NEW YORK LOWER EAST SIDE: Clinton Street Baking Company

If you're a fan of Food Network, you're likely familiar with the show "Throw-Down" in which celebrity chef Bobby Flay challenges cooks and chefs and tries to beat them at their own specialty dishes. One recent episode involved the Clinton Street Baking Company on New York's Lower East Side and its signature blueberry pancakes with maple butter.

Stopping in NYC the day before departing for Europe, my wife and I made our way to this little (36-seat), off-the-beaten-track eatery to see if the fuss was warranted.

It was, and it wasn't.

Even though we got there shortly before 10 on a Monday morning (not prime breakfast hours) the place was humming. The couple next to us were German tourists who had sought out the establishment for the same reason we had: they'd seen it on TV.

Of course, we had to try the signature dish, and it was very good. The pancakes were light and fluffy, the blueberries on top quite tasty, and the maple butter -- ahhhh! Who needed pancakes? A spoon was all that was required.

With regard to the pancakes, I concur with the judges on Throw Down who said that Flay's pancakes had more blueberry flavor throughout. Although I didn't taste Flay's, that would have been an improvement over simply berries on top, but it's a small thing. They were tasty and the maple butter made them all the better.

But they were also a bit expensive -- even for New York. At $14 for a stack of three, I expected my mouth to be in ecstasy. Very good, but hardly "ecstasy."

So with those caveats, or if you're in the neighborhood anyway, it's probably worth a visit.
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Photo by Carl Dombek
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