My interest in pancakes began when I was six years old. I tapped my front yard maple tree and boiled down my maple syrup in middle school. In college, I held pancake breakfasts for hungover partiers. I tap our backyard maple tree every February now and lend my century-old Vermont spiles to others for the same sweet outcomes.
When I became a public official, pancakes took off the rough edges from the previous night’s council meeting — Morning Star’s (711 Washington Ave in Grand Haven), Sporty’s (6 S. Beechtree St also in Grand Haven) and Idle Hour’s (213 W Savidge St in Spring Lake) hot coffee were best at clearing my residual head fog.
Along the way to find the Grand Haven area’s best pancakes, friends and family blurted out titles for me to consider: “Best Flapjacks in the Tri-Cities” and “Grand Haven’s Hottest Cakes.”
So, which Tri-Cities eatery offers the best pancakes? Read on.
I ordered the eatery’s heartiest pancake mainstay and ranked each on five criteria: service, presentation, décor, taste, and size.
I granted up to five points for each factor and totaled the scores.
Lastly, I recorded the prices and came up with an overall ranking of Gold, Silver, or Bronze.
Here’s what I found:
Want size? Go to Stanz Cafe (1118 Washington Ave in Grand Haven), Rainy Days Cafe (121 N Beechtree St also in Grand Haven), or Village Baker (617 E Savidge St in Spring Lake).
Are you a fan of buttermilk pancakes? Go to Pine Street Cafe (401 Pine St in Ferrysburg), Stanz Cafe, or Village Baker.
Do you want the best syrup? Both Morning Star Cafe and Village Baker offer Michigan-made maple syrup. If you want warm syrup, Russ’ (1313 S Beacon Blvd in Grand Haven) serves it so.
Want cheap? You cannot beat Russ’ prices.
Only two restaurants met my Gold standards and only two qualified for Silver, yet three achieved Bronze status. Village Baker and Morning Star Cafe are in the lead as the Tri-Cities flapjack champions with Rainy Days Cafe and Russ’ not far behind and gaining.
At Village Baker, the three griddle cakes were satisfying and presented with crispy, brown edges. I marveled at their flavor and size. The enchantment was complete when I asked about the syrup; server Keyson showed me the bottle: “Sugar Bin Maple Syrup,” produced in nearby Coopersville. I was smitten. Real maple syrup at no extra charge.
Morning Star Cafe’s staff exudes enormous energy and never fails to serve up tantalizing new recipes with (at the time of ordering) four choices of pancakes. Looking around, the décor makes you feel as if you are in an exotic locale. Blue corn pancakes are their specialty. I ordered their ‘Plain and Simple’ to be more comparable with the others, yet there was nothing ‘simple’ about them. They were hearty, complex, and scrumptious. With honey-cinnamon butter melting on top, these three hotcakes made my day. I skipped lunch.
Your first taste at Rainy Days Cafe makes you wonder if they placed melted butter on the plate before the pancakes? Plus, what is that extra texture? I determined it was a pinch of corn meal. Rainy Days also offered the second-most choices (seven varieties total; only Pine Street Cafe had more with ten). I picked Rainy Days’ cranberry walnut and would do so again.
Could Russ live up to my tastes? Having been in the business since 1932, they proved to be older and wiser than me. When the cheerful server plunked down a mug of syrup, kept warm in a perpetual hot water bath, I knew I had underestimated their capabilities. Plus, bacon or sausage comes at no extra charge, so the eventual tab was easy to swallow.
Special mention goes to Pine Street Cafe. They are in a class of their own since their traditional flapjack is a thin, crepe-like, Swedish pancake that is incomparable to any other offerings.
Gold: Village Baker Morning Star Cafe
Silver: Rainy Days Cafe Russ’
Bronze: Stanz Cafe Two Yolks Idle Hour (Spring Lake)