Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Lemont Street Cafe, Darien

Lemont Street Cafe
7511 Lemont Rd., Suite 200
Darien, IL

September 7, 2006


The Lemont Street Cafe is not actually located in Lemont, but a ten minute drive north into Darien. It is, indeed, located on Lemont Street. It is also a cafe, a cafe that closes every day at 2:00. Restaurants with such early hours have a certain obligation to deliver the goods, so to speak, when it comes to certain menu items. We're talking the breakfast menu here, people. Breakfast. Hot breakfast. Fortunately, LSC is already way ahead of us here. What else would you expect from a restaurant that puts its location in its name? They don't have time to take phone calls asking "where are you located?" They're too busy firing up the griddles and brewing the coffee.

I'll get the criticisms out of the way first. Maybe they've got plenty of people firing up the griddles and brewing the coffee, but they could use more servers. I've been to LSC at least a half dozen times, maybe more, but each time there only seems to be one or two servers on hand to wait on the entire restaurant. The girls that wait on us everytime seem so overworked that it's a wonder they stick around month after month.


LSC just finished up their summer remodeling job and the difference shows. Everything is clean and spotless, the abundant windows let plenty of natural light inside. Some people like eating in the dark. I enjoy a clean, well lighted place for a change. The minimal approach to decor is a nice break from too many other restaurants that try to load up on kitchy junk everywhere.

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I usually get breakfast at LSC. The selection of sandwiches and burgers is pretty decent, but the side of fries is sometimes insultingly small. My blueberry waffle was every bit as good as it looks. Ayinsan just ordered a plain waffle, but it came with a side of scrambled eggs and sausage that was also good. As usual, I probably finished whatever she didn't eat of that with some Tabasco sauce on top.

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If you ever stop by Lemont Street Cafe (and you should, yes, it's recommended!) there's a good bookstore just a few minute's walk down to the other end of the shopping center called The Frugal Muse that offers a good selection of used books, music, and videos. You'll always find something unexpected there.

Ayinsan here. Lemont Street Cafe is saturated with memories for me, since my mom and I used to come here almost every Saturday when I was younger. The remodeling looks nice, but I have to say I miss the old look, especially the cheesy Christmas lights strung up along the walls, regardless of the season. But I'll get used to it. The new cranberry-and-cream color scheme is kind of nice, and the pancakes are still fluffy and delicious. It is a TAD expensive, which is my one criticism. There's really no reason for a basic pancake-egg-and-sausage meal to cost eight bucks (or close to it, I can't remember the exact price). I mean, pancakes are pancakes. The ingredients are pretty similar regardless of where you're getting them. But hey, sometimes you don't feel like eating at Denny's. So if you don't mind forking over a few extra dollars for the ambiance, it's worth checking out.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Nikarry's Restaurant, Aurora

Nikarry's Restaurant
1053 N. Lake St.
Aurora, IL

September 5, 2006

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Going out for breakfast and expecting that you're actually going to remember the details of the experience more than two weeks later is pretty unrealistic. But that's exactly what I did after going to Nikarry's, so unfortunately I don't have quite as much to say about the place as I'd hoped. For a weekday, it was much busier than I'd expected, and pretty noisy too. If you're looking for a quiet, friendly atmosphere, maybe this isn't the place for you. If you like that greasy diner feel when you eat out, and just want good food served up fast and on the cheap, then it's worth checking out.


Inside you'll find lots of brass fixtures, venetian blinds, and plastic plants. The booths on the north end of the building provide a breathtaking view of the cemetery next door, too. The service was pretty good; even though it was busy we were seated right away, the coffee refills were plentiful, and upon seeing that we only had about ten butter packets left at our table, our waitress exclaimed "Uh oh, you're almost out of butter!" and ran to get us a dozen more.

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There were plenty of fruit pancakes and crepes to choose from, but I played it safe and got the plate of a dozen dollar pancakes. Not silver dollar pancakes, just "dollar pancakes." And they were only about a quarter each, if you do the math. According to the menu, you can order as many as 18 on a plate but 12 is more than enough. Ayinsan's eggs were okay. It's hard to screw these things up, really.

I'd head back to Nikarry's again, but it's in the heart of the Aurora pancake district and I still don't know how it stacks up next to its neighbors/bitter rivals down the street. Only time will tell.

