By Frank Sabatini Jr. | Restaurant Review
At first glance, the menu at Sunshine Pancake House doesn’t seem out of the ordinary. There are egg dishes — scrambles, omelets, and Benedict-style. Pancakes also abound, with choices extending to chocolate chip, banana, pecan, silver-dollar and more. The worldlier fare points to assorted crepes and Belgian waffles.
With its homey décor and comfy booths, the pancake house is like a zillion others throughout the country that fall into the unpretentious mom-and-pop category.
But a few culinary frills exist. The omelets and certain pancakes are the size of adult brains. Both items are baked, which means the omelets (made with four eggs) can take up to 25 minutes to cook. The warning is stated on the menu.
In addition, the orange juice is fresh-squeezed, the butter is grade AA, and the maple syrup is made in-house. So is the ridiculously delicious “tropical syrup,” which is available upon request and comes with some of the specialty pancakes. It’s made with orange zest, lemon juice and simple syrup. Think orange marmalade without the bitterness and in warm, liquid form.
On my first visit, a quiet weekday morning, an omelet stuffed with roasted green chilies and pepper Jack cheese took 40 minutes to materialize. But that was due mainly to a short staff; the hostess doubled as the only waitress, and the line cook periodically left the kitchen to assist her.
Things ran considerably smoother the following day when I came knocking for the restaurant’s popular baked pancake studded with freshly sliced pears and ground cinnamon. More on that in a moment.
Along with my companion’s green chili omelet was a plate of house-made corned beef hash that I ordered with two eggs over medium.
The omelet appeared dry and craggy on the outside, but gave way to a steamy, fluffy center filled with the goodness of the green chilies and pepper cheese. You’ll need the appetite of a competitive eater to finish it with ease.
My corned beef hash sported the finely ground consistency of the kind you get in a can — just as I prefer. Better yet, this was made from scratch and the ratio of meat was greater than that of the diced potatoes. Also, the recipe wasn’t afflicted by salt like so many of them are at other eateries.
Both dishes came with a trio of regular pancakes that could have withstood a little baking powder in the batter. They weren’t the fluffiest hotcakes in town. But with the dousing of succulent tropical syrup I gave them, the plate was left empty.
The next morning I encountered the restaurant’s big creature of a pancake, which came bursting with hot pears secreting their juices into crevices filled with cinnamon, sugar and a little melted butter.
As I kept my eyes from rolling back into their sockets while digging in, I recalled experiencing the same rapture when eating the baked apple pancake at The Original Pancake House in San Diego some years ago. This was remarkably similar and surprisingly not too cloying. Coincidentally, my server informed me that the owner previously worked there.
My only complaint about Sunshine’s baked pancake was that it had a slightly doughy interior, which became mushier as I went along. Next time I’ll request it well-done, provided I can resist trying some of the other dishes or taking a repeat plunge into the respectable corned beef hash.
— Frank Sabatini Jr. is the author of “Secret San Diego” (ECW Press), and began his local writing career as a staffer for the former San Diego Tribune. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.