Here I am back on the West Coast for the summer, and my Manhattan-yearning is slowly-but-surely disintegrating as I peruse the fabulous Pacific Northwest food scene. Last weekend, I did a little road trip down to Portland to visit old friends. Whereas my childhood Portland trips used to consist of a lot of “Ratatouille”-watching and Pizzicato-eating, after hearing of the increasing hype around Portland as an extraordinary food city, I figured I owed it to Portland and my peace of mind to explore some of its infinite culinary opportunities. And indeed, what a wonderful decision that was!
My friend Hallie is an exquisite photographer and foodie, and she assured me that a delightful and reasonable brunch awaited us at Slappy Cakes. She also warned me, however, that dreadful brunch lines circa Portlandia awaited us as well. The minute she explained to me the concept of Slappy Cakes, I thought, “I would wait a thousand years in line to customize and make my own pancakes at a restaurant.” I was also tired and hungry so the irony of that statement took a while to hit me. But real time, can we discuss this DIY in-restaurant fetish? I’ll be the first to admit that the Melting Pot is like a vacation home to me; something about going to a restaurant and cooking your own food is intoxicating and alluring. One might ask why we don’t just cook at home instead. The word “lazy” floats around my head, but that’s really all I’ve got. Let’s not read too much into it, because it is truly a lovely phenomenon. Anyways, onto the breakfast of champions.
The pancake customization is seriously something to write home about (or at least write in your blog about). This is not Denny’s, and Slappy Cakes is wasting no time with shenanigans. Pick your batter, pick your fixins, and pick your toppings. Batter starts at $6 for a portion that will easily feed two hungry mouths. With tempting contenders like sweet potato and peanut butter, this is not an easy decision (also note there are vegan and gluten-free options!). In the end, I had no choice but to peanut butter-ify my pancakes. Having jumped into the sweet and salty abyss of peanut butter-dom, we chose our toppings accordingly. We complemented the saltiness of the peanut butter with the smooth sweetness of butterscotch chips ($1), and the subtle crispiness of toasted coconut ($1.5). This was my vacation (judge-free zone), so it was also topped off with fresh vanilla whipped cream ($1). Free toppings at the table include house-made syrups—one was an adventurous rhubarb vinegar—and whipped local butter. Needless to say these pancakes were like biting into the essence of friendship. And the combinations are endless; while hungrily waiting in line and looking at the menu for TWO HOURS (that Portlandia episode was no joke, friends), I wondered if any hungry mathematicians have completed that calculation. Potential prize for whoever completes that formula.
Hallie and I also split Huevos Rancheros ($9.5), which were some of the best I have ever had—though the pancakes still take the [pan]cake for reigning meal champion. We were comatose when we left, and there was even still some batter left over, I am ashamed to admit. Each dish was $9.50, so between us, we enjoyed a massive and unbelievably yummy brunch for under ten dollars. And this is still Portland, so the menu is created with an emphasis on local and seasonal produce. But aside from the unreal grub, a big reason to go to Slappy Jack’s is the ambiance. Griddling exotic pancakes at your table makes you feel like Paula Dean for an incredibly fun atmosphere, an adorable only-in-Portland sense of brunch community (brunchunity?), and the illusion that you might be a good cook, even if you are not. And if none of that tickles your fancy, then it’s just a stupendously-valued under-$10 brunch option. It is a win-win situation.