May 03, 2007

Batter up! Pimp your pancakes at Flat Top Grill: a restaurant review

Flat Top Grill
Reviewed: Lakeview Location
3200 N. Southport Ave.
Phone: 773.665.8100
Breakfast served 9:00 to Noon on weekends at the Lakeview, Old Town and Oak Park locations

Maybe you’ve enjoyed Flat Top Grill’s design your own stir-fry for lunch or dinner, but now they serve breakfast, too. We were invited to give it a try, so with empty bellies and unkempt hair we headed to their Lakeview location. Adults can eat to their heart’s content for a mere $8.99. It’s only $4.99 including milk or juice for kids ages 4-11, and kids under 4 eat free. Such a deal!

The buffet at the Lakeview location was loaded with mini muffins and fresh fruit with a steaming pot of oatmeal at the ready. But the real excitement here is the choose-your-own-fixins section. In the mood for a healthy veggie and tofu-skin egg white omelette? They’ve got you covered. The kid wants a gummy worm and strawberry pancake? No problem. (Until he actually tastes it, that is).

Our waitress offered helpful, but seemingly complicated instructions given that it was 9:00 Saturday morning and we hadn’t yet started our coffee. Smartypants simplified the concept for me. “It’s like Cold Stone Creamery, but for pancakes instead of ice cream.” I was relieved to find that the process was pretty simple once we stepped up to the self-serve area.

Serve Yourself
First we loaded up a plate with fresh fruit and returned it to the table so we’d have something to nibble while waiting for our first of several courses. Then we headed back with a mission to help the boys create breakfast combos as unique as their personalities. It’s a given that this involved gummy worms. Splinter balanced his intake of worms with chocolate chips, while Smartypants chose a berry complement (pictured here).

Like my husband, the Flat Top Grill cooks are not very good at reading minds, so after filling our bowls, we chose the appropriate swizzle stick to mark our meal: yellow stick for omelette, pink for pancake, green for a side of potatoes, etc.

But Let Them Cook
Perhaps because the coffee hadn’t quite kicked in we didn’t realize that the final size of our items, be they pancakes, scrambled eggs or omelettes, would be relative to the amount of fixins we chose. Therefore, we all wound up with HUGE first servings.

Pace yourself, or ask the cook to downsize despite your add-ins, because you definitely want to leave room for an order of French Toast. They use thick Texas toast finished off with cinnamon and powdered sugar and a week’s ration of butter plus your selected toppings. Mmmmm.

The pancakes were also quite tasty--except for the portions with melted gummy worm. Who knew? The omelettes, while hot and satisfying, were not the most delicate examples of that dish.

Entertainment
There’s no official entertainment, but a toddler will delight in watching the cooks do their thing. And then there are the unlimited trips to the buffet….

Bottom line
Flat Top Grill is worth a try whether you’re a regular breakfast out family or just looking to avoid cooking or cleaning up after your first meal of the day. And for only $8.99 it’s easy to feel like you got your money’s worth without going overboard. Even so, it is an all-you-can-eat meal, so play it safe and wear your ‘fat pants’.

Know before you go:
All locations have high chairs and booster seats, but not all have diaper-changing; call before you go, or should I say before your little one goes?

We managed no-hassle street parking in Lakeview due to our early arrival, but we'd love for their Evanston location to fire up the grill for breakfast.

See the Scrambled Cake photo album for more photos.

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