By Frank Sabatini Jr.
Please refer to your news sources to check the rapidly changing guidelines and mandates regarding dining out, per the CDC as well as city, state and federal branches of government. As of printing, takeout, delivery, drive-thru, and curbside pick-up are the only options.
Before dissing the notion of making your own pancakes at North Park’s hottest new breakfast joint, just hear me out as to why you should partake in it at some point (once the quarantine is over).
For starters, the “flip your own” approach at Flap Your Jacks is optional. No judgment is passed if you decide to spare your lazy little hands the task of applying batter to your table’s built-in griddle and then giving your spatula a twist of the wrist.
Yes, a full menu and gleaming new kitchen are in place—driven by a professional chef—should you prefer ordering something like Monte Cristo French toast or extraordinary lemon souffle pancakes, which you should do as well in another visit. They’re festooned with citrusy mascarpone cheese and assorted berries and sport a wildly light and airy texture.
Indeed, making flapjacks at home can be troublesome and messy. But you won’t face those pitfalls here.
The clumsiness of making them is removed by a spacious non-stick griddle positioned only feet away from your chest and in easy arm’s reach. You cook while comfortably sitting, just as you would when enjoying Korean barbecue or meat fondue.
Assorted batters such as buttermilk, red velvet and chocolate are placed at your table in squeeze bottles. The batters dispense cleanly and precisely enough to create fun and zany shapes should you feel so inspired.
Customers at the table next to us crafted what looked like a forest scene, framed exquisitely by the rectangular edges of their griddle. Our waiter said such batter artworks aren’t uncommon, citing others who have nailed down the images of Cookie Monster, various animals, and even a beach image replete with palm trees and ocean waves.
We stuck to traditional disks. And did so with childlike excitement. Not a single irregular-shaped hotcake in our production line. Each was cooked perfectly despite getting carried away a few times in conversation. That’s because the griddles are set at a medium-heat level, which means the pancakes don’t cook as fast as you’d expect—but they also don’t burn easily.
The batter flavors we chose were buttermilk, banana bread and peanut butter. All are made in-house and tasted excellent. There are also numerous “mix-ins” and toppings and house-made syrups to choose from.
The melty peanut butter chips I tried added richness. My companion reveled in fresh blueberries he added to his buttermilk beauties. And if you’re a fan of fruit-flavored syrups, the raspberry option is exceptional because it isn’t cloying like the imitation stuff.
Owners Marc Wornovitzky and his brother, Ilan, sunk $2 million into the two-level space, which sat empty for some years before coming to life earlier this month. They created an inviting, modern motif that includes fun décor and shiny ventilation hoods over the tables. The siblings also run four Jersey Mike’s franchises in South Bay and a couple of sushi places in their native Mexico City.
Chef Sergio Howland is also from Mexico City. He’s a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. His culinary talents are profoundly evident in other dishes we tried, such as a croque madame sandwich oozing with Gruyere cheese, bechamel sauce and lean ham. The accompanying slab of hash browns were superior—incredibly crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside.
His red chilaquiles are marvelous, too. We opted for the addition of grilled chicken (boneless, skinless breast meat), which sat atop a bowl of tortilla chips semi-soaked in spicy salsa. Those gave way to layers of refried black beans, crema, queso fresco, and fresh cilantro.
My companion’s “smokey Benedict” featured smoked salmon on toasted croissants with a pair of eggs on top. The star of the dish was the lemon hollandaise sauce draping the eggs. It was extraordinarily silky and composed—testimony to Howland’s training at a prestigious chef school.
Flap Your Jacks offers cocktails from a full bar. Drinks such as the North Park julep and assorted bloody marys are the perfect complements to other menu items such as a mushroom scramble, “holy mole” enchiladas, and poblano pepper tamales.
Several brunch items like grilled asparagus with prosciutto, burgers, and steak frites are available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.
But for novelty’s sake, and regardless of whatever else you order, try your hands at flapping.
— Frank Sabatini Jr. is the author of ‘Secret San Diego’ (ECW Press) and began his local writing career more than two decades ago as a staffer for the former San Diego Tribune. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.