Pittsburgh’s Finest Diner Pancakes: hail to the chef!

Posted on January 18, 2013

Pittsburgh’s Finest Diner Pancakes: hail to the chef!

January 18th, 2013 by PJ Hamel

This is a story of the 2008 Presidential campaign, a diner in Pittsburgh, Google images, and a profound love of pancakes.

And if that doesn’t pique your interest – you’re just not the foodie I thought you were.

Back in 2008, when then-candidate Barack Obama was hitting the campaign trail hard and making all the requisite “meet and greet” visits – manufacturing plants, senior citizen homes, truck stops – he paid a visit to Pamela’s P&G Diner in Pittsburgh, where he enjoyed the specialty of the house: pancakes.

But these weren’t just any diner pancakes. Pamela’s pancakes have an almost cult-like following among foodies. Described as light and fluffy, but with a crackly-crisp crust around the edges, these pancakes have spawned blogs, attempted clones, and lots and lots of online photos from folks who’ve actually visited the “shrine” to enjoy the pancakes in person.

Including President Obama. While he didn’t pull out his Blackberry and snap a pancake picture to share on his Facebook page, the President did have this comment (courtesy of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette): “…’These really were maybe the best pancakes I’ve tasted in a very long time. Get some take-out,’ he directed the reporters. ‘You don’t even need syrup on them. They’ve got [these] crispy edges. Yea, they are really good.’ ”

Diner owners Pam Cohen and Gail Klingensmith were later invited to the White House to cook a Memorial Day pancake breakfast for the President, First Lady, and 80 military veterans – and their culinary star continued to rise.

More buzz online. More Yelp reviews. More Urbanspoon.  And, thankfully for me, lots of Google images.

I’m a pancake apprecianado (sic). Love pancakes; always have. So when Pamela’s pancakes appeared on my radar, I knew I had to clone them.

Unfortunately, the recipe is a closely held secret. This single quote from Pam herself (again, in the Post-Gazette): “…a secret process that included leavening and spices. You let the batter rise and sit for a couple hours, then you beat it down, let it rise again and beat it down” – is all I had to go on.

That, and Google images, which offers many, MANY shot-in-the-diner photos of these famous cakes.

So, between Pam’s quote; the review descriptions on Yelp and Urbanspoon; and the photos on Google, I pieced together a recipe that, if not absolutely true to the original, produces pancakes that are truly excellent: crisp edges; soft, tender centers; and marvelous buttery flavor.

If you’re picky about pancakes, Pamela’s are (apparently) pure bliss. And even if the cakes below don’t match Pamela’s exactly – Pittsburgh readers, let me know what needs to change – these Pamela’s wannabes are pretty darned good.

*****If you would like to see PJ’s recipe, please follow this link: Pittsburgh’s Finest Diner Pancakes!