In every corner of New Jersey, the public health crisis has impacted some part of our vast food network. Restaurants, diners, bars and cafes have been shuttered, food banks are struggling to meet the demand of those in need, distribution channels are being reconfigured, and farmers are dealing with issues of social distancing while harvesting crops as the summer season unfolds.
A Hard-Hit Industry
For many Garden State residents and foodies near and far, the most noticeable restriction imposed during the pandemic has been the closure of favorite dining spots. However, as we move through the various stages of recovery and the reopening of businesses, restaurants are adapting. We’re seeing more and more outdoor seating under tents or, where possible, sidewalk bistro-style dining. Many restaurants also have implemented or expanded their takeout business.
In turn, patrons have slowly, cautiously embraced the format of this evolving food scene. Even with a bit of apprehension, customers and eatery owners alike are adjusting to the new normal.
We recently visited the Brownstone Pancake Factory in Englewood Cliffs, which will celebrate its second anniversary in November. From a roadside view, it was clear that this establishment had spacious, outdoor terrace dining with socially distanced tables and large umbrellas.
The scene offered a most inviting sight. This reporter and his wife hadn’t been “out to eat” in nearly six months. It was an unscheduled stop—a spontaneous decision while on the road in Bergen County. The al fresco setting was most enjoyable.
The Brownstone, located at the intersection of Sylvan Avenue (Route 9W) and East Palisade Avenue, calls itself a “pancake factory,” but it has many diner-esque features, including its heritage. The establishment has family ties to the Brownstone Diner in Jersey City, which was rebranded in 2019 as the Life Pancake Factory. In addition, another Brownstone Pancake Factory operates on River Road, in Edgewater. That one will mark its sixth anniversary in November.
A Warm Welcome
The cordial waitstaff provided a friendly first impression. Patrons and servers all shared a (masked) smile, as if to appreciate the moment after many months of social isolation. Considering the name of the place, we tuned into the extensive pancake offerings on the menu.
The list included buttermilk pancakes, turtle pancakes (chocolate chips and pecans), fried Oreo cheesecake pancakes, potato pancakes, coconut pancakes, Greek yogurt pancakes, buckwheat pancakes and salted caramel pretzel pancakes.
However, we decided to dig deeper and focused on the “breakfast ensembles,” which turned out to be most impressive. My wife ordered the breakfast combo—pancakes with two poached eggs, bacon and a pork sausage. Lovely.
My choice was the Jersey chicken and cheddar pancakes: buttermilk pancakes baked with an infusion of bacon, cheddar cheese, jalapeño peppers, all topped with crispy chicken fritters and drizzled with sour cream. This dish was a work of art—an appetizer, main course, and dessert all rolled into one platter.
Did we select an optional bottle of maple syrup to complement our pancakes? Why of course—in fact, we ordered two bottles. It’s OK splurge once in a while.
Throughout our late lunch we enjoyed several cups of coffee, all superb. The wait staff wore black T-shirts that promoted the consumption of “insane” milkshakes, but we simply didn’t have any room.
On the Menu
Also posted on the menu are “colossal” omelets (Mexican chorizo), eggs Benedict, breakfast sandwiches (featuring scrambled eggs with Taylor Ham/pork roll), pancake wraps (a California wrap with eggs, sausage, avocado, and baby spinach), and challah French toast (Nutella peanut butter with berries).
The balance of the menu includes quesadillas, Belgian waffles, appetizers, burgers, salads, sandwiches, paninis and pasta selections. And main courses for dinner include sizzling fajitas, grilled chicken, salmon teriyaki and Mediterranean pork chops. For the trendy, organic foodie crowd the Brownstone lists five Acai bowls.
While the Brownstone’s spacious interior dining area is closed to the public, a full bar is open and operating, with mixed drinks, beer on tap, and wine, along with a variety of fresh-squeezed fruit juices and soda quenchers.
Aside from the food, the most satisfying aspect of the meal was the courtesy extended by staff and customers at the Brownstone in respecting health guidelines in order to maintain a safe, pleasant dining experience for everyone. People politely social distanced and wore masks. They were considerate and patient. This extra effort added up to the greater good for all on a sunny Wednesday afternoon at a pancake factory in Englewood Cliffs, during these days of Covid-19.
Editor’s note: Menu items are subject to change.
Brownstone Pancake Factory (brownstonepancakefactory.com)
717 E. Palisade Avenue
Englewood Cliffs, NJ 07632
860 River Road
Edgewater, NJ 07020