Is there any city on earth doing brunch better than Atlanta can do it? No, there is not. We may not have invented chicken and waffles, but we sure as heck perfected it (looking at you, Gladys Knight). That’s why we sometimes brave long lines for places that don’t take reservations. Southerners are willing to wait for what they truly want. If it’s made thoughtfully, locally, and with love, I can certainly spare a half hour or so to get it. These delightfully diverse modern food halls popping up all over our city have made waiting in line to eat a real trend. Ponce City Market in particular showcases long lines at lunch and supper time, but not at breakfast—until now. Welcome to the mix and thank you for stepping in to fill the PCM breakfast void, Pancake Social.
There’s a line around every corner at PCM, so nobody should be complaining about inevitably finding one at Pancake Social. After your wait, you’ll order at the counter and sit at a table with your number, where your food will be delivered to you. Coffee and bakery items arrive right away and the rest of the menu arrives pretty quickly. The dining room is spacious and bright with excellent natural light and beautifully tiled floors with tiny stacks of pancakes painted into them. You can bring the kids and park the stroller, or bring your laptop and park there to telecommute.
Beyond the investment of time, the price has got to be right. Eleven bucks may sound like a lot of money for a buckwheat and dark chocolate pancake stack, but when it arrives, you’ll know it’s worth it even before the first bite. The order includes three huge pancakes that only the truly brave could finish by themselves in one sitting. The dark chocolate sauce is rich enough to meet all your sweet tooth needs and then some. And don’t be turned off by the idea of buckwheat; the pancakes themselves are completely delicious and your kids will think they taste “normal,” especially with a full strength dose of chocolate on top.
We tried a little bit of everything. All the quick pastries were solid, with the cinnamon bun and banana bread being the best. The banana bread manages to be crispy on the edges yet perfectly moist in the middle. Icing on the bun was on point. On the sammies menu, the P.S. burger is out of this world—nice big patty, sweet onions with just the right amount of bite. But the real star is the house-made English muffin where a plain old burger bun should never be again. This English muffin was thrillingly good (…is a sentence I never thought I’d write)! It tasted perfect, was neatly buttered and toasted, held firm against the patty without sliding around or breaking apart. I could go on and on about this four-dollar English muffin and recommend ordering any sandwich on the menu that includes it, which is all but one of them—the avocado toast. The “toast” is actually a bagel. The “avocado” is actually more like guacamole, which is then destined to fall through the bagel hole in clumps. Delicious flavors, but a total failure in terms of how to eat it without making a mess.
If you’re in an appetizer or sharing mood, the two cottage cheese blintzes with blueberry compote are a nice opening volley. If you’re in a grab-and-go mood, the quinoa bowl has a peanut vinaigrette that adds a Pad Thai vibe, and this time you get a half avocado rather than a guac-ish switcheroo. The bowls also travel nicely, as opposed to many of their other items. This is actually my main peeve about what is otherwise a really good breakfast joint: they’re not well-equipped for to-go orders outside of coffee (two thumbs way up on that darkly sweet maple latte) and quick breads. The pancake’s radius is too big for their recyclable takeout box, and they’re not yet putting wax paper in the bottom to keep greasier items like that fabulous burger from leaking through. The tasty green juice I ordered to-go came in an opaque coffee cup, even though contemplating the color and pulp in a fresh juice is half its tranquil fun.
But now I’m just quibbling and these are kinks that’ll no doubt be worked out over time. There’s plenty to love about Pancake Social and Chef Anne Quatrano has done it again. While you’re waiting in line, think about how lucky Atlanta is to have such lines or just order a mimosa and quickly forget all about the line.
For more information, visit pancakesocial.com.
Megan Volpert lives in Decatur, teaches in Roswell and writes books about popular culture, including the forthcoming Bruce Springsteen-inspired collection of poems and essays Boss Broad.