My mother came down from the suburbs over the weekend for Sunday brunch, and I was tasked with choosing a restaurant. I thought I would divert from the traditional American breakfast and look for something more exotic. We ended up eating at Pannenkoeken Cafe (4757 N. Western Ave), a cozy, family-owned Dutch cafe located in Lincoln Square, which can easily be accessed from the Wilson Brown Line stop. This cafe takes a modern twist on the traditional pannenkoeken: A thin, delicate pancake filled with seasonal fruit and cream.
Cafe owner Linda Ellis was inspired by Holland cuisine after traveling to the country for the first time in 2001. Ellis said she finds the inspiration for her dishes in Scandinavian cooking traditions, with a contemporary essence but incorporates new variations including apple, bacon and havarti, a Dutch cheese.
From the outside, the restaurant looks like any dive you might see on the Food Network. However, inside the decor perfectly reflects the Scandinavian theme. Wooden clogs hang from the walls with hand-painted signs depicting different Dutch traditions. The restaurant contains less than 10 tables, making it feel intimate and quaint. The waitresses make the coffee and orange juice right in the front of the restaurant situated near the entryway for all to watch. The staff members were friendly, and you could tell by their thick accents that they were Scandinavian and found as much comfort in the traditional food as I did.
I ordered the apple pannenkoeken ($10.50), a more traditional dish served at the cafe. On my enormous plate was a crisp, paper-thin pannenkoeken layered with sliced apples and topped with toasted hazelnuts and generous dollops of homemade whipped cream. The apples were tender and tart, which offset the sweet cream. When you take a bite, the buttery and flaky pannenkoeken melts in your mouth, perfectly complementing the sweet and salty candied hazelnuts. My mother ordered the seasonal peach pannenkoeken ($10.50) with a warm peach drizzle, chopped nuts and whipped cream. The peaches were plump and juicy, although the dish was not too sweet because the pannenkoeken itself was not flavored. The drizzle on top tied together the crunch of the nuts and the freshness of the decadent peaches. Every spoonful was a marriage of sweet and salty, bringing out the natural flavors of the fruits and the buttery, crisp layer of the pastry. Another excellent compliment to our brunch was the restaurant’s freshly squeezed orange juice.
In addition to sweet pannenkoeken, the cafe offers savory varieties, french toast and egg dishes.
To avoid crowds and a long wait, you’ll have to arrive early on the weekends or visit during the week. Pannenkoeken Cafe does not accept reservations and is cash only. This restaurant serves generous portions at a reasonable cost, especially for the quality of the food. I would recommend this restaurant to breakfast enthusiasts, admirers of Dutch culture and anyone that loves a friendly staff and fast service.
If you are interested in finding out more and looking at menu options, visit their website at: http://www.pannenkoekencafe.com/portfolio.html