Ayinsan here. I don't have too many comments to add about Nikarry's. Joe pretty much summed it up: It's a decent restaurant, but kind of forgettable. But then, maybe that's what you want sometimes. Maybe you don't want a restaurant that tries to impress you with its clever, cutesy decor or gimmicky entree-names (I'm looking at you, IHOP. I mean, come on. 'Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity?' Just typing it out makes me feel vaguely ashamed.) Maybe sometimes, you don't want nine kinds of syrup, or a wide array of strange and exotic breakfast foods that confuse your tired, overburdened mind and make you want to run away. You just want some pancakes, damn it. Nikarry's has pancakes, without any of the frills. It won't blow your mind, but it's still pretty good.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Mother's Pancake House & Restaurant, Aurora

Mother's Pancake House & Restaurant
2290 West Galena Blvd
Aurora, IL

August 29, 2006


We figured we'd start with Mother's, since it's only a 15 minute walk from my apartment. Since I just moved to the area I have no idea how long it's been open, but the makeshift vinyl sign on the east side of the building and the lack of a yellow pages listing suggests that they haven't been in business for long. But I really have no idea. The inside could pass for new; everything seems new and clean, but there were more than enough retirees reading newspapers and sipping their midday coffees to give it that old school, pancake house charm. You'd think that the unexpected Italian disco music playing over the speakers in the lobby would undercut this vibe, but it doesn't. For fun, see how many roosters you can count in the decor.


Mother's has a pretty good breakfast menu. It's been three weeks since I last looked over their menu, but they've got just about every kind of pancake, waffle, or crepe you could ask for. I got the banana crepes, which were pretty good if you like lots of sour cream. Ayinsan had the strawberry french toast, which was more like little sandwiches of grilled bread and strawberries. You can't go wrong with any of their breakfast menu.

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After we finished and were getting ready to leave, our waitress offered to take our check up to the cashier for us, so we gave her our money and waited for her to bring us back our change. It wasn't much, and we were going to leave it as part of the tip anyway. But we never saw her again. Needless to say, her tip wasn't as big as it could have been. Until the end, she was great. Or at least she was better than the waiter we had on another day that once exclaimed, with genuine shock, "Wow, that was quick!" when he saw that we were finished eating. I know, I know. Don't sweat the small stuff. But we weren't asking for any special treatment, and it wasn't busy on either day.

Anyway, if you're out in west Aurora, Mother's is worth a visit. Just find the Cub Foods and you're there.

Ayinsan here. I feel it wouldn't be fair to end this review without commenting on the cinnamon roll french toast, which is easily the most decadent thing on the menu (or at least, the most decadent that I've tried so far). They serve it to you with a side of cinnamon butter and frosting, along with the usual butter and syrup. The result is a warm, gooey mass of sugary goodness so intense that the rush of pleasure from the first bite may overload your nervous system and cause a violent cinnamon-induced seizure. After that bite, I blacked out and woke up in the hospital. After several months of rehab (those Nazis force you to go cold turkey, they won't even let you sprinkle a little cinnamon on your coffee--that's all I wanted, just a little sprinkle!), I'm still struggling to regain the full use of my left arm and learn how to write in cursive again, but it was worth it.

I had eggs and sausage with it to make me feel like I was actually eating a meal and not a dessert, but really, the french toast alone is enough to fill you up. I recommend also the banana bread french toast and the split pea soup. Or better yet, dip the banana bread french toast in the split pea soup for a unique experience. No, better yet, don't, that would be gross.

Friday, September 15, 2006

The REAL first post

If it's not obvious already, this blog is going to be about pancakes. Pancakes in Illinois, to be precise.

Or maybe that wasn't obvious. Maybe you just stumbled across this blog by mistake and quickly assumed that "Illinois Pancakes" just another blog full of pictures of cats, boring rants about pop culture, or viral polls ("What 'Grey's Anatomy' character are you?"). I guess a name like "Illinois Pancakes" does sound irreverent and absurd (or as the kids would probably say, "that's so random!") enough to be about just about anything, but don't be fooled. We have a mission and we're sticking to it. And that mission is simple: hit up as many pancake restaurants in our nation's 21st state as we can.

Getting started with this isn't a lot different from making pancakes at home. It usually makes a big mess, and that first batch that come off the freshly-sprayed pan always seem to turn out dry and crispy. The first few entires here might not turn out as moist and fluffy as we'd like, but don't feed them to the dogs just yet! Hopefully we'll get the hang of it after a few tries.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

first post

"The price of greatness is responsibility."
--Sir Winston Churchill