I can never think of pancakes without hearing this line from Mitch Hedberg's Strategic Grill Locations (a comedy album that changed my life): "As a comedian, you have to start the show strong and you have to end the show strong. You can't be like pancakes—all exciting at first, but then by the end you're fuckin' sick of them." I think that's part of the reason why pancakes and I have long shared a mutual indifference. I just wasn't that into them. (Listen, pancakes: It's not me; it's TOTALLY you.) Pancakes would just sit there, limp and sticky, not looking at me, and not caring if I liked them or not. Then pancakes would go in the garbage and I would go looking for bacon.
That was before Lola (2000 Fourth Ave, 441-1430), Tom Douglas's Greekish incarnation, revealed unto me its breakfast. The pancakes at Lola are perfect. They are fluffy and large and brown. They are also expensive ($12 for two). Their fried edges have that little bit of crunch—the most important part of a pancake, I say—and they come with a side of incredible house-made sausage that I used to be obsessed with before I got it in my head that it tastes "too organy." (I'm probably wrong, but I substitute bacon now.)
The pancakes are accompanied by some sort of preserved berry-fruit that I invariably ignore (another Hedberg line: "I put fruit on top of my waffles, because I want something to brush off"), but whatever. The very, very, very best thing about Lola pancakes—the thing that keeps me going back (weekly, for a short, expensive, ill-advised while)—is the small tub of vanilla mascarpone. It's like butter, but creamier. It's like whipped cream, but butterier. It's like frosting, except it doesn't make you want to barf. At ALL. I like to spread it on each bite individually, with very little syrup.
When I met the Lola pancakes it was like I was that guy who looks like evil Chad Michael Murray and pancakes were Mandy Moore, who's Christian but somehow pretty (!?!), and I made fun of pancakes at school, but then I realized that what I was secretly feeling was TRU LUV! (In this metaphor, I suppose vanilla mascarpone represents Mandy Moore's astounding vocal performance in the school play.) Anyway, then pancakes and I took a Walk to Remember. (Then pancakes died of cancer? Wait.)
As a newly self-identified pancake lover, I started seeking them out everywhere I went. Most were disappointing (pancakes are a harsh mistress). But at Ballard's homespun gee-shucks Original Pancake House (8037 15th Ave NW, 781-3344) I found something special. Its menu offers approximately 800 types of pancake, including buckwheat pancakes (hearty, $7.25 for three), apple pancakes (caramelized, $10.50 for one), and "49er Flap Jacks" (chewy, buttery, AMAZING, $8.25 for three). But then, one special day, I found BACON PANCAKES. This incredible invention ($7.25 for three) demands little explanation. It's a pancake with crumbled bacon in it, and it's probably not anything that a human should ever, ever eat. But put some syrup on there. Have some coffee. Sweet Mandy Moore H. Christ, is it good.