The Best Pancakes in the USA: Updated Fall 2020

Pancakes. Hotcakes. Griddle Cakes. Flapjacks.

No matter what they’re called, they happen to be one of my favorite ways to start the morning, and when I travel around the country I make it a point to seek out the very best local places to find these breakfast staples. I personally don’t like a lot of extra stuff on or in my pancakes:  whipped cream, chocolate chips, strawberry sauce, ice cream, hot fudge – in my opinion they are just ways to mask a boring pancake. A really top-notch pancake should be able to stand on its own, maybe with some simple blueberries in the batter, and always with a little help from butter and real maple syrup.


I shudder to think just how many pancakes I’ve consumed in my life, or how many different places I’ve visited across the U.S.A. to get my fix. But after many years of research (someone had to do it), I am now ready to declare my choice for the top 15 places to get pancakes in the country. If you travel within a 100 miles or so of any of these places, trust me, you need to check them out. But please be a serious pancake aficionado and whatever you do, don’t go to one of these places and decide you’re more in the mood for scrambled eggs or an omelet!

So here they are, the Top 15 from Maine to Maui!

#15: Pancake Pantry, Nashville, Tennessee

Regardless of when you arrive, morning or noon, summer or winter, rain or shine, there will be a line at the Pancake Pantry. Do not be discouraged! The line really does move very quickly. My first time at the Pantry, I asked a woman ahead of me in line if it this place was really worth the wait, and she laughed and assured me that yes, I would not be sorry. That day I began a love affair with the Pantry’s Sweet Potato Pancakes, which are served with cinnamon cream syrup. They have to be the lightest, fluffiest and most flavorful pancakes I have ever eaten… I call them “Little Bites of Heaven”. I have tasted other varieties of the 20-some types of pancakes offered at the Pantry, but the sweet potato pancakes are so unique, so special, that I never even considered ordering anything else. However, I  visited Pancake Pantry in August 2017 and am sad to report that due to a switch in the sweet potato base used for these pancakes, from a powder to flakes or vice versa,  the consistency of these beautiful pancakes has changed and they are now much firmer and drier than before. I hoped they’d use up all the ingredients they purchased and return to the original, because the new batch is a pale shadow of the prior version! Unfortunately, I just revisited the Pantry in August 2020, and though they were very good, they were still not as they once were. However, there are many other varieties to sample and you are bound to find one to suit your tastes, so I will give Pancake Pantry the #15 position!

#14 Gould’s Sugar House, Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts

Gould’s Sugar House used to be among my top 5 favorite places for the best pancakes in the USA.. However, one unfortunate issue with Gould’s is that it is typically only open for a few weeks every year: Spring season is March and April and Fall Foliage season is September and October, meaning that I cannot just satisfy my cravings whenever I have them! Last year, however, I was dismayed to learn that Gould’s would not be open at all for the 2019 – 2020 season, and worse yet, it was closed again for the Fall 2020 season.  I am hoping this doesn’t mean the place will close permanently, but it certainly doesn’t seem to bode well. At any rate, if you are anywhere near Massachusetts’ scenic Mohawk Trail in the northwestern part of the state at these times of year, call ahead to check whether they are open, and if so, a stop at Gould’s is a must. The menu is very short: pancakes, eggs, bacon or sausage. And of course, real maple syrup made on the premises is the perfect match for the perfect pancakes they serve here. Weekends during fall foliage season can mean a considerable wait, but on weekdays the lines are much shorter. Nevertheless, I’d wait in line (and browse the gift shop or watch the video about how maple syrup is made) for an hour or more just to dine on these beautiful pancakes. To the owners of Gould’s, please, please, please reopen again and if you decide not to, please, please, please send me the recipe for those amazing pancakes!

#13. Flapjacks, Lincoln, New Hamphire

Located in the bustling little town of Lincoln, the western end of the famous Kancamagus Highway through the White Mountains, Flapjacks is the place to go for a hearty breakfast with a special emphasis on pancakes. The staff are very friendly and the space is cozy, with a toy train set regularly passing by as it makes its way through the two room restaurant. But the real draw is the flapjacks themselves, especially the pumpkin pancakes, which are about as good as they get, but unfortunately only grace the menu in the fall. Fluffy, flavorful and hearty, they are served with real maple syrup. I also enjoy substituting the homefries with Boston baked beans, a very New England breakfast touch! Very crowded on weekends, but sometimes going closer to noon will get you in a little faster. Regardless, it is worth the wait!

Eggs, sausage, bacon, baked beans, and pumpkin pancakes… what a way to start your day!

