There's an art to making the perfect pancake, but every artist has his or her own standard of perfection. I won't eat a pancake that's too thick or too thin, undercooked (horror!) or even a shade too crusty. I have friends who adore the hubcap-sized pancakes hanging over the plates at a couple of local diners, but they get cold before I can finish them.
Over the summer, Kansas City's best-known pancake maven, Steve Hamilton of the Chris Cakes catering business, opened a breakfast buffet restaurant called Chris Cakes Kitchen at 5405 West 151st Street in Louisburg. It's a terrific culinary concept, I thought, so I was eager to dine there last week. For adults, it costs $9.88 (plus tax) to fill up on pancakes, biscuits and gravy, eggs, two kinds of hash browns, corned-beef hash and canned peaches — among many other things.
It's not the easiest buffet to maneuver (Hamilton could learn a few things about customer flow by checking out some local Chinese buffets), and the staff is young, unpolished and not especially helpful — and, in one case, not even particularly nice.
Still, though, my friend Bob deemed it a great place to take kids. Indeed, on the Sunday morning I was there, the place was crawling with youngsters, and one-third of the women were pregnant. Kids have good reason to love the place: They can smother their flapjacks with four kinds of syrup and follow up with a healthy bowl of chocolate pudding. I would have loved it, too, before I got older and more picky.
To be honest, I wasn't that thrilled with my pancakes. "They're a little dry," I whispered to Bob.
I know I'm treading on sacred ground by making such a comment about Hamilton's work. A woman sitting at the next table heard me and scowled as if I'd kicked a puppy.
I sheepishly cleaned my plate and didn't say another word.