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Flap Your Jacks and unleash your inner child

Pancakes aren’t always works of art, but we can keep trying

Pancakes make up maybe two percent of the menu, but they’re clearly the lead focus of North Park’s newest breakfast restaurant. You can tell because the center of each table in Flap Your Jacks is equipped with a large, flat griddle, placed there for the sole purpose of letting customers make our own pancakes.

Place

Flap Your Jacks

3020 University Ave, San Diego

Again, most of the menu by far concerns itself with the likes of benedicts, scrambles, fruit bowls, coffee drinks, French toast, chilaquiles, juices, burgers, and even salads. In other words, there really are chefs in the kitchen, earning their living while we cook our own pancakes. But look around at the early crowds, including families with kids, and everybody’s got spatulas in their hands, ready to turn batter into breakfast.

Chocolate pancake with peanut butter chips and cajeta syrup

I walked in with the thought in my head the whole set-up was gimmicky. Pancakes are exceedingly easy to make at home, yet most of us don’t, because it’s not considered a thrilling process. Those who do make pancakes at home are usually young parents, and what value would it be to them, I reasoned, whether they make their kids pancakes at a restaurant table or in the kitchen at home?

Ready to flip pancakes: spatula, pancake batter, butter, toppings, and syrup.

But then I noticed how excited these kids were to make and flip their own pancakes. And how creative they were being. Like the griddle is their canvas, and pancakes are their medium. And I’ve never wanted to make pancakes so badly in my life. Meaning, so far I have completely ignored all the breakfast meat and egg dishes, and only ordered pancakes.

Use a squeeze bottle of pancake batter to write words or create edible illustrations.

How it works is, you get a spatula and a squeeze bottle of pancake batter for $8, then a choice to add on toppings and syrups for $2 apiece. Basic buttermilk is but one batter available. There are vegan and gluten free options, sure, but many are sweeter: crushed Oreo pancake batter, for example, or red velvet. For my first stab, I chose the more decadent than it sounds banana bread batter, chocolate chips, and blueberry syrup.

Families with children were some but not all of the early crowds.

I could have switched that up and ordered blueberries and chocolate syrup, or ordered chocolate batter with banana slices. Or involved a number of other toppings including almond butter, coconut, white chocolate chips, strawberries, hazelnuts, pecans, bacon bits, and marshmallows. Which means it took ten minutes to deliberate over my order, even though I was making it for myself. Or trying to.

Make pancakes at your breakfast table in North Park.

Flap Your Jacks has only been at this a couple of weeks, but already television screens positioned around the dining room rotate photos of its customers’ pancake creations. I saw a deftly sketched pikachu, and pancakes poured to spell out words. The most creative were those who’d used contrasting pancake colors — dark brown oreo plus off-white buttermilk, for example — to create two-tone illustrations. The familiar muppet face of Elmo appeared on the screen, and one of the many helpful servers patrolling the restaurant brightly told me an eight year old had made it.

Meanwhile, I’m over here struggling with basic circles.

In my own defense, I’ve haven’t made pancakes since I was a kid. Turns out, it doesn’t matter much if you’re as inept at shaping and flipping pancakes as I am, or add chocolate chips at the worst possible time. Someone will be along to tell you what you could be doing better, and even the mistakes will taste sweet.

Aided by a pat of butter, my banana bread pancakes proved outstanding. Could I hope to follow up? Well, chocolate better with peanut butter chips and a hefty pour of cajeta over the top, like a goat’s milk dulce de leche. Chocolate, peanut butter, and caramel flavors: not to pat myself on the back, but we have another masterpiece.

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Banana bread pancake with chocolate chips and blueberry syrup
Banana bread pancake with chocolate chips and blueberry syrup

Pancakes make up maybe two percent of the menu, but they’re clearly the lead focus of North Park’s newest breakfast restaurant. You can tell because the center of each table in Flap Your Jacks is equipped with a large, flat griddle, placed there for the sole purpose of letting customers make our own pancakes.

Place

Flap Your Jacks

3020 University Ave, San Diego

Again, most of the menu by far concerns itself with the likes of benedicts, scrambles, fruit bowls, coffee drinks, French toast, chilaquiles, juices, burgers, and even salads. In other words, there really are chefs in the kitchen, earning their living while we cook our own pancakes. But look around at the early crowds, including families with kids, and everybody’s got spatulas in their hands, ready to turn batter into breakfast.

Chocolate pancake with peanut butter chips and cajeta syrup

I walked in with the thought in my head the whole set-up was gimmicky. Pancakes are exceedingly easy to make at home, yet most of us don’t, because it’s not considered a thrilling process. Those who do make pancakes at home are usually young parents, and what value would it be to them, I reasoned, whether they make their kids pancakes at a restaurant table or in the kitchen at home?

Ready to flip pancakes: spatula, pancake batter, butter, toppings, and syrup.

But then I noticed how excited these kids were to make and flip their own pancakes. And how creative they were being. Like the griddle is their canvas, and pancakes are their medium. And I’ve never wanted to make pancakes so badly in my life. Meaning, so far I have completely ignored all the breakfast meat and egg dishes, and only ordered pancakes.

Use a squeeze bottle of pancake batter to write words or create edible illustrations.

How it works is, you get a spatula and a squeeze bottle of pancake batter for $8, then a choice to add on toppings and syrups for $2 apiece. Basic buttermilk is but one batter available. There are vegan and gluten free options, sure, but many are sweeter: crushed Oreo pancake batter, for example, or red velvet. For my first stab, I chose the more decadent than it sounds banana bread batter, chocolate chips, and blueberry syrup.

Families with children were some but not all of the early crowds.

I could have switched that up and ordered blueberries and chocolate syrup, or ordered chocolate batter with banana slices. Or involved a number of other toppings including almond butter, coconut, white chocolate chips, strawberries, hazelnuts, pecans, bacon bits, and marshmallows. Which means it took ten minutes to deliberate over my order, even though I was making it for myself. Or trying to.

Make pancakes at your breakfast table in North Park.

Flap Your Jacks has only been at this a couple of weeks, but already television screens positioned around the dining room rotate photos of its customers’ pancake creations. I saw a deftly sketched pikachu, and pancakes poured to spell out words. The most creative were those who’d used contrasting pancake colors — dark brown oreo plus off-white buttermilk, for example — to create two-tone illustrations. The familiar muppet face of Elmo appeared on the screen, and one of the many helpful servers patrolling the restaurant brightly told me an eight year old had made it.

Meanwhile, I’m over here struggling with basic circles.

In my own defense, I’ve haven’t made pancakes since I was a kid. Turns out, it doesn’t matter much if you’re as inept at shaping and flipping pancakes as I am, or add chocolate chips at the worst possible time. Someone will be along to tell you what you could be doing better, and even the mistakes will taste sweet.

Aided by a pat of butter, my banana bread pancakes proved outstanding. Could I hope to follow up? Well, chocolate better with peanut butter chips and a hefty pour of cajeta over the top, like a goat’s milk dulce de leche. Chocolate, peanut butter, and caramel flavors: not to pat myself on the back, but we have another masterpiece.

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