Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Dinerwood on the Road: Aunt Emma's Pancake Restaurant, San Diego

Sometimes you turn a corner and BAM! you find something you weren't expecting--maybe it's a twenty dollar bill you find on vacation and your parents let you blow it on Masters of the Universe action figures; maybe it's an old friend who just got a job working the counter at the questionable "bookstore" you frequent; maybe it's driving around your hotel your first night in town and seeing a sign that says "Aunt Emma's Pancake Restaurant." Sometimes it's that last one.

It was closed at the time we drove by (it's only open from 6am to 3pm), but in the dark it looked pretty awesome. We woke up early the next day and headed over.

It wasn't too crowded inside but this was also a Friday morning. I imagine it is busier on weekends. The interior felt newly remodeled. There was a pretty keen half circle counter up by the kitchen which was mirrored by a half circle lowered part of the ceiling. It made me imagine that at one time this place may have had a bit more style and design to it. Now it was decorated in warm earth tones and hotel room art.

We were seated in the span of no more than three minutes, then three different waitresses asked what we wanted to drink. We tried to explain to the later two that someone had already asked but they whizzed away so quickly that we failed. Two of the waitresses came to the table at the same time carrying our two glasses of water and a coffee. Aunt Emma's is the kind of place that leaves you your own pot of coffee on the table, and loyal readers will remember that I love that. After this and taking our order we hardly saw our waitress again.

The menu was very deep and traditional, and of course there was one item that was dominant: the pancake. This is a breakfast joint where the pancake is king and the king is a dessert.

There is a mess of different pancakes on the menu and nearly all of them involve whipped cream. It being only 8am, I wasn't in the mood for dessert so I ordered the corn pancake, described as "Corn flavored with corn topping."

#1DC Antoinette ordered a strawberry crepe (the foreign cousin of the pancake) and we shared eggs, turkey sausage, and fruit.

It is strawberry season so it was a bewildering that they used frozen strawberries. This might be the most 'foodie' critique I've ever made of a place, and although they were fine tasting, it was just such a cheap restaurant cop-out. The crepe was a little rubbery but tasted all right.

The eggs could have been good but were lukewarm when they arrived. The fruit bowl was a bit plain and the sausage was typical. Although I neglected to take a picture of it, I also ordered hash browns, which were actually pretty gross.

When the menu said "corn flavored" I imagined it may be a corn meal pancake which would have been nice. When it came out and it seemed to just be the regular pancakes with some corn niblets on top, I was a little disappointed. The pancake did have some sort of vague corn flavor, but I wasn't sure if that was just flavor transference from the corn topping. And that white mess on the plate that looks like a wadded up napkin? That's the plop of butter they put on the plate.

Aunt Emma's wasn't the treasure I had hoped it would be. It was adequate and reasonable. I may go there again just to try the dessert pancakes, but it's not a place I can give a gushing recommendation.

UPDATE- 7-27-10

One year later, I was back in San Diego and staying at the same hotel. This time, #1DC Antoinette stayed home and old Dinerwood friend Greg was with me. Although unimpressed on the first trip, I wanted to give it another try.

When we walked in, the waitress very apologetically informed us that the booths were full. We saw about a half dozen empty tables in the center.

"Can we have a table?" I asked.
"Oh, sure" and then she took us to a table.
I was really confused by this until I heard two other parties refuse tables and choose to wait. When we left there were even more people waiting for booths while tables sat empty. Those booth seats must be freakin' amazing.
The coffee was pretty weak, which was unfortunate. I could really have used a pick-up.

Our waitress told us about the $3.99 breakfast specials. We could not refuse that price.

I went with a standard egg and pancake breakfast. Eggs and sausage were pretty standard. I used the strawberry syrup on pancakes and it was shockingly good. The pancakes were very dense, almost like shortcake. With that syrup, it made them taste almost like strawberry shortcake.

Greg had the chicken fajita omelette and it was very good. The chicken was juicy big chunks with a nice seasoning.

The best part was the final bill. That's a cheap breakfast.
I still somehow forgot to take a picture of the sign.

Food: Okay. -update- I'm going to call it 'Good' now.
Service: Fine.
Price: $6-10
Pie: Various. -update- I didn't see any listed on the menu.

Aunt Emma's Pancake Restaurant
700 E St.
Chula Vista, CA 91910
(619) 427-2722


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Mike Tanner said...

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