Magnolia Pancake Haus

"So what makes this pancake house special?" I asked my associate when Magnolia Pancake Haus in San Antonio was recommended to me. My experience with restaurants that call themselves pancake houses has been that they all have pretty much the same menu, the same food, and the same exotic variations that inevitably mean the same canned pie filling. Hardly worth a trip out of my way to seek out. My associate ponders this question. "Well…" (He’s still thinking how to put this) "All I can say is, everything is just a little bit better." That was intriguing enough. Time to find out if it was true.

Apparently there’s a devoted clientele that agree. When I walked in the place was bustling, tables were loaded and servers were scrambling. I was at the end of the lunch peak so I was seated right away and my attentive server had a carafe of fresh coffee out in minutes. So far, so good – the service was going to be the first validation of that "little bit better" summation. Next was the table itself; linen napkins, quality flatware, fresh cream for the coffee. The menu was after that, all three pages of it, and that was just breakfast. You had all the standards on there: pancakes,waffles, French toast, and omelets. Then you had the specialty items – and for once, that doesn’t mean topping a plain pancake with canned pie filling and calling that adventurous.

The "Apfel Pfannekuchen," for example, is a real German-style pancake made with actual fresh apples and baked in the oven until it puffs like a soufflé. These are more trouble to make at home than most people are willing to put forth and for those that have had them, worth the drive to let someone else do it right. Another was the Bananas Foster. I wasn’t sure what to expect from these, assuming that the restaurant would take liberties with the name, but somehow what I expected least was something that could truly be served au flambé for dessert. If you are the kind of diner that prefers sugar-free sorbet to crème bruleé, or orders a rich chocolate mousse and then complains because it’s sweet, don’t order the bananas foster. But if you are the kind of diner that takes a bite from either and then sinks back in the chair, eyes rolled back, making obscene "mmmmm" sounds and wishing you could bathe in it, you are in for a real treat. The sauce tasted like it had just been prepared tableside by a tuxedoed waiter - very rich, very decadent, and delectably permeated with spiced rum.

For the savory dishes, I tried "Joe’s Eggs" and was pleasantly surprised to see that it was made with fresh spinach instead of frozen, spicy sausage, and had a wonderful red pepper coulis that suggested of Tabasco without the heat. No matter what egg dish you try, however, the Applewood smoked bacon is the most essential component of the meal. This bacon is not a little bit better; this is light years beyond the standard fare. In fact I’d describe it as the best bacon I have ever had and now have a Pavlovian response every time I think about it. There are five other different signature meat choices, and over time I will try each of them as a separate side dish in addition to the bacon.

After the meal, perhaps because I was too full to get out of the chair, I had the opportunity to chat with the owner, Robert Fleming, and ask him about his philosophy and vision for the restaurant. Robert grew up in the restaurant business in Chicago, then married his German-born wife Sheila and moved to Louisiana before Texas, which explains the regional and ethnic influences apparent throughout the menu. He was very passionate about what he wanted his restaurant to achieve. "Our goal is to provide the highest quality customer experience, from the time they walk in the door until they walk out… We pay attention to every detail from the table service to the ingredients. We make everything fresh and use no high-fructose corn syrup, no hydrogenated oils, no msg and only organic flour..." Well that explains the conspicuous absence of canned pie filling. One of most intriguing things that make this restaurant unique is how elements usually restricted to fine dining are subtly merged into a casual family setting. For about $8 you can have a fabulous meal and not feel out of place in your cutoffs and flip-flops. Magnolia Pancake Haus has managed this so skillfully that when you ask the regulars what makes this place special, the only response may be, "Well... everything is just a little bit better."

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About The Author, Cathy Hastings
Cathy Hastings is a writer about the finer living for the lifestyles and travel destinations of Texas. You can find some great information on Texas restaurants; destinations and attractions that you would not want to miss by visiting <a href= > San Antonio Restaurants </a> and <a href= > Austin Restaurants </a>.