12. 24th Street Cafe, Bakersfield, CA

Most people don’t make Bakersfield a destination, but it is a convenient stop on the busy routes between L.A., San Francisco, Sacramento and Vegas. However, if you’re a fan of pancakes, especially pumpkin pancakes, the 24th Street Cafe will make Bakersfield a destination in and of itself. The photo below may not do the pancakes justice, but at least twice when I have visited this cafe I was so eager to chow down on my pancakes that I forgot to take a decent photo!

#11. Sleepy Bee Cafe, Cincinnati (Blue Ash), Ohio

This local chain in a suburb of Cincinnati is lauded among local area residents for serving the best pancakes in the Metro area. I had to check for myself, and was confronted with two types of pancakes on the menu: original “fluffy” buttermilk and high protein, healthy gluten free. I decided I’d get one of each and see for myself. While I have to say that the gluten free pancake was delicious and was better than pancakes I have had in many other places, the fluffy pancake in all of its gluten-filled splendor won this contest, putting Sleepy Bee at #11 on the pancake charts!

sleepy bee cakes
Fluffy on the left, gluten free on the right… which one would you choose?

#10. Snooze, Denver, Colorado

Another popular local chain with locations around the Denver and Boulder metropolitan areas, Snooze offers some innovative flavored pancakes. My favorite is the Pineapple Upside Down Pancake, but if you can’t decide on which variety you want, try the “pancake flight” which allows you to sample up to three different flavors of pancakes.

The “Pancake Flight” at Snooze

#9. Pele’s Kitchen, Pahoa, Hawaii

Tucked away in the small town of Pahoa on Hawaii’s Big Island, Pele’s kitchen has survived the most recent eruptions on the island, perhaps because it is named after the volcano goddess herself. This friendly restaurant serves up wonderful egg dishes and French toast made with fresh organic ingredients, but whatever you do, don’t miss the pancakes, which come in a variety of flavors with coconut, lilikoi (passionfruit) or traditional maple syrup to complement them. Make sure to visit this place if you’re on the Big Island; Pele would want you to!

Fresh mango pancakes at Pele’s Kitchen

#8. Husk, Charleston, South Carolina

Husk is an amazing restaurant featuring some of the most innovative southern cuisine I have ever tasted. One needs to make reservations literally weeks in advance. On the brunch menu, along-side such staples as shrimp and grits, and various omelets and French toasts Husk periodically offers gigantic oven baked pancakes that are like nothing I have ever tasted. They rise and have a fluffy consistency, almost half-way between a souffle and a pancake and they will stick to your ribs for the rest of your day, as the photo below illustrates!

The Amazing Oven-Baked Pancake at Husk, Charleston, South Carolina

#7. Deluxe Town Diner, Watertown, Massachusetts

A small diner located in the Boston suburb of Watertown with friendly service and great ambiance, but really, it’s all about the pancakes. Deluxe Town offers a few different types, but my go-to are the original sourdough-buttermilk. As Bostonians say, “Wicked awesome!”

deluxe town
The sourdough-buttermilk pancakes… with fruit to make the breakfast healthier!  🙂

#5. Sugar and Spice, Mendon, Vermont

On U.S. Route 4 between Rutland and the Killington ski area you will find Sugar and Spice, a working maple sugar house and restaurant that serves up wonderful New England fare, such as a hearty and delicious corn chowder. But their breakfast menu features what have to be some of the very finest pumpkin pancakes I have ever come across… and I have come across quite a few! The texture and fluffiness were an A+ and there are subtle flavors of spices that really elevate these pancakes to another level. On my last visit the waitress asked if I would like to sample some maple sugar candy, a New England tradition that basically tastes like hardened brown sugar and sits for years or decades on general store shelves across the region. I was going to pass, but was told that this candy was still warm, had just been made and bore little resemblance to what I was used to, so I tried it, and she was correct. Creamy, sweet and mapley…  a perfect dessert after my perfect pancakes!

The heavenly pumpkin pancakes at Sugar and Spice

#4. Bee in the Biscuit, Virginia Beach, Virginia

Away from the salt water taffy stands and t shirt shops of the Virginia Beach Oceanfront is the rural neighborhood called Pungo, home to a madly popular breakfast and lunch place called Bee in the Biscuit. Get there really early in the morning or prepare for a long wait. They have free valet parking to manage the crowds and a very pleasant outdoor garden area where customers can have a coffee or a drink while they wait for their table. While the menu is diverse and all the food is good, I found their pancakes here to be among the best I have ever tasted, earning them the #4 spot in my countdown.

