Breaking My Neck for Breakfast

It is time for another confession: I love breakfast. I could make breakfast a constant meal. Of course I say that now, knowing that the Aries in me would kick in and I would tire of having it in an ongoing fashion all day long, everyday. But when weekends arrive, I can play nicely with my knife and fork over a plate of morning goodness. If you have been to any of the breakfast restaurants that I have visited, you would feel the same way, too. Recently, I went breakfast crazy in a fantastic way.

Last year I went to Marmalade at 1969 W. Montrose Avenue for my birthday breakfast. I did a repeat this year. Often you will hear a lot of people go on about certain cafes and restaurants that serve the best French toast ever. Having gone to Marmalade several times, their rants go in one ear and out the other because until you have had the Cuban French toast and couldn’t control your smile thereafter, you’ve only had toast soaked in milk and doused with syrup. I was overwhelmed with breakfast satisfaction while indulging the Cuban French toast again this year.

Cuban French Toast

Cuban French Toast

During the night of my birthday dinner where a great friend and I had our second visit of a French restaurant in Evanston, Illinois, we made plans to meet for breakfast the next morning. Where would we go? What time would we get there? How would we struggle with fighting sleep after four-course meals and flights of martinis and cocktails? Never fear! Food was involved. We opted for a German breakfast, one  well-balanced with pannenkoekens. Yep, we arrived at Pannenkoeken Cafe at 4757 N. Western Avenue in Lincoln Square. Nothing like perking up immediately after having a large apple, brie, and raisin pannenkoken and a chocolate banana pannenkoeken placed in front of you. To my breakfast savvy informants, crepes are no longer “the” pancake of choice for me. Gib mir pannenkoeken.

Apple Raisin Cinnamon Pannenkoeken

Apple, Brie, Raisin Cinnamon

Chocolate and Banana Pannenkoeken

Chocolate and Banana

The thing about living in one of the hottest neighbourhoods in America is the tendency to take everything about it for granted. Logan Square boasts boulevards, swanky boutiques, plenty of culture, hipsters who made single gear bicycles sexy, rising property taxes, and a plethora of restaurants. One restaurant that has been on the Logan Square landscape for several years is JAM, just off the roundabout at 3057 W. Logan Blvd. The time had come for me to see what the restaurant had for its offerings. A l’amuse bouche of a homemade fig newton, green apple juice, chicken and waffles, and coffee afterwards. Let me just say that a waffle prepared with coriander and rice flour in the recipe under pulled chicken drizzled with a fennel gastrique is NOT the same as a large Eggo waffle served with crispy fried chicken wings and “surp” — yes, I misspelled syrup intentionally.

Fruit Cookie

L’amuse: Fruit Cookie

Green Apple Juice

Green Apple Juice

Coffee and Cream

Coffee and Cream

Chicken and Waffles

Chicken and Waffles

At the rate I have been going, it is starting to look like I may wind up with a Top 10 list of breakfast eateries for 2014. Certainly after the visit to Pannenkoeken Cafe, I shall thrust myself into a search for more German restaurants that have pannenkoekens on their menus. And Logan Square has already proven to be a hub of growth. I may not have to go to Lincoln Park, Lincoln Square, Lakeview, Uptown, Bucktown, Wicker Park, and downtown for breakfast options. I will only need to walk a few blocks in any direction from my condo and find my feet under some table, tapping my toes while clinking my knife and fork on my plate of morning loving from the kitchen.

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Forget Crepes, All About Pannenkoeken


While perusing some photos of food on Foodspotting, I had come across a composition of a pancake that screamed for me to come and get it. I had made a note of the name of the restaurant where the photo was taken and had entered a reminder into my cell phone for a visit. Chicago winters make it impossible to extract yourself from your warm bed on Saturday mornings. And I have fleece sheets on my bed. For every Saturday in February my alarm went off, I hit the off button, and then promptly went back to bed. With a little bit of warming in the temperatures and going to bed early on a Friday evening, I finally got up and went to Pannenkoeken, the restaurant where the photo I saw on Foodspotting was captured. At 4757 N. Western Avenue in Chicago’s Lincoln Square, is one of the quaintest German cafes in the city. When I say quaint, it is very small, in the vein of cafes and eateries in Europe, where you indeed sit close to neighbouring patrons. It was just my style.

Eggs Scrambled Well with Mascarpone

Because I needed to wake up completely, not just merely functionally, I had a cup of coffee to start. The only sweetener I had in the coffee was whatever there was from the sweetness of the cream. I made a mental note that whatever roast they were using was not bad. Perusing the menu, I was quite happy to see that there was a retention of authenticity in the servings. Pannenkoeken evidently does not feel a need to accommodate breakfast cuisine not of the German kind. Yes, there were Belgian waffles on the menu, but Belgium is not far from the borders of Germany and I am sure Germany is not without having been influenced accordingly. There was French toast on the menu, yes. But there were options for pannenkoeken that really stood out most. Not an exhaustive menu, like you find at something as pedestrian as an Original Pancake House, but the flavourful options seemed daunting because after looking at the servings, temptation wants you to try everything. I was content with sampling at most three menu choices on this first visit.

French Toast with Mascarpone and Blueberry Compote

Switching into my vegetarian mode for breakfast, I started with a plate of eggs scrambled well with mascarpone cheese. I have such a great love for cream cheese in my scrambled eggs, but trying mascarpone cheese in my eggs really hit a resounding note with me. Now when I go to restaurants for breakfast or brunch, Italian restaurants for sure, I will request mascarpone cheese to be added to my scramble. Then there was the plate of French toast with mascarpone cheese and home-made blueberry compote. After eating the blueberry compote, the blueberries exploding with flavour that the tongue relished, I do not want any more of that syrupy brew that comes from the can. I could quickly devolve into a brat in a high chair throwing his plate against the wall if I get anything claiming to be home-made compote yet nothing more than fruit drowned in molasses. There was so much flavour in the compote at Pannenkoeken and the French toast not reminding me of cinnamon on an Eggo waffle. And then an apple ginger pannenkoeken arrived at the table. By the time I came up for air, and I mean every word of that, there had been a change of faces at several tables. Again, the apples were not from some can, apparent because they were not dripping with syrup. And the ginger in the pannenkoeken. You could taste the ginger in the pannenkoeken. The thin pancake looked as though it would be a feat to undertake, but I smiled as I worked my fork, knife, and teeth on it. I was satisfied thoroughly — and again, I mean every word of it.

Apple Ginger Pannenkoenen

One thing I should mention is that Pannenkoeken has a cash-only policy. It can become quite easy to find yourself delighting the taste buds without a care in the world and then extract a credit card from the wallet once the bill arrives. You will have to pay cash. That is a small inconvenience — and you cannot even call it that. After all that I had eaten, the bottomless cup of coffee while at the cafe, and the coffee that I bought to go, the tab was considerably lower than what I would have had to pay at any of the brand name big box restaurants. As I mentioned earlier, the cafe is very small and intimate, so I highly recommend that you arrive as soon as the doors open. I am not joking. Trust me. When you get there, you will understand. Hmmm. You may even find yourself saying, “Lecker,” and not even know where your impromptu use of German came from.

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