There is a connection between pancakes and Mardi Gras. No, really. In commonwealth countries, the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday (which we call Fat Tuesday) is known as Shrove Tuesday or “Pancake Day.” Shrove is a form of shrive, which means to seek absolution. In short, the Christian practice of gorging and excess on Fat Tuesday is a last hurrah before Lent. Believe it or not, pancakes are considered decadent because they are made with extravagant ingredients—eggs, butter, milk, sugar—to be used up before the food austerity of the Lenten season.
New Orleans, lately a very serious breakfast town, with a substantial amount of breakfast restaurants and traditions, has a fine list of places for great stacks. Those looking for a basic pancake, will find loads of casual and fancy places.
Pull into the Trolley Stop Café, a 24/7 Uptown place that gilds the lily with a divinely sweet Bavarian cream-topped pancake. Or check out Coulis in the Garden District, where the oversized, single pancake is called “precious.” Ask why; there’s a cute story there.
On the more fancy side there’s the insanely delicious, butter-bomb pancakes at Carrollton Market that come with top-quality Vermont maple syrup and smoky slices of crisp Benton’s bacon. “For our batter we make a kind of loose emulsion, Hollandaise-style,” says chef Jason Goodenough, “with the eggs and melted butter, to mix with the milk before adding the dry ingredients. It makes an insane pancake.”
Canal Street Bistro plates up an incredible list of pancake options, both regular and gluten-free. Ask them to add some house granola to the basic batter for an incredible combination of tender pancake and crunchy bits. Do not miss the butter-drenched, souffléed German pancakes.
Basic pancake batter is also an easy flavor playground. Red Gravy uses browned butter to bolster its blend. There are also powdered sugar-dusted, cannoli-filled pancakes topped with cream. Satsuma has a daily pancake depending on whim and season; recently there was a tart-sweet ginger-cranberry version. The Ruby Slipper Café, known for its over-the-top pancakes like Cinnamon Swirl and Bacon Praline, also does a “Pancake of the Day,” which has in the past included Red Velvet. At Slim Goodies there are six different choices. Go for the earthy sweet potato or an egg-in-the-middle Todd Joy.
Diners with specialty diets can also find pancakes. In the French Market, Meals from the Heart griddles lofty vegan/gluten-free blueberry pancakes, while on Freret Street Bearcat cooks up superior banana-packed paleo pancakes to partner with its homemade bison sausage patties.
Partake in tradition. There are many ways to flip for pancakes on Shrove Tuesday—or any day.