When my wife and I pulled into the parking lot where the Magnolia Pancake Haus, I was tempted to go elsewhere. There were gobs of people waiting in front of the establishment and out in the parking lot. At any other restaurant, this looked like a 1-1/2 hour wait. But I had been wanting to try out Magnolia for quite some time since I had read numerous reviews on the place, and was determined to make a go at it (as long as the wait was not too long). I don’t get to go out for breakfast very often. When I do, my wife and I like to go to the Guenther in the King William district, just south of downtown San Antonio. But, Magnolia was closer to where I needed to be later on that morning, so we decided to give it a try. (They recently opened a 2nd location on Huebner Rd.)
There’s a lot of hype about this place. In addition to several framed newspaper articles about the restaurant, the waiting area boasts numerous plaques awarded by the Express News and Current newspapers for Critic’s Choice and Reader’s Choice for best breakfast. The restaurant has received accolades from SA360, CitySearch.com, AOL City Guide, and the Texas Highways Magazine. In fact, LocalEats.com has recently named it one of the top 20 Best Breakfasts in the US. For the most part, the praise is deserved.
I only waited 30 minutes to be seated (exactly what the host said it should take). There is a tremendous amount of seating in this place and the staff turns tables efficiently. The place is very clean, and the bathrooms were practically spotless.
My wife and I decided to order a few things. We ordered the morning’s special, which consisted of a ham and cheese omelet and a side of pancakes for $7.99. For an extra $1.99, we upgraded the small side pancakes for a short stack. We also ordered biscuits and gravy, hashbrowns, and coffee.
The omelet was huge. Three eggs are folded over several slabs of what tasted like smoked applewood ham. We chose cheddar, although three other cheeses were available. The eggs were a little bland, but the ham was delicious. The hashbrowns were a little disappointing. Although a little firm, they tasted slightly overcooked in oil. Personally, potatoes taste much better cooked in butter. The biscuits and gravy were good, but not nearly as good as the Guenther’s. The menu says they are flaky biscuits with a side of Oma’s gravy. The biscuits were anything but flaky, yet lacked the density I prefer in biscuits. The gravy was a little thick, and lacked a hearty sausage and pepper flavors I would have liked. Surprisingly, the coffee was better than expected. We are hearty coffee snobs. This coffee was much better than what most places serve.
But let’s get to what Magnolia is known for – its pancakes. In fact, they boast that they make the best pancakes in the world. For me and my wife, they really are the best pancakes we have ever tasted. They have a very slight nutty and buttery aroma and flavor. But for us, the texture was what made them stand out. The pancakes were moist and spongy, with just the right density and consistency. It is very difficult to describe other than they did not have any of the negative characteristics associated with a bad pancake: doughy, airy, flat, flavorless, dry, rubbery – none of that.
Granted, the trophy for best pancake in the world most certainly is esoteric. I can just hear you now: “My grandma makes better pancakes than that!” Yeah, yeah, fine. Want the next best thing? Try Magnolia. Just be prepared to wait.