Saturday, June 16, 2007

Golden Nugget Pancake House, Chicago

Golden Nugget Pancake House & Restaurant
3234 W. Irving Park Rd.
Chicago, IL 60618

June 12, 2007


Our original plan was to go to the Orange restaurant, but when we arrived, the door was locked. The restaurant supposedly closes at two, but we got there a few minutes before two and the place was already closed and deserted. Undaunted, we got back into the car and drove on in search of pancakes.

Luckily, the Golden Nugget pancake house was not far. We'd been to this particular restaurant a couple times in the past already, and my experiences there were always positive. Granted, I tend to get pretty basic stuff whenever I go there--usually a pancake-and-egg combo--so I don't know what their french toast or waffles are like. I do know that they don't have crepes or blintzes. I've come to expect those things from pancake restaurants, so I was a bit disappointed, but nonetheless, the food was quite satisfying.

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The eggs here are better than most of the eggs I've tasted from similar restaurants. They're light, fluffy and buoyant, and they look like actual scrambled eggs, whereas many restaurants will just give you a plate with a something flat and yellowish-brown that looks like it was scraped off the underside of a truck.

The pancakes are moist, fluffy and sweet. They have a very distinctive taste. I have difficulty capturing it in words or explaining how it's different from most other pancakes I've had, but they must put something unusual in their batter.


Joe here. I know it's ridiculous, but we've somehow done more than 20 entries now without visiting even a single pancake house within Chicago city limits. As the months have passed I've become more and more aware of this, realizing that it's probably undermining our cause, or that it possibly could if anyone took notice of it. It reminds me of the Don DeLillo novel White Noise, in which the main character, a college professor specializing in "Hitler studies," privately bemoans the fact that he cannot speak German and lives in fear that his secret will eventually be found out. It's a terrible book, but I always found that plot point particularly amusing.

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The last time that we visited the Golden Nugget was on July 16, 2005. I remember this so clearly because it was the afternoon of the first day of the Intonation festival held in Union Park that year. Traffic was light for a Saturday and we got into the city much quicker than we expected, so we had plenty of time to grab a late breakfast before seeking out the green line to head west to the park. It was a great afternoon of music, though come to think of it, we only saw three bands before leaving: Four Tet, The Go! Team, and Prefuse 73. We refilled our bottles of water and sat in the shade during Broken Social Scene, no sense in fighting the masses to stand within a hundred yards of that band. I'd wanted to stay late for Tortoise, but that would have meant sitting through DFA 1979, who took a ridiculous amount of time to even take the stage. By the time they started playing, we were already gone and watching from the el platform.

I'd already seen Tortoise before, four times, actually, so missing out on them was no big deal. The second time I saw them was with a friend at Metro. We met up with a few friends of his, a couple of art school dropouts who were renting a farmhouse out in Plano or God knows where, and who wouldn't stop talking about about all the amazing parties they'd been having and how wasted they'd gotten last week. This was my introduction to the modern indie music
dude: guys who read Pitchfork and have esoteric taste, but who act like complete douchebags at a Dave Matthews concert -- screaming at and high-fiving each other -- whenever they go out to a show. I'll never forget one kid in our group in particular. Halfway through the show during "Seneca," he elbowed his way to the front to the crowd. Holding his hands above his head for everyone to see, he started clapping out the rhythms of the song, several minutes before the actual handclap parts even came in. He turned around and smiled to us, obviously incredibly pleased with himself that he was so far ahead of everyone else in this regard, and later bragged about this after the show as we had a late-night break at the Golden Nugget. I didn't have pancakes that night, just some coffee, which said kid proceeded to spill all over me as he drunkenly struggled to open a packet of cream, tearing it open in a violent motion that carried over into my coffee cup. He apologized for this for at least the next ten minutes.


Our afternoon at the Golden Nugget this week was much more enjoyable. We seated ourselves as directed to, visited the restrooms, and waited to be served. Considering that we were two of the only diners in the restaurant at all, it took a few more minutes than we were expecting for the waitress to take our order. Perhaps it wasn't a long wait after all, but I was extremely hungry, so it certainly felt like it. Ayinsan ordered the "pancake sandwich," which turned out to be nothing like a sandwich at all. I just ordered a plain order of pancakes. "I hope you're hungry," our waitress said. "Oh, I think I can handle it," I replied. Or so I thought. All I had was just five buttermilk pancakes, and they weren't even very big. But they were very filling and I regretfully had to leave uneaten scraps of the last one on my plate.


There are several Golden Nugget locations throughout Chicago, all located on the north side of the city. We visited the easternmost location on Irving Park Road. I've been past several of the other restaurants, but never inside, so I can't compare this location to any of the others. For more information and some history, there's a Wikipedia entry on the chain.

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