It’s not every neighborhood diner that gets praise from the likes of the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, or Southern Living Magazine – but not every neighborhood is fortunate enough to have a diner like The Pancake Shop. Located in the heart of historic downtown Hot Springs, The Pancake Shop has been serving up plate-sized pancakes with all the fixin’s since 1940, and according to owner Keeley DeSalvo the only thing that’s changed “is the price.” Even that hasn’t changed all that much, though, because The Pancake Shop is one of the tastiest values around, not just in Hot Springs but in Arkansas as a whole. I hadn’t eaten there in several years and was happy to reacquaint myself with their unique food and atmosphere.
So how about the pancakes? My best advice is to come hungry or don’t come at all. The cakes are light and fluffy – and the size of a dinner plate. Being a bit of a purist, I ordered a plain pancake, but Jess was a bit more adventurous and went with banana. Both pancakes were excellent, full of rich, sweet flavor and served up with that rarest of all diner condiments: a generous dollop of real sweet cream butter and warm syrup. Too many places these days ruin perfectly good pancakes by giving you a little cup of margarine to put on them, and if there’s one thing I believe it’s that margarine isn’t really food and should be avoided. The cakes soaked up the syrup without losing their firm (but tender) texture – these were certainly pancakes good enough to name a restaurant after. We were at the table with several other people and there was a long moment of silence after the pancakes were served: everybody was focused on their plate.
The Pancake Shop serves eggs pretty much any way you’d like to have them, and the omelet that one of our breakfast companions ordered came out looking perfectly golden brown and tasty. I picked an egg dish on the menu that I haven’t seen many places, scrambled eggs with onions. What I got was a plate of fluffy scrambled eggs mixed with a generous portion of sweet carmelized onions. The mix of the rich, savory eggs with the earthy sweetness of the onions was a great combination, and it’s a unique dish that helps set the Pancake shop apart from other breakfast places. Pair this dish with some of the crispest bacon I’ve ever had – or the gigantic sausage patties that one of our breakfast companions got – and you’ve got a great start to any day you can imagine.
Jess and I both grew up in the Hot Springs area, and we still go back several times a year to visit friends and family, go to Oaklawn, or just wander around downtown and stop into places that hold good memories and feelings for us. The Pancake Shop is one of those places, and it’s an excellent place to start your exploration into one of Arkansas’ most historic cities. The Pancake Shop is located at 216 Central Avenue, and they are open seven days a week from 6:00am-12:45pm. Enjoy!
Update: Be sure to take a look at our review of The Pancake Shop’s sister store The Savory Pantry!