During the late 1990's, I reported to work as an outside plant technician to a work location in mid-town Sacramento. Normally, my duties ranged far and wide, north from Redding, all the way east to the Lake Tahoe basin, and many points in between. Although my boss was a good guy, it was OK not to see him every day, but every few days when I would report to the yard, he usually would want to go out to breakfast. During the course of the couple of years I was working for him, we enjoyed many breakfasts together, but since I didn't have a digital camera - who did in 1998? - and only a 28.8 bps dial-up Internet connection at home, I didn't take many photos of restaurants, and this web site wasn't even a glean in my eye. We passed by Pancake Circus many times, but for reason we never stopped by to sample their fine cuisine.
Photo: Pancake Circus offers ample parking, and lots of trees, which is a good thing to shade you from the scorching summertime heat, in midtown Sacramento, CA.
Fast forward to 2010, and the Sacramento Breakfast Club still hadn't had the chance to hold a meeting at Pancake Circus, although we'd talked about it many times, but seemed like all we were collecting were roundtuits. The situation changed on Friday, June 4, 2010 when it was Latasha's turn to choose the location of today's club meeting, as she chose Pancake Circus.
Pancake Circus is a throwback to the 1970's, and the interior, and exterior doesn't appear to have undergone an upgrade in years. The exterior stucco is painted to resemble a red and white circus tent, but over the years, the relentless Sacramento sun has faded the red to pink, and the once-vibrant white is now sort of a cream color. The name of the restaurant is in a yellow neon sign - not a common sight in 2010! In honor of the upcoming Father's Day, little pictures of tools and cutesy-poo slogans, such as (sic) "Dads Rule," or (sic) "Dads Shop" were painted on the windows facing Broadway. At one time, Pancake Circus was open for dinner, but those days are gone, and the restaurants hours are painted on the door, which read (sic) "HOURS 6:00 am pm DAILY." My favorite "slogan" that's painted on the door reads, verbatim, "No checks or bikes!" What do checks and bikes have in common? I wonder if a cashier's check would be ok? What variety of bikes aren't welcome, bicycles or Harleys? Is it just the bikes, or the folks that ride them? So many unanswered questions...
Photo: If you like clowns, this is the place to be, as even at the cash register, you'll see an endless array of clowns and framed pictures of clowns. Note the modern computerized inventory system, which is quite a contrast to the very dated decor.
Photo: Looking at the large breakfast counter, and the kitchen beyond. Notice the circus characters on the walls, and the clown that greets you, as you walk in.
Inside, it's pure funk, right out of early 1970's, complete with dark paneling, recessed flouresent ceiling lighting, naugahyde booths and a giant breakfast bar, complete with a Formica counter top. The owner must like clowns, as there are stuffed clowns, clowns hanging from the ceiling, endless framed photos of every variety of clowns, and cartoon cutouts of circus bears - hence the name of the restaurant. To be fair, Pancake Circus isn't locked in the 1970's, as I did notice that the place sports a up-to-date computer system, and they have a great web site, where their menu is posted.
Don't even think that we're being critical of Pancake Circus, as this is a unique, one-of-a-kind restaurant that specializes in breakfast, along with unique, funky decor, which adds up to the kind of restaurant that we like to hold our meetings in. We're not alone in our love for this place, as during our visit, the place was packed, as it's a place where the locals like to hang out and enjoy a quality breakfast.
Latasha and I were the first in our group to arrive, so we requested a table for 10, and were led to a large table in a semi-private section in the rear of the restaurant that seemed to be set aside for large groups. Our friendly waitress, Julie, took our orders for drinks, coffee for me, soft drink for Latasha, and a waiter set out glasses of ice water, which is always a nice touch. As we settled into the funky naugahyde booth, our touches sort of sank into the booth, leaving us to wonder how many touches have sat in the booth over the last who-knows-how-many years... Julie brought Latasha's soft drink and my coffee... Wow! If you love coffee, Pancake Circus is the place to go, as their coffee is GOOD! It's not fancy coffee, just plan ol' diner coffee, but it's not road tar, as it's just plain GOOD! Cream is served in a stainless steel creamer pot, so you don't have to peel off the cover of those little plastic container, while you break a fingernail in the process. Another nice thing is that your coffee cup never runs dry, and that's something that I really like.
As we were waiting for the other to arrive, Latasha and I checked out the menu - I'd already checked out their breakfast menu online and knew what I wanted - and talked about the transfer that Latasha had accepted to the East Coast. The world at work has certainly changed in the last few months, and sadly, we'll be losing Latasha, and several other members of our breakfast club, as they uproot, and move to the other side of the country.
Shortly after 8 in the morning, we were joined by Dan, Bev, Diana, Brad, and David, for a total of seven members, at today's meeting. Mark was supposed to follow David from work, but he never showed up; since he has a tendency to get lost, so after waiting a few minutes for him to arrive, we figured that he probably got lost, so we went ahead and placed our orders. Laughingly, we've considered pooling our resources and giving him a G.P.S. as a gift - but he'd still probably get lost.
