The weekend’s snowy deluge may have had Ottawa locals a-tweeting or a-instagramming about the cruel injustice of continued winter weather with spring having sprung. But, the water-heavy accumulation quickly melted, leaving nary a trace. It being Sunday, remnant grey weather after the early morning storm had me craving comfort. My first thought, pancakes!
Pancakes are powerful food. Mention them and just about anyone, born and raised in North America, will conjure up a romanticized image: butter-browned stacks of fluffy goodness, dripping in melted butter and amber maple syrup.
[To our Canadian readers, you’d be surprised how expensive maple syrup is overseas. Canadian maple syrup is considered a premium product.]
[tall fluffy pancakes, crisp, nice colour, griddled to order, uniform shape, beautiful molten banana inside]
Now, brunch being a lucrative service at most restaurants (high turn over and low cost ingredients), pancakes can be the bane of the barely-awake-having-worked-till-close-last-night cook’s existence. Think about it. You need to babysit pancakes when you make them at home. They’re high maintenance when there’s more on-the-go like eggs or sausage. If you haven’t a griddle, it’s difficult to get more than one out at a time, so you reach for a second pan. Try to make them uniform in shape and colour. Too much grease and they scorch. Too little and they stick. To keep a wheat-based batter tender, you have to be careful not to over stir. Else, you risk activating gluten and making your pancakes tough.
Such explains why large chain restaurants like Milestone’s at Rideau and Sussex don’t always get it right.
Undercooked, the manager replaced the plate, having the cooks assemble my new one with maple syrup on the side. He wanted to show me the kitchen could get proper pancakes onto the pass with a full-tilt dining room, including a boisterous fifteen-person group window-side.
Imagine, kicking out upwards of 1000 pancakes a day. How about griddling said pancakes from a food truck?
Suffice it to say, recent Carleton University graduates and now business partners Corey Sauve and Max Anisman of Flapjack’s Pancake Shack have taken pancak’ing down to a science. Moreover, as Sauve explains it, everything is customizable.
Choose a signature stack or get pancakes, your away.
Indeed, the idea behind customizable made-to-order pancakes is unique. How many brunch menus have you seen that let you not only choose your title-ingredient, but also combinations thereof?
The menu at Flapjack’s is a 3-step procedure or “panwiches,” which we’ll get into later.
First, choose a small (2 pancakes for $2.99), medium (3 pancakes for $3.99), or large (6 pancakes for $4.99) stack. Second, choose a “base” pancake batter either original buttermilk (my favourite), whole wheat, or gluten free oatmeal (“You Won’t Believe It’s Not Gluten”). French Toast with challah is also an option, but is tantamount to ordering chicken at a steakhouse. Third, choose a filling or topping.
[fluffy, no-compromises, gluten-free option]
Fillings ($.75/each) include fruit, “real” bacon crumble, crushed nuts (almonds, peanuts, and hazelnuts), cheese, chocolate chips, nutella, peanut butter chips, and crushed candy. Toppings include whipped cream, chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, honey and seasonal jam. There are more than 30 options!
Pancakes come with Quebec maple syrup on the side and optional cinnamon, sprinkles, and butter gratis.
Located in a courtyard in the frou frou Glebe neighbourhood, Flapjack’s is somewhat hidden away from the main drag that is Bank Street. It is nestled in an urban valley backstopped by condos and walled in by Mrs. Tiggy Winkles’ Lost Marbles (a toy store) and The French Baker (an boulangerie patisserie café). Private property, there is no requirement for an on-street permit like the 17 street carts and trucks licensed by the City of Ottawa last spring.
The entrance into what is intended to be a sugar-shack-inspired oasis is marked by wall-painted matryoshka dolls and a posterized axe-wielding lumberjack with a spatula tattooed to his bicep. Complete with faux-Canadiana, barn plank paneling, wood barrel waste containers, tree-stump deuces, and a wooden picnic table, the decor was surreal in February with a thick blanket of snow on the ground.
The tongue-in-cheek backwoods charm translates into panwiches. Proper sugar shack fare is an indulgent exercise in sugary maple and fatty pork excess. While there is a notable lack of pork (cretons, sausages, ham and the like) and beans, sandwich a breakfast of fried egg, bacon, and processed cheese in between two buttermilk pancakes ($4.99) and you’ve a hearty option.
One panwich was eventually named after our mayor. The “Jimberrr! Watson” includes double smoked bacon, gouda, and a fried egg in between two buttermilk pancakes ($5.99)
Another, “The Big Joe Montferrand” (NOTE: not “Mufferaw”), includes two eggs, two rashers of bacon, and two slices of processed cheese between three buttermilk pancakes ($7.99).
Following the path blazed by Ottawa’s Beavertails, Sauve and cook Sacha Foster fought snow storms and frostbite during Winterlude to serve stacks of pancakes and panwiches. In fact, they launched their operation December 6, 2013 and plan to open another at the corner of Somerset and Preston.
Leaving the Christmas lights up at the Glebe location, it will be interesting to see how Sauve and Anisman re-brand for the warmer-weather months. The Beavertails shack in the ByWard Market does brisk business year-round.
Already, I foresee a hit in the “Banana Log Splitter”: bananas, vanilla ice cream, and chocolate sauce between to buttermilk pancakes. During the winter, Sauve and Foster substituted whipped cream for customers.
Brunch out is a treat for most of us, especially after a work week of utilitarian breakfasts: cereal and milk; granola and yogurt; granola or cereal bar; fruit smoothie; and buttered toast. Everything, accompanied by a mug of coffee.
Go visit the Flapjack’s Pancake Shack.
They are open 7-days a week. Make it Sunday, any day!
Aside: Oh, and here’s the pancake recipe I’ve retired since visiting Flapjack’s.
What You’ll Need:
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups milk
- 2 cups flour
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 6 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 tbsp softened butter
- In a large metal bowl, whisk whisk together the eggs and milk.
- Add sugar, baking powder, salt, and butter to the dairy mixture. Blend.
- Sift in the flour and mix prodigiously. If the mixture is combined, but small “lumps” remain, they will cook out. Do NOT over-stir.
- Grease a non-stick flat bottom pan in high smoke point oil, butter, or mixture thereof.
- Ladle the pancake batter into the pan.
- Fry the pancake on each side until a toothpick stuck into the thickest part of comes out clean.
You know…for interest.
Flapjack’s Pancake Shack
809 Bank Street (behind Mrs. Tiggy Winkles)
Mondays-Fridays 9am – 5:30pm
Saturdays-Sundays 9:30am – 5:30pm