Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Chow Time: Four Clowns at a PANCAKE CIRCUS!

I finally understand the East Coast vs. West Coast rivalry rooted so deeply in the '90s hip hop community.  Fundamentally, I'm pretty sure that it's about breakfast food.

Obviously, the East Coast is the undefeated champion when it comes to streamlined chrome diners, all night joints where one can unashamedly order a kitchen-sink omelette just as easily at four in the afternoon as four in the morning.  Where the West wins is corny coffee shops - Googie-style affairs with kooky rooflines and even kookier theming.

Pancake Circus (1960) - Sacramento, CA

To visit Sacramento is to learn that Pancake Circus is the Tupac of themed coffee shops.  Seriously, when told that the kitchen would not make her pancakes in the form of Tupac's famous West Coast hand sign, Mary requested that they at least arrange her bacon in the shape of a "W."

The kitchen, the counter, and some of Pancake Circus' OGs.

Waiting for our meal to arrive, we engaged in all the usual coffee shop shenanigans - shooting the paper wrapping off our straws, loosening the lids on the pepper shakers, playing the rims of our water glasses etc.  It wasn't until we began balancing spoons on the ends of our noses, that I realized what was happening; at Pancake Circus, we were the circus.  The spoons were little more than large rubber balls and we were the seals.  Here, the two-dimensional animal cutouts watched as we, trapped in our naugahyde cages, wildly tore into the food delivered by our keepers/servers.

See what I mean?!

He's an animal!

Stalking her country potatoes like big cat! 

To distract myself from the startling realization that we could easily be mistaken for circus animals (and to rethink my questionable comparison of Pancake Circus to Tupac Shakur), I decided to take some pictures...

Under the lights of the BIG TOP!

If clowns (paintings, plushies, porcelain dolls, parachuters) are not your thing, then I still say go to Pancake Circus!  Think of it as phobia therapy.

Because these people are not clowning around!!!

Or are they?

Mind if we drop in?

"Uh...no, thanks!'

My favorite part of the Pancake Circus went unnoticed by nearly every other diner in the restaurant;
it's that accordion-style partition (above) that closes not in a straight line but in a swoosh!

I love my family.
I love this photo.
I also love the incredible walls, slightly obscured by the elephant
cutout; the matchstick mosaic is studded with tiger-eye glass tiles. 

Prior to running away with the Pancake Circus, we met an older couple in town who told us that going there would be a waste of time.  "Oh...there," said the wife, "It used to be cool."  I tried to maintain my composure but inside I was shouting, "No duh, lady."  I mean, it doesn't often happen that bastions of mid-century morning mealtime dramatically improve with age yet it remains our duty to support them!  Sure, the edges are worn, the finishes are dulled, and the clowns are many.  But as the old saying goes, "Circus breakfast is the most important meal of the day."

If not the animals, then we definitely left feeling like the
clowns; and that still makes Pancake Circus pretty cool...

Even after hours!

Pancake Circus
2101 Broadway
Sacramento, CA



Mr. Tiny


  1. Pancake Circus should be on everyone's visit-at-least-once list. It is so kitschy it's cool. You captured some great images - really caught the clownishness of the place.

    1. Thank you!!! It has been on my list of places to go for so many years; I'm glad we finally made the trip to Sacramento!

  2. I know I've been there, but it was many, many years ago.
    I need to go back! And I loved this post!

    1. Thank you!!! Sometimes our memories are better than the reality but who can turndown a stack of pancakes under the watchful eye of a million clowns?!?!!

  3. Circus Breakfast IS the most important meal of the day!! Heck, it says so right in the Wacky Tacky Official Food Guide :)
    Thank you for another awesome post. I was chuckling along, right until I saw those creepy clowns (YIKES!!!).

    Hmmmm, is it just me...or does that bear look suspiciously like Winnie the Pooh.

    happy pancakes ;)

    1. Thank you! The management assures me that no copyright infringement was intended. Hahaha!!!