Pancakes are having a moment in Atlanta—but don’t overlook crepes

Also, is Virginia-Highland becoming a mediocre dining spot?

Christiane Chronicles: Pancakes vs crepes

Illustration by Zohar Lazar

Pancakes vs. Crepes
Pancakes are finally having a moment. While bagels and biscuits have long been exalted, the pancake has languished for years as mere nursery food, something to cook at home for the kids. Sure, you could have them with chocolate chips or blueberries or Mickey Mouse ears, but even when you ordered them out, they seldom were elevated much beyond that.

Chef Anne Quatrano and company’s new Pancake Social in Ponce City Market will make you reconsider the pancake. The scene is a madhouse. Servers with cream aprons crisscross the airy dining room bearing fluffy buttermilk pancakes, gluten-free ancient grain pancakes, buckwheat pancakes with dark chocolate sauce, praline pecan stacks, Dutch Babies with apple and Gruyère, and blintzes with cottage cheese and blueberry compote. These pancakes are as delicious as they are pricey.

I didn’t grow up around pancakes in Paris. There’s not even a French word for them. The closest thing, the crepes of my childhood (thin, buttery batter cooked on a griddle or a flat pan), were strictly special-occasion food or something you bought on the street from a Breton vendor.

In Atlanta, crepes have not yet had their moment. Your best bet is to go international. The tiny, cozy Julianna’s in Inman Park makes light, delicious Hungarian palacsintas, both sweet and savory. In the food court of Gwinnett’s Jusgo Supermarket, some Chinese food stalls cook jiangbing (a traditional breakfast crepe), spreading the batter quickly on an electric griddle, then adding an egg and some greens. Another option: Pick up the plain blinis at the Buford Highway Farmers Market and reheat them at home one at a time on a cast-iron frying pan, then sprinkle with sugar or slather with jam.

The Decline of Virginia-Highland
I’m worried about Virginia-Highland. What used to be a vibrant restaurant destination has long been stuck in mediocrity.

Millennial-chasing restaurateurs largely ignore Virginia-Highland these days, choosing instead to hang their shingle in neighborhoods that get more hype. Why has Virginia-Highland failed to keep up with the Old Fourth Ward and Inman Park? The consensus seems to be that it’s too far from the BeltLine.

Iconic places such as Atkins Park, Highland Tap, Moe’s & Joe’s, La Tavola, and Murphy’s still hold their own thanks to a faithful clientele, and locals still scarf down the greasy burgers at George’s. But it’s been far too many years since a notable new restaurant opened along the neighborhood’s main Highland Avenue drag.

Between the hair salons, yoga studios, and the generic pubs, too many boarded-up spaces disfigure the street. Truva, the second location of a fancy downtown Turkish restaurant, recently braved the wilds by opening on a particularly desolate stretch of Highland. But aside from redirecting the BeltLine a mile east, there doesn’t seem to be much anyone can do to restore the neighborhood’s culinary luster.

This article appears in our August 2019 issue.