Monday, January 26, 2009

Ken's House of Pancakes

I was doubtful that a pancake house would be worth writing about, and I wasn’t all that excited about gorging myself on a heavy breakfast given that later in the day we’d be driving 9000 feet to Mauna Kea, and perhaps higher. Who knew how a big breakfast would sit that high up? In the ether, would my body be able to digest so much food while dealing with the mountain’s thin air? And what would happen if Mauna Kea erupted and, weighed down with breakfast, we had to run, or more likely waddle, for our lives?

Ah, but it turned out to be little more than my normal paranoia. Ken’s House of Pancakes basically blew me away. I never knew that eggs could be so damn good. I have no idea what they feed chickens on the Big Island, but it must be a gourmet version of…whatever chickens eat.

To begin with, I want to say this: Ken’s House of Pancakes serves the best omelets I’ve probably ever had in my life. My wife ordered the “Hombre omelet,” which consisted of Portuguese sausage, onions, green peppers, and Ken’s famous “Homemade Spanish Sauce,” and came with a very reasonably sized, and thankfully airy, side of pancakes. I’m guessing that my wife’s order, after factoring out the plate, weighed nearly 5% of her body weight. The omelet was advertised as being made from three eggs, but, had I not known this, I would’ve guessed six. We’re talking a monster omelet, large enough to encase an average, normally proportioned chicken and all the cutlery we’d need to eat it.

I, on the other hand, ignorant as I was of the otherworldly eggs I was about to discover, went with the French toast, which was somewhat dry and chewy—while I love the thick “Portuguese sweet bread” they use, that’s the tradeoff one too often makes, I suppose. My wife was unable to finish her entire Hombre, so, being the chivalrous sort—and a human disposal when it comes to leftover food—I devoted myself, with lustful abandon, to what was left of her omelet.

Despite appearances, the eggs were quite light—for an additional 75¢ you can order Egg Beaters to substitute for eggs—and the omelet was filled to bursting with extras. But there was a flavor to the eggs that was amazing, prompting me to comment to my wife that they must add sugar to them. Not that the omelet was sweet, but how else to explain such surprisingly delicious eggs? I mean, aren’t eggs just…eggs? My wife disagreed with me about the sugar, but she couldn’t offer any other explanation. And it wasn’t the influence of other ingredients because, when we returned two days later and ordered something different, the eggs had the same great taste. Maybe it’s all the vog in the air.

Ken’s attracts its fair share of tourists, in large part because it’s a Big Island institution and can be found in most guidebooks. But there were enough locals there, too, that you knew the place passed muster. The locals on either side of our table, and I mean no offense by this, were possibly three times the size of my wife and I. Oddly enough, that’s exactly what impressed me; if these people were regulars, surely their corpulence spoke volumes about Ken’s food. If I lived on the Big Island, I’m sure I’d balloon up in no time because I’d be having breakfast at Ken’s several times a week.

When we returned to Ken’s two days later, eschewing all the other good breakfast options we knew Hilo offered, I quickly succumbed to the powerful hold Ken’s eggs had on me and ordered the “Mauna Loa Scramble”—scrambled eggs with onions, green peppers, mushrooms, and spinach, while my wife shifted in a slightly healthier direction than before and ordered the “Vegetarian Omelet” (filled with mushrooms, spinach, bell peppers, onions, and tomatoes). Again, the eggs, perfectly cooked, won us over, and the coffee carafe we emptied was an ideal amount to help the food go down.

Ken’s, which has been fattening happy customers 24/7 since 1971, has been recognized both locally and nationally for its food. It’s been cleaning up on the Big Island’s breakfast scene, being named “Best Breakfast” for twelve years in a row and counting. USA Today also named Ken’s one of the “Top Ten Diners in the Nation” as well as having one of the “Top Ten Waitress Staffs in the Nation.” The service was, in fact, excellent. The waitresses all dressed in parrot greens and yellows and had old, 60s hairdos; their attentiveness was the best we came across on the Big Island.

I know this sounds strange, but Ken’s has definitely earned its stripes with their eggs. Their menu, which holds its own with the lengthiest Chinese menus around, offers good value; their omelets mostly ranged between $8 and $13—very reasonable considering what you get. They also boast a variety of appetizers, sandwiches, chili and soups, salads, dinner entrees, and a “Keiki Corner” for kids.

Ken’s House of Pancakes is located at 1730 Kamehameha Avenue. Call (808) 935-8711 for take out orders and catering. Parking is extremely limited, but there’s enough turnover that you can usually find a spot if you’re patient.

Open 24 hours!

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  1. I feel the same way about the eggs. I live and Hilo, and have been consumed with trying to make eggs that way at home. Had an omelet this morning there and came home to search the internet in hopes of finding some kind of clue. Im not sure how they do it- I have tried everything I can think of, but they make eggs like not other!!

  2. Hi Anonymous: I envy you your proximity to Ken's House of Pancakes! I also tried to make the eggs at home for a while, but I soon gave up. And yes, they really do make eggs like no one else. Next time I'm in Hilo I'm definitely going back to Ken's. Thanks for your comment!