Photo: Julie hands a plate of, what else? ... pancakes to Latasha, as she holds Bev's order of strawberry pancakes, covered with whipped cream.
Photo: I asked Julie to pose with my breakfast, and she was happy to oblige, especially after I told her that after I ran her photo through Paint Shop Pro that she'd look better than Marilyn Monroe! She got a laugh out of that remark!
Ordering breakfast from Pancake Circus's extensive breakfast menu is both easy and daunting. It's easy, because the menu offers countless choices, and it's daunting, because then you're faced with the age old breakfast question of "What shall I order, because there are so many choices, and everything sounds so good." Since I'd been surfing their web site for the last week or so, I'd sort of narrowed my selection down to two finalists: A breakfast called "Circus Big Top" or the "Biscuits and Gravy" breakfast. I couldn't remember the last time I'd enjoyed a hot stack of buttermilk pancakes, and a stack of pancakes seemed to pull on my heartstrings, but, as always, I craved potatoes. "Big Top" not only included a stack of two pancakes, but meat, eggs, and potatoes, so I decided to order it for breakfast. Another factor in today's selection that it seemed appropriate to me since the word "pancake" happens to be in the name of the restaurant, the place should be able to produce a decent rendition of a buttermilk pancake. Of course Brad ordered the "Biscuits and Gravy," as he can't eat breakfast unless it includes gravy. Heck, you could take a piece of cardboard, shape it like a chicken fried steak and cover it with gravy, and Brad would love it. True to form, David ordered corn beef hash, which is favorite breakfast entrée.
As we waited for our orders to arrive, the coffee kept coming, as the attentive staff never allowed our coffee cups to run dry. As I mentioned previously, all of agreed that Pancake Circus serves delicious coffee, so if you're a lover of coffee, you've come to the right place. I've Googled "Pancake Circus Sacramento" and read quite a few reviews about how lousy the service is, but we were treated to friendly and efficient service. After I explained our mission to our server, Julie, she really warmed up to the camera, especially when I told her that I'd run any image I took of her through Paint Shop Pro, and by the time I was finished, she'd come out better looking than Marilyn Monroe. She got a kick out of that!
Our breakfasts arrived in a timely manner, hot and delicious, and presented to us with a smile, courtesy of our friendly server, Julie. You get a lot of food for your money, and it took her three trips to bring it all to our table. Maybe four trips, if you count the trip she immediately made back to our table, after serving our breakfasts, with coffee pot in hands. I did the usual and requested a group photo, and she was happy to set down her coffee pot and snap a decent photo of our group. The quarters were a bit cramped, so Julie actually did a bit of directing, and asked a group of diners sitting at an adjacent table to duck a bit. Wow! Way to go!
Photo: My "Big Top" breakfast, of delicious buttermilk pancakes, perfectly cooked eggs, hash browns, and a whopping four sausage links. This was truly a delicious breakfast, and I left with a smile on my face, and lots of change in my wallet.
Don't believe the online reviews that say that the food at Pancake Circus is greasy or lousy, as we all agreed that our breakfasts were top-notch, and the coffee was delicious. My breakfast arrived on two plates, with a stack of two buttermilk pancakes, a small container of whipped butter on one plate, and my two eggs over easy, hash browns, and four sausage links on the other plate. The pancakes measured about eight inches in diameter, and fit nicely on the plate, and they were cooked perfectly - sweet, light and fluffy. I applied the whipped butter on them, and the butter immediately melted - the pancakes were hot - and then cut 'em into bite-size pieces, and then give them a liberal bath in maple syrup. The eggs were cooked perfectly - yokes not hard or broken, which is the benchmark of a good eggs-over-easy cook - the hashbrowns were golden on the outside, and just-right chewy on the inside, and the sausage was nice and brown on the outside, juicy on the inside, and the skins had just the right amount of "snap." Check out the photo, and you'll see that you get a lot of breakfast for just a tad over eight bucks.
Photo: Today's members of the Sacramento Breakfast Club, from left to right: Eric Rench, Bev MacLeod, Latasha Banks, David DeMario, Diana Holther, Brad Holther, and Dan MacLeod. Our lovely waitress, Julie, happily took the photo, and I thank her for her effort.
We also like the retro-diner ambiance, the tired clown pictures, the 1970's era paneling, and the kitschy decor. It all adds up to a great place to enjoy breakfast, and a restaurant with a lot of character.
But was the breakfast good? Oh yes it was! During our typical after-the-breakfast-critique-in-the-parking-lot we all compared notes and agreed that Pancake Circus gives you a quality breakfast, served by friendly servers, at a price that won't make much of a dent in your wallet, and you'll leave with a smile on your face, and you'll definitely skip lunch, and probably only eat a salad for dinner. Pancake Circus has hit the big top, or should I say the jackpot? ... with the members of the Sacramento Breakfast Club. We highly recommend this restaurant!
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