When the Line’s Too Long at Pancake Pantry…

If you were standing under the Pancake Pantry sign pictured above, you’d be waiting about an hour for a table, according to a PP waitress. Your wait would be shorter if you visited Monday-Thursday or after 10:30 a.m. almost any day. But note: they close at 3pm Mon-Fri and 4pm Sat-Sun. New development: They’ve announced they’ll soon begin offering dinner.

Pancake Pantry hash browns
Love the hash browns

Long a favorite of Music Row types, Pancake Pantry gained national exposure umpteen years ago when Betty the Beloved Waitress appeared on “The Tonight Show” and dished that Garth Brooks was a regular customer. Since then, tourists have flocked in and most stars are eating breakfast elsewhere.

If you hit it at the right time, by all means, order a stack. Buttermilk and chocolate chip are big-sellers but I always go with buckwheats (the short stack is plenty for most folks) and a side of amazing soft-and-crunchy hash browns. Love the ham-and-cheese omelet too. I hate to go negative but my last visit was a bit disappointing; my friend’s silver dollar pancakes were smaller than their former standard and my buckwheats weren’t quite their moist selves.

New for 2021: Expanded hours so you can dine until 8pm Thursday-Sunday. The evening menu  includes meatloaf, pork chops and other dinner fare.

If the wait’s too long at Pancake Pantry,  consider nearby alternatives.

Pancake Pantry alternativeBiscuit Love

Their food truck garnered so much press that they’ve gone bricks and mortar. The Hillsboro Village location shares a roof with Juice Bar while their original outpost is in the Gulch. It’s a bit faster than Pantry but almost as popular. Pictured: the East Nasty, a fried chicken breast smothered in sausage gravy. Alert your cardiologist before eating.

Grain and Berry

This healthy haven is around the corner from Pancake Pantry at 1806 20th Ave., S., the same building as the Moxy hotel. Expect smoothies, superfood bowls, flatbreads,  avocado toast, parfaits and other foods my southern body wouldn’t understand. Your nutritionist recommends this place. Probably your cardiologist too.

Fido

A few doors down from the Pantry is one of the most buzzed-about coffeeshops in town. Both the baked goods and sophisticated entrees are much-celebrated. Order at the counter and they’ll bring your order to you. Warning: the line trailing out the back door for weekend brunch can result in a 30-minute wait or longer.

Ruby Sunshine

Proud of its New Orleans pedigree, this chain boasts beignets and benedicts along with more standardized fare including burgers and fried chicken. Still, breakfast is the headliner and my wife’s multiple visit attest to its quality. It’s also one of the few spots in Hillsboro Village serving mimosas, bloody marys and such.

J. Christopher’s

About four blocks south of Hillsboro Village (just beyond the scope of this map), you’ll find this breakfast-and-lunch-only spot with–gasp–free parking. They’ll plop a carafe of coffee on the table and serve you something tasty like my wife’s favorite–blueberry crunch pancakes. (Sorry, Pancake Pantry.) Yes, it’s also part of a chain but the owner says they make their sausage gravy from scratch because Nashvillians won’t stand for the chain’s precooked version.

Dunkin Donuts

Surrounded by the Vanderbilt campus, this location seems inevitable. Two blocks north of Pancake Pantry on 21st Avenue, it’s hidden in a combo retail/office building  across the street from Mapco. There’s free parking behind the building. If you want true Nashville doughnuts, head south 2.4 miles to the perennial (almost cult-like) favorite, Donut Den.

Urban Juicer

A few steps closer than Dunkin Donut, the locally owned Urban Juicer has five other locations in the midstate. In addition to juices, they’ll set you up with a smoothie and shots of protein along with a succinct menu of salads, bowls and soups.

Anzie Blue

A relatively new addition is this little locally owned cafe’ at 2111 Belcourt Avenue which doubles as a CBD outlet. The breakfast menu is limited with a reliance on greatest hits: omelettes ($12-14), biscuits and gravy, waffles, breakfast tacos, cheese grits, parfaits, smoothies. The vibe is artsy and upscale–a place to drop by for a cocktail and charcuterie or a tea infused with CBD oil.

Over by Belmont University on Belmont Boulevard

Just south of the Museum of Iconic Guitars, you’ll find a few other places but note: parking can become an issue during the day when school is in session.

Bongo Java

Local owned but with several outposts are town including the first floor of the Omni Hotel, they’ve got a concise menu, a variety of drinks and hot apple cider as good as any cobbler I’ve ever eaten.

Proper Bagel

Slick little upscale bagel shop and market that hails from New York. A variety of salads and sandwiches inside a cottage. Our friend Joanna thinks it’s the best thing since sliced bread.

Other very-Nashville stops for breakfast:

  • Monell’s. Come with a lumberjack-sized appetite at their two all-you-can-eat locations (Germantown or near the airport) or order cafeteria-style at Cafe’ Monell near 100 Oaks.
  • Loveless Cafe’. The timeless gold(en) standard in Nashville biscuitry, it’s a bit of a drive out west but they’ll feed you good. Got a hankering for country ham? They can help. And the peach preserves–heavenly.
  • Hermitage Cafe’. The opposite of upscale, it’s a working-class restaurant that’s been invaded by new city dwellers. Good grub.

Eat at the airport? You’ll find a surprising number of homegrown restaurants offering a taste of Nashville.

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