Sunday, January 20, 2008

Clarke's Pancake House, Chicago


Clarke's Pancake House
2441 N. Lincoln Ave.
Chicago, IL 60614

January 16, 2007

Despite the fact that it was advertised as "Clarke's Pancake House" online, the sign said "Clarke's Bar and Grill" on the front of the restaurant, leading us to wonder if we'd made a terrible mistake. I don't typically think of a "bar and grille" as a place where you can get breakfast entrees. Luckily, Clarke's does have an all-day breakfast menu. Mostly pancakes and waffles, with some egg dishes. I was disappointed by the lack of breakfast combos--if you want pancakes and eggs, you pretty much have to order them as two separate items. But the blueberry pancakes I got were delicious, with plenty of compote on the side. Mmm, compote!


The decor was rather aggressively fun and cute--little clouds painted on the blue ceiling, faux 1940's posters with wacky sayings on the walls, et cetera. Even the menus were covered with old black and white photos of people with humorous cartoon thought bubbles over their heads. I'm not saying that's bad. Maybe "fun and cute" is your thing. I'm just saying they came on a bit strong. It's still not nearly as bad as, say, Applebee's or TGI Friday's, where the "fun" is rammed down your throat with a hot poker, and Clarke's felt more authentic, anyway, like the decorating choices were made by a person and not a circle of men in business suits with dark, shadowy faces and reflective glasses, sitting around a table and saying things like, "We must focus our core competencies and formulate a new paradigm to increase the bottom line" in their deep, monotone voices.

Clarke'sInside2 Clarke'sInside1

Joe here. Our first visit to Clarke's, and for a few minutes as we drove in a circle down Lincoln, Sheffield, and Fullerton, it looked like our trip might have been in vain. There was a Clarke's at the very address we were seeking... but Clarke's Bar and Grille? Had they been muscled out of the breakfast business by the Chicago pancake mafia, or had Lincoln Park gentrified ordinary restaurants out of existence in favor of yet more bars? Fortunately, Lincoln Park denizens still need both; Clarke's Pancake House sits next door, inconspicuous from outdoors but every bit the classic, archetypal breakfast diner inside.

Their menu offers specials for every meal, but there's a good emphasis on pancakes and waffles. I chose the multi-grain waffles, which came with a side of fruit and yogurt. I wasn't really sure if I was supposed to put the yogurt on the waffles or eat it by itself. I ended up dipping my most of my waffles into it. However you choose to eat them, they're really good. Everyone needs a healthy break from the whipped cream orgies that most pancake and waffles dishes have become in this young century.


We passed on coffee and juice, sticking to water while trying to save a few dollars for the rest of the day out. I proceeded to spill said water all over the floor while haphazardly sliding my glass across the table. I should have been more careful, and I apologize to the busboy who was stuck with the job of mopping up my mess. In my defense, I hadn't noticed or expected such a dramatic drop in height from one table to the next. But that was my mistake.

Another mistake? Thinking I could pull up to this parking meter two doors down from Clarke's (while giving the car behind me enough room to safely pull out) without getting a ticket. I'd never knowingly park in a crosswalk, but that's because I've been brought up understanding that crosswalks are designated by markings like these, and have to be more than just unmarked, corresponding dips in the curb (at an intersection without any stop signs to aid pedestrians, no less). Would a dictionary definition have given me a chance to fight this in court? Would taking a day off work and negotiating the one-hour commute each way to Chicago to fight it have been worth it? Did I have a chance? Probably not.


1 comment:

Katherine said...

Hi, today I wrote in my blog that you guys are "my new heroes," and I wasn't being totally sarcastic. I'm so happy to find this! From my perspective as someone who lives in the middle of Chicago and has never driven a car here, not even once, the places you pick seem far-flung and obscure (not that I'm complaining) and it's funny that you're just now getting to Clarke's. That place brings back ancient (okay, 1995) memories of eating there before or after shows at the long-gone Lounge Ax across the street. I get to the Clarke's on Belmont much more often than to this one anymore. Yeah, they do lay on the retro imagery a bit thick (I noticed some of the same photos in the popular 1999 cookbook, "How it All Vegan!," don't know who used them first).

Anyway, I could suggest dozens of places in Chicago, and I'm excited to see the places you find that are well off the beaten track for me...