Salty Bites: Cannoli Hotcakes @ Bongo Room

Bongo Room: 1470 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Bongo Room: 1470 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Many moons ago I had the most delicious pancake ever. Light, fluffy, not too sweet, with a hint of tartness, the Lemon Ricotta Pancake at Bongo Room lives on in my memory as the BEST pancake I’ve ever had. When Bongo Room appeared on The Best Food meetup group’s search for great brunch places, I immediately swiped myself a spot. I couldn’t wait to taste those amazing pancakes again.

Sadly, that was not to be. I should have guessed that a spot as trendy and hip as Bongo Room would have an ever-evolving menu and something that I’d had some six years ago would no longer be offered. No matter, though. I was certain that every other pancake Bongo Room made would be similarly amazing. They are, after all, one of the most revered brunch spots in the city and you can easily wait upwards of an hour to get a table on a Sunday morning.

Wait we did, on that cold and rainy Sunday. When a table finally became available, I settled in with my fellow Best Foodies and perused the menu, most notably devoid of anything resembling my beloved pancake. There was one ricotta pancake – the Cannoli Hotcakes – that featured marsala-soaked cherries and a pistachio panna cotta cream with a chocolate crème anglaise. Now, I’m not a huge fan of chocolate at breakfast, but you know how I feel about pistachios, and it being the only ricotta pancake on the menu, I immediately knew that would be the one I’d order.

Now, this is less a complaint about the food and more a complaint about the gluttony of American dining, but my first issue the plate was, who needs to eat three 12-inch pancakes? Sure, you can share them, but then you don’t get to try as much. The portion size was just ridiculous and I didn’t even come close to putting a dent in mine. (I seem to recall the first time I went I was able to get an individual pancake. I don’t know if that was a special offer, but I didn’t see that option here.) But more importantly, the pancakes came slathered in a way too sweet, way too rich, way too much sauce. I pushed the pistachio panna cotta to the side because all I could taste there was sweetness. The chocolate went to the wayside with it.

The pancake was not terribly impressive on its own. The dried cherries were nice and plump, having been reconstituted with the marsala, but there was nothing special about the actual pancake. The dish clearly relied on an overabundance of sugar in the sauce to camouflage everything else. It made me sad. I could have had a much better – and cheaper – pancake near my house, plain with just a little bit of maple syrup. It actually makes me not want to order pancakes at Bongo Room ever again. Given their distance and the infamous wait time, it’s possible I never will.

On the plus side, the sausage patties were on point, just as I remembered them to be. I highly recommend getting them. After the sugar bomb that is the pancake, you’ll need something savory to wash away some of that tooth-aching sweetness.

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