes as well, opting to split a stack of buttermilk pancakes with chocolate chips and real maple syrup (being Vermont, I do believe you get run out of town for serving the fake stuff). These were good, nicely crisped, classic buttermilk pancakes, and quite enjoyable; indeed, these were pretty much just what I expect

Overall, I loved Johnny Boys, especially the omelets. I’ll be honest, if I was craving pancakes, Sugar and Spice down the road is probably going to be my first choice, but they’ve got a very robust and pleasing breakfast menu, a pleasant staff, and good prices. I’d happily come back and try one of their burgers for lunch, too.

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