Food versus Food: Flapjack Fight

There are few things as good as breakfast food.

I grew up in a family of eight. That's right. Six kids, all pretty close together in age.

I can't imagine what it must have been like to be my mom (a woman of almost-eternal patience and a prominent Queens accent when she finally does get pissed off) especially when we all hit grade school and she had to pry us out of bed in the morning. I know it was like for me.

"Five more minutes!" ZzzzZZzzzZZzzz...

But some days were different. Some days, she cooked a really awesome breakfast - bacon; french toast; cinnamon buns. Or she might have purchased a favorite, like croissants or honey buns.

If you didn't pop out of bed right away, chances were good you didn't get that awesome breakfast. Not because we didn't have enough to eat, but because with that many growing kids crammed around the table, well... food goes quick. I remember breakfast as a powerful motivator.

So maybe that's why I heart pancakes.

Enter... the pancake challenge AKA flipping flapjacks AKA Give Me Morning Noms.  Sadly, I wasn't awake enough to remember to write the exact total for each meal down.  But they were pretty comparable - about $12 each (including drinks, extra sides, etc).

Challenger #1: Pancakes, two eggs and bacon at Frank's Diner in Jessup.

Frank's Diner is located on Route 1, just south of Rte 175 (7395 Cedar Avenue, Jessup).  It's easy to fly right by it if you're not careful. Frank's offers budget-friendly, hearty diner-style food.

Bigger on the inside (geek points if you can name that reference in the comments), Frank's has a cool white and metal interior - sorry, it was a little too crowded for me to feel comfortable taking pictures. Covered cake stands display cakes of ginormous proportions, and there was a little jukebox at our table.  Despite the retro touches, I noticed a sign that advertises free WiFi.
I am at a loss to explain said hostility.
An intervention may be needed

Then I noticed another sign (several, actually, plus another mention in the menu) that they limit coffee to one free refill. I typically require more than two cups of coffee in the morning, and the idea of paying four dollars for diner coffee, well... it sparked some (totally internal) hostility.  

Once I got over that, though, I dug into the pancakes.

Pancakes at Frank's Diner.

The pancakes came out slightly crispy and blazing hot. I could tell they had spent some time sunning under a heat lamp (the plate was also blazing hot), but it didn't negatively affect the food.  The crispiness kept the pancakes from getting too mushy when I doused them with syrup. Starving after a long run, I had to slow down to keep from plowing through them.  

The pancakes were sweet and rich thanks to a generous swath of butter. Over time the bottom cake sopped up the syrup and transformed into something equally awesome, but different: soft, mapley, and a little doughy. (Seriously. I've never thought so much about eating pancakes before.) 

The eggs I could have done without, they were flimsy and mostly tasteless, but the bacon was good. There was a nice mix of crunch and soft in each strip. 

A pretty good start to the day, really.  And I did get by on two cups of coffee.

Challenger#2: Pancakes and bacon at The Forest Diner in Ellicott City.

Interior, Forest Diner.
The Forest Diner (10031 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City) is also easy to miss, nestled in the same immediate area as the now-closed Forest Motel, a Soft Stuff, and a Double T Diner. The Forest Diner also has an expiration date: it is only slated to be open for another four years. (I discovered this after my visit.)

Inside, The Forest Diner has a close, cozy feel.  One half of the restaurant looks like a converted dining car; the other, an addition with dark walls, white-trimmed windows, and some neon lighting. The place feels old, and my booth had cracked vinyl and an uneven base, but it was a good old: homey and comfortable. 

The menu was smaller than Frank's, but I had no trouble finding what I needed.  And coffee.  I had no problem getting as much coffee as I wanted.
Hellooooo griddle cakes.

The Forest Diner didn't offer a combo, but they did offer pancakes, which is what I really wanted. While I was waiting for my company, I also sampled their homemade Old Bay chips. Yes, chips go with pancakes.

Don't judge.

My pancakes - 3 in all - were literally the size of a dinner plate and steaming hot - fresh off the griddle hot. They were huge.  They lacked the crunch I noticed at Frank's, but they were also dense and sweet, and had a really pleasant flavor.  Possibly buttermilk.  And the pancakes were thick!  I doused them in syrup at least twice before I called it quits.

Pancakes and Bacon from The Forest Diner.
Splenda Packet included for scaling. I don't think it does the portion size justice, though.

Despite all the syrup, the pancakes didn't turn to mush or dissolve.  They benefited from a little butter but certainly didn't need it.  I had entered the place hungry, but could only finish half of my breakfast. No worries, it made a great lunch the next day.

The bacon was pretty awesome too, entirely crunchy.  I suspect a deep fryer was involved, of which I heartily approve.

Needless to say, I left more than fueled for my afternoon nap to start my day.

The Decision: This battle was really tough, because both breakfasts were quite good. I would go back to both places.  Ok, who am I kidding, I will go back to both places.  But when I compare the two meals, there is one that I found to be just a little bit better... so The Forest Hill diner is the winner!

Where do you go to get your breakfast buzz?  Do you have a favorite diner spot? (hocoblogs@@@)  Tell me in the comments below!


  1. I love pancakes too. But I love them as part of a big breakfast - usually the kind they call "Lumber Jack" or "Farmer's Big Breakfast" - pancakes, bacon, gets, toast,OJ, coffee, maybe some sausage gravey over muffins... I can never finish it all, but I enjoy eating some of all of it.

  2. Food looks great! Since you like to take photos of the food you eat check out a web site called Foodspotting.com. Think you'll enjoy it. Great photos by the way.

  3. I have to say, I'm a big fan of the home fries you get at the Forest Diner with egg breakfasts. I agree about the eggs at Frank's, nothing exciting. We tend to go to the Forest Diner or the Trolley Stop in Ellicott City when we go out for breakfast. (the Trolley Stop has some breakfast specials on weekends, be sure to ask about it if your server doesn't tell you what it is)