Blasphème: The Skinny Pancake

The Skinny Pancake in Hanover, NH

The Skinny Pancake in Hanover, NH.

After quite a long hiatus, The Review is back in business with its legendary review series as the gang makes their way over to one of Hanover’s newest additions, The Skinny Pancake. Based out of Burlington, Vermont, The Skinny Pancake claims to be “on a mission to change the world by building a safer, healthier and more delicious food shed while creating everyday enjoyment that is fun and affordable.” In pursuit of these goals, however, the restaurant’s quirks turn out to be cheap, awkward, and downright strange.

Veteran Reviewer Sheriff Rick Grimes is the first to shuffle up to the scene, back after a bit of a break from restaurant reviewing. Given his soft spot for European cuisine, however, a new crepe-based restaurant in Hanover was too good to pass up. Breaker Morant, an Australian martyr of the Boer War, and the barbarian Vercingetorix join him.

Upon arrival, the gang is immediately thrown off by the unorthodox ordering style. The hostess does not guide guests to their assigned table, guests immediately queue at the ordering bar and browse the overhead menu to make their decision.  Though certainly different from a traditional restaurant experience, the Sheriff becomes annoyed; this aspect of Skinny Pancake is quite reminiscent of the average fast food experience. In addition to being unnecessary, the process is not at all conducive to the quality social experience one expects from fine dining. Vercingetorix is also worried that the food will not arrive all together, leading to a messy experience at the table (Unfortunately, fears would later be confirmed). Breaker Morant’s eye focuses on the extensive beer menu emblazoned on the wall; the selection is more than thorough. After finishing their orders and paying, the gang take their numbers and find a seat in the middle of the dining room.

Taking their seats at the table, the gang is struck by the unorthodox type of seating – benches, rather than traditional chairs. Morant takes a seat on one side of the table, while the Sheriff and Vercingetorix sit opposite him, on the same narrow bench. If out to dinner with a significant other, this seating method might be endearing; in this situation, it simply makes the two men uncomfortable. Vercingetorix also shakes his head in disapproval of the “tacky” Halloween decorations; fake spiderwebs adorn the windows and various wooden fixtures throughout the restaurant. They conjure images of Boer ghosts for Morant: he is triggered. The decor is otherwise quite nice. Skinny Pancake is clearly going after a rustic-modern inspired design and more than accomplishes this goal. Most everything is made of reclaimed wood, and the open ceiling acts as a finishing touch.

Then, out of nowhere, the lights dim. Vercingetorix and Grimes scoot away from each other. With a few taps of an electronic drum, the live music begins. Situated at the far wall of the restaurant, the stage is within clear view of every patron. Tonight’s entertainment is provided by “Navytrain,” an alternative band out of Burlington, Vermont. The band is reminiscent of a more modern, upbeat Bon Iver, which earns a thumbs up from the Sheriff; Breaker Morant, who prefers historical war ballads, is less than enthused.

It is at this point that the gang discovers their thirst. Vercingetorix rushes back up to the front and orders a glass-bottled fruit soda, and Morant opts for a glass of water. The Sheriff is, as usual, on duty and thus unable to consume alcohol, so his colleagues’ selections of softer beverages makes him feel better about his old stand-by: an ice-cold glass of water. To his dismay, at the Skinny Pancake, this is easier said than done. Table service is not the norm here. Customers must stand up, walk over to a dispenser across from the bar, and fetch a simple glass of water by themselves. The Sheriff spends an extra minute searching high and low for ice, which turned out to be located in a white ice chest perched atop the bar. So much hassle over a simple beverage is a grave inconvenience, and confirms the service quality of the Skinny Pancake to be not much more than that of a fast-food restaurant.

After a few more moments, the gang’s food arrives. Turnaround time was relatively quick; however, as the gang feared, appetizers, main courses, and desserts arrive all at once. It is difficult to fit all the plates on the table, which is frustrating to both the gang and the waitresses. To the Sheriff’s dismay, his food is not included; the wait staff promises to have it out “shortly.” Without hesitation, the three attack the appetizers. Morant, a vegetarian, opts for the Skinny Fries (Fresh cut native potato fries with your choice of ketchup, honey mustard or pesto mayo, $5.95), while Vercingetorix and the Sheriff go for the poutine (French fries, local cheddar cheese curds and chicken gravy, $10.95). The fries are, in general, well-seasoned, fresh, and flavorful, but only lukewarm, as if they sat out on the counter for a while. They are slightly soggy and potentially undercooked; there is not much crisp to be found. Depending on one’s personal french fry preference, this could be a pro; to the Sheriff, however, this is most certainly a con. Vercingetorix is ashamed that such food could be named after his native land. Both Vercingetorix and Grimes agree that the poutine is good, but not hot enough, and certainly not “Canadian genuine;” as opposed to the gravy poured over the top, the curd-covered fries are sitting in a pool of chicken gravy, which leads to the fries on the bottom being overly saturated with gravy. In spite of this, there are certainly some positives; the pesto mayo is a real achievement, and the Sheriff nearly licks the condiment cup clean.