Bee and the Biscuit

#3. Palace Diner, Biddeford, Maine,

This tiny diner is located a few miles south of Portland. It’s located inside a 90+ year old, converted train car that contains perhaps 15 stools at the counter. That’s it, so time your visit between the breakfast and lunch rushes if you can to avoid a lengthy wait. They make a beautiful stack of fluffy and uniquely flavored lemon-buttermilk flapjacks that despite the rather steep price of $11 (cash only), is worth every cent. And they serve REAL maple syrup, always a plus in my book!  They have several other breakfast choices if you are not the pancake addict that I am, and they do lunch as well. If you’re anywhere in southern Maine and needing a big plate of comfort, this is the place to come!

#2. 808 Grindz Cafe, Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

Having read glowing reports about this place on tripadvisor, particularly the pancakes, I recently visited and found a line with a predicted 45 minute long wait at 10:30AM on a weekday. As it turned out, it was well over an hour, so I went into this feeling rather skeptical. I ordered some eggs, hash and a short stack of banana pancakes with the restaurant’s signature Mac-Nilla Sauce. After one bite I knew my wait had been worth it, and as I ate more of them, I could not believe just how wonderful they were. I called the waitress over and told her, with a serious expression on my face, “I made a terrible mistake!” She looked concerned and actually sat at my table and asked what was wrong. “I should NEVER have ordered just a short stack!” She laughed and asked if I wanted another pancake and I decided to try on of the macadamia nut cakes, and it was equally wonderful. As if Maui is not already paradise, now I know they have some of the best pancakes on the planet!

A macadamia nut pancake with the famous Mac-nilla sauce

#1.  P & G Pamela’s Diner, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Say it three times, fast: I must get pancakes at Pamela’s of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania! Pamela’s Diner has 6 locations scattered around the city and nearby suburbs, and while they serve a variety of excellent breakfast and lunch dishes, their pancakes are not to be missed. These pancakes are extremely thin, almost crepe-like, and are the size of a large dinner plate. Don’t even think of ordering a short stack… go all the way. You will not regret it! What gives me goosebumps about Pamela’s pancakes is that they are crispy around the edges, like the pancakes I remember during my childhood, and yet soft and tender in the middle. And the flavor is absolutely perfect with strong hints of vanilla and cinnamon. I will let the photo speak for itself. Pamela’s is NUMBER 1!

And the winner is… Pamela’s P&D Diner, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Do YOU have suggestions of places to add to this list? Please feel to leave a comment and let us all know where your favorite pancakes are served. And remember… pancakes make mornings easier to cope with!

17 thoughts on “The Best Pancakes in the USA: Updated Fall 2020

  1. I love this post, I love pancakes. We were just in Nashville visiting my brother, I am going to tell him about the Pancake Pantry and next time I visit it is on my list.



      1. We are witing for them to reopen. Won’t be this spring, 2020! By the way, they have more than that short menu. the pancakes can be ordered with blueberries and other things. They have the greatest Apple Fritters and serve the best tasting homemade pickles you can imagine, which helps you eat more maple syrup! LOL


      2. I had looked at their website a few days back and it indicated they would be open, but just looked again and saw the report that they won’t open. I wonder what is going on, and fear that perhaps they will simply close. I would kill to know the recipe for their pancakes. They were simply phenomenal. Very sad!


  2. Goulds is terrific and you should also try Davenport’s Sugar House Restaurant in Shelburne Massachusetts if you are ever back that way! Both awesome and only open seasonally.


  3. As Alison mentioned above, Gould’s IS excellent, but so is Davenport’s Maple Restaurant, also right here in town. You can’t go wrong at either stop on your quest for the perfect pancake! Both the Gould’s and Davenport’s are multi generational farmers, and are well known in our small town. They both offer a friendly atmosphere, and you can always hear the locals bantering back and forth in either place. I would not choose one over the other….they both are outstanding and have much to offer! While Gould’s is located with easy access right on the historic Mohawk Trail, Davenport’s is a short side trip from the Trail and sits near the base of Massammet Mountain. Well worth the few extra minutes to get there, especially if you’re going to compare incredible pancake houses! Bonus, both Davenport’s and Gould’s make their own maple syrup right on sight! And you can watch Norm (Davenport) making it in his “office” downstairs from the restaurant!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s so funny when I read your post title, my immediate thought was, “Pancake Pantry is my favorite!” Of course, I don’t try pancakes everywhere. And I haven’t been to the location in Nashville. I’ve always been to the one in Gatlinburg, Tn! Check it out next time you’re within 100 miles! 😉😋


  5. Will do! … and just an FYI, after looking at both websites of Pancake Pantry, I was mistakenly thinking these were sister restaurants, but they’re not!! So, be sure to try this “new adventure” and see what you think! Get there early because there’s always a line as well…and afterwards, go next door to the Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen and then take a stroll through the little village. Such character and nostalgia…one of the best parts of Gatlinburg, aside from the beautiful Smokies!😉


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.