Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Mapleberry Pancake House, Carol Stream

Mapleberry Pancake House
1276 Kuhn Road
Carol Stream, IL 60188

August 26, 2008


I often idealize the common features of so many American pancake houses -- the dim lighting, brass fixtures, and faded upholstery of booths and chairs, worn out from decades of diners dragging their behinds across them every day -- as being a common and comforting motif that's as natural as the forces of nature. That said, sometimes you want a change of pace, something a little newer, a little brighter, a little bit less like your favorite old sweatshirt, so to speak.

If this feels familiar and you're in the western suburbs, the Mapleberry Pancake House might be just what you're looking for. It's just two years old but deserves a niche of its own in the busy, Pancake-House-Royal-Rumble that is Dupage County.

With a name like Mapleberry, I figured I had to get some kind of fruit pancake during my visit. I ordered the blueberry pancake with whipped cream, very satisfying but not oppressively filling, either. They're not breaking any new ground here but they definitely deliver the goods. The coffee I had was pretty good, too. Like IHOP, you get your own pot delivered to the table. No more waiting for refills, which was probably a blessing since our area's waitress seemed to disappear from the room completely during the last 10 minutes of our stay. But we had no pressing needs so I can't really complain.


Ayinsan here. I ordered the cinnamon swirl french toast with scrambled eggs and sausage. The french toast was pretty good...not as good as Mother's, but then, I have yet to see anyone top Mother's in the cinnamon french toast department. They were generous with the eggs, which were fluffy and quite tasty. The sausage was a bit bland, but passable.


Overall, no complaints, really. The ambiance was nice, the bathrooms were clean, the place was quiet and peaceful and we were served very quickly. I don't even have any sardonic comments to make. Well, one small thing. When I asked for water, we were given a pitcher but no water glasses so I had to drink ice water out of my coffee cup. I guess there's nothing wrong with that, but it felt a bit strange. I could have taken one of the water glasses from the empty table to our immediate right, I suppose. Oh well.

We went on a Tuesday. Judging by other reviews of this restaurant, it tends to become packed on the weekends and service suffers, but I can't verify that personally.


Sunday, August 03, 2008

Harner's Bakery and Restaurant, Aurora

Harner's Bakery and Restaurant
10 W. State Street
North Aurora, IL 60542

August 1, 2008


Earlier this year, The Kane County Chronicle polled its readers to find the best breakfast restaurants in the area. The results are no longer posted on the paper's website, but we have them saved right here. They're at the bottom of the page after a nice profile on the Blueberry Hill restaurant in Aurora.

Deservedly, Mother's took the top spot for best breakfast, beating out multi-location votes for Colonial, Egg Harbour, and some place in Oswego called Southern Belle's. The award for best pancakes also went to Mother's, who topped Colonial, IHOP, and Nikarry's. It's affirming to our sense of taste that our fondness for Mother's is shared by so many, and not just rooted in the convenient fact that it's just a few minutes' walk from here.

Also on the list for best breakfast and best pancakes was a restaurant we'd never heard of before. Harner's in North Aurora (not Aurora, as its residents probably love to remind everyone) is nestled next to the Fox River, pretty well cut off from us by road construction on I-88 and Oak Street, but it was still worth the detour to check out.


You'll be tempted by the treats in the bakery as you walk through the door, and you'll probably make plans to pick some up after you finish eating. We would have done this ourselves if we didn't have errands to run, and if it wasn't one of the hottest days of the year. Leaving a box of cinnamon rolls or cupcakes in the car on a 90 degree day just wouldn't have been the best idea. Still, we browsed in the bakery for a while before being seated. Harner's has two distinct dining rooms, the first having a bar to sit at and some ceiling fans, the second having an added-on feel of a room addition but with a nice view of the Fox River and the Fox River Trail. We were seated in this second room, which was adorned with a brick fireplace and decorated with taxidermy. Can you find the jackalope?


You'll find a limited selection of pancakes on their breakfast menu, but the prices are reasonable. I went with the standard order of three pancakes and came away satisfied but unamazed. Pretty good, but the fourth-best pancakes in all of Kane County? I just don't know. I imagine that most of Harner's loyal customers keep coming back for the atmosphere and the camaraderie, or at least that's the impression I got from the photo collages that line the walls next to the doors to the (spacious) restrooms.


Ayinsan here. Harner's is not just a breakfast place. It's a bakery, too. You walk in and are greeted with a huge glass display case filled with cookies, donuts, cakes and cinnamon rolls. Some of the cookies have cute animals faces, which I imagine would be fun to bite in half. There was a plate of free samples atop the display case. I tried one--some sort of shortbread nut cookie, I think. Pretty good. I wish I lived close to a place like this, so I could just walk in every morning and buy a nice, hot cinnamon roll. Of course, it's a good bet that I wouldn't be able to restrain myself. I wouldn't stop at one cinnamon roll. I'd stuff my face with frosting-laden confections until I lay helpless, bloated and groaning on the floor.

We were seated in a room with wood-paneled walls and lots of windows, providing a nice view of the surrounding scenery. Harner's is tucked next to a little wooded area near the river, so you actually see trees and water through the windows, rather than looking out at a gas station parking lot or a convenience store.


The waitress brought us a bread basket almost as soon as we sat down. Along with the standard rolls, there were some little pieces of nut-bread, very dense and sweet, almost like cake. We didn't have to wait long for our food. Really, the whole experience would have been quite pleasant, except we were sitting next to a table filled with really loud people. I immediately felt a twinge of dread when I looked at the table next to ours and saw a baby in a high-chair, but really, the baby wasn't too bad. Aside from one or two shrieks, it mostly stayed quiet. The woman sitting across from it, however, had a terribly annoying, high-pitched, nasally laugh, like a duck choking on a kazoo. And she laughed a lot. And of course the adults at the table kept poking the baby and egging it on, trying to get some kind of oh-so-precious reaction out of it. The few times the baby did laugh or shriek was mainly because Choking-Duck-Laugh-Woman and her giggling friend wouldn't leave it alone.

Eventually, the group left, leaving us to enjoy our meal in peace. For a change of pace, I got the biscuits and gravy with scrambled eggs. The menu gives you the option of ordering either a full or half order. I really could have gotten the half order, but my eyes are always bigger than my stomach. I couldn't finish them.


I tried some of Joe's pancakes. They were delicious, chewy, dense and sweet. If I come back here at some point (which I probably will) I'm definitely ordering the pancakes.