CiCi's Cafe: the Valley what the Griddle Cafe: West Hollywood. That's right I nailed my verbal SATs in high school. It's too bad that this simple analogy doesn't quite nail the tail on the donkey with regards to the food served at these two popular brunching restaurants. CiCi's is good, but as hard as it tries, it's no Griddle Cafe. (And not just because the wait for a table is substantially less)
I've had the opportunity to dine at CiCi's three times in this past year, and have ordered the Pink Lady pancakes with raspberries & macadamia nuts mixed in buttermilk pancakes topped with raspberry sauce & whipped cream, and the Wheat Berry pancakes with strawberries, blueberries and almonds on wheat bran pancakes. The first time I tried the Pink Lady pancakes, they were a revelation. I loved how the thick pancakes were both studded with fresh raspberries and macadamia nuts, and covered with them as well. With the raspberry sauce on the side (and a request for no whipped cream), I was tickled "Pink" by the dish. I couldn't wait to come back.
On my next visit I was pretending to be healthy, so I opted to try the Wheat Berry pancakes. The berries were fresh and sweet, and I loved the crunch from the almonds, but the pancakes themselves were overwhelmingly dry. The syrup helped some, and I made a decent dent into the short stack of cakes (2 as opposed to 3), but I couldn't help but wish that I had stuck with the more nutritionally-defunct buttermilk cakes instead.
This past Sunday, on my third visit to the Valley's breakfaster oasis, I knew without out a shimmy of a doubt that I wanted the Pink Lady pancakes again. I knew they were good, I was in the mood for some antioxidants via raspberry form, and I didn't want to spend an hour quizzing the waitress about the virtues of the Say "Trick or Treat" pumpkin pancakes vs. the CoCo Green Tea pancakes vs. the CiCi's French Toast. Sometimes I just want to relax and not get all neurotic about the ordering process. Of course, that didn't stop me for putting in my usual cadre of special requests for no whipped cream and the raspberry sauce on the side. I just hate when my pancakes arrive at the table all soggy! I want to be the one responsible for the soggifying!
When my short stack of Pink Ladies arrived at our table, I immediately knew something was wrong. There were no raspberries on top. And upon closer investigation, I discovered there were no raspberries (or macadamia nuts) in the pancakes either! My plate was stacked with two plain buttermilk pancakes with a side of raspberry sauce, syrup and small cup of macadamia nuts. I politely got the attention of our waitress and asked her if they had forgotten the raspberries. She said she'd check, and when she returned with my plate of still-raspberry-less cakes, she told me that they only had frozen raspberries, so just used them in the sauce. Despite the description on the menu and my previous experience a year ago, they were not abundantly heaped on top, and were most certainly not in the pancakes themselves!
To make the most of this most unfortunate of circumstances, I asked for a bowl of fresh strawberries instead. It improved matters some, and the pancakes were actually quite good, but I couldn't help but feel a bit soured by the experience. Shouldn't the waitress have mentioned that the pancakes were going to come sans berries when I ordered them?
While I will probably return to CiCi's again to try some of their other offerings, my initial favorable impressions of the sweet-toothed carboholic's dream restaurant have been somewhat mitigated. I see pancakes in my future, but those pancakes will most likely be coming from the kitchen at the Griddle Cafe instead.