After ten minutes elapses since the first round of food arrived, Vercingetorix, uneducated in modern manners, expresses concern that the main courses are becoming cold. The Sheriff, always a gentleman, insists that his colleagues dig in; frustrated at his slow service, he cannot help but frown. “Blue lives matter,” the Sheriff grumbles under his breath.

Vercingetorix aggressively cuts into his Johnny Crepe (Slow braised NH pulled pork, caramelized onions and Cabot cheddar in a cornmeal crépe with a side of root slaw and sweet maple BBQ sauce, $11.95). He is surprised to find a delicious meal, reminiscent of the hearty meat and mead dinners he is used to enjoying. There is plenty of pork, and the combination of the meat with the onions and cheese is well-balanced and tasty. This is a full entreé, and the barbarian is fully satisfied by the end of it. Unfortunately, the coleslaw is not up to par. It feels like more of a garnish than a side, and its flavor is very weak.

Breaker Morant selects the Fried Cheese Curds (Local cheddar cheese curds breaded and fried with a side of marinara sauce, $10.95) for his entreé. He recalls the days in the bush when he and his comrades cooked all their food in an old skillet, and he begins to worry.. Expecting either burned kernels or uncooked globs of cheese, he is surprised to receive a plate of lightly browned nuggets. The curds are neither burnt nor undercooked; the exteriors are crunchy, and the interiors are thoroughly melted. The curds are also seasoned, a significant improvement over those he used to make while camping in the Transvaal. The marinara, while fresh, is nothing special.  Both could be spicier, but Morant realizes that the multitude do not share his manly taste buds.

Vercingetorix goes to search for a napkin, but is unable to find one. All that is offered is the small paper napkin that came wrapped around the provided silverware. Scoffing, he wipes his hand on his pants and struts off to the restroom. After his business is finished, he returns, laughing. “You’ll never believe this,” he tells his friends. “There is one men’s bathroom, but TWO women’s bathrooms! Gender equality, am I right?” The gang share a hearty laugh at The Skinny Pancake’s quirky decision, but in the back of their minds, each of the men is ever so slightly triggered.

The music drones on, and after a few more minutes, the Sheriff’s food arrives. He eagerly digs into his Garlique Chic crepe (Local chicken, roasted red peppers, caramelized onions, basil-sunflower seed pesto and Cabot cheddar, $11.95). The crispy outside is immediately off-putting; having traveled extensively throughout Europe, Grimes has enjoyed many a crepe in the shadow of La Tour d’Eiffel, and knows that crepes should always be soft. A properly prepared savory crepe involves cooking the crepe separately from the ingredients, then placing the substance within the crepe, not grilling it all together like a simple, plebeian panini. In addition to its awful crispiness, the dough has been cooked too thick, no doubt a product of the bizarre desire to pack the crepe before grilling it. In spite of this downright offensive flaw, he consumes the rest of his entree. Ultimately, he finds it to be less than satisfactory. The filling relies too heavily on cheese, and does not include enough spice to create a flavorful edge.

Finally, the gang moves on to the desserts. Morant opts for the special dessert crepe, including cocoa, mocha, and powdered sugar, along with cabot whipped cream Mocha Crepe, $10.40). The Sheriff, on the other hands, opts for the more simple and traditional option in the Pooh Bear (Sweet crepe with cinnamon sugar inside with local honey on top, $5.50). Vercingetorix assists with both options. The mocha crepe is not too sweet, and the coffee pairs well with the cream cheese. Unfortunately, it fails to “pop.” There is no crunch, no sharp flavor. The thick crepe and large mound of filling do not match the delicate expectation of a dessert crepe. According to Grimes, the crepe part of the Pooh Bear is a definite improvement over the savory crepe, being thinner and less crispy (although more so than optimal, unfortunately). The flavor is certainly an improvement, and overall, it is a successful dessert crepe.

After another successful battlefront conquered, the gang shuffle out, slightly displeased with their overall experience at The Skinny Pancake. Ultimately, the mediocre-at-best food does not justify the relatively high price tag, and the subpar service was off-putting. Vercingetorix thinks back to his tip at the beginning, likening it to a confidence swindle; how is one supposed to calculate a tip before having experienced the service? The self-service beverage system and all-together serving of the dishes makes the situation even worse. Going out of your way for a glass of water is annoying, and having more plates than the table can accommodate is always a hindrance, especially when half the food sits there getting cold while earlier courses are consumed. The dishes are hit-or-miss, with some being much better than others. The live music is a of course bright point, though can be a bit of a distraction if one is looking for more traditional dining experience. The Skinny Pancake’s inherently flawed business model results in a dining experience that falls flat; we, the reviewers of The Review, are unlikely to attend again.