Pannekoeken: Going Dutch with pancakes

October 26, 1995|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,SUN RESTAURANT CRITIC

Consider America's love affair with dough. Raw chocolate chip cookie dough. (They even put it in luxury ice cream.) Fried dough. Doughnuts. Thick-crust pizza. How can pannekoeken miss?

These huge Dutch pancakes are the specialty of Fells Point's newest wacky little eatery, the Pan Handle. Soft, chewy and irresistibly doughy, the 16-inch pannekoek comes on a giant blue-and-white Delft plate sliced like pizza, with a choice of 101 toppings.

Actually there are only about five toppings (OK, maybe a few more than five) mixed and matched -- you know, cheese and onions, Canadian bacon with cheese and onions, cheese with Canadian bacon and so on. About a third of the choices are dessert pannekoeken.

We had a vegetarian version topped with cheese, sliced tomatoes, corn, peppers, onions and mushrooms. We tried a Tex-Mex with chicken, salsa, guacamole, sour cream, cheese and tomatoes. Both of them were pretty good, but I would have been perfectly happy with the plain cheese or just the dough -- er, pannekoek -- by itself. Likewise the "maison sweet," with strawberry slices scattered widely apart like pepperoni on a pizza and a scoop of ice cream in the middle. I'd have enjoyed just a sprinkling of sugar. Or a few more strawberries and no ice cream.

If you don't want dough, the Pan Handle has good shrimp salad and a Mediterranean salad with goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes but uninteresting lettuce. The soups are hardy: oxtail, French onion and a thick but tasty cheese and potato.

All this is served in a cross between a cozy country kitchen and a Fells Point basement bar -- an unlikely combination, to say the least, with blue-and-white checked tablecloths and music from the "Forrest Gump" soundtrack.

The Pan Handle is a franchise waiting to happen. They have the gimmick: the giant pancakes. They have the T-shirt, the Delft plates and the menu for sale. (That last costs a dollar.) They even have a number to call for information on how to get a Pan Handle franchise. Never mind that this is the one and only Pan Handle so far.

They need, however, to come up with a few more customers before they think about expanding. A shorter wait for the pannekoeken to make their way to the customers' table wouldn't hurt either.

The Pan Handle

1636 Thames St.

(410) 522-0495

Hours: Monday through Friday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m.-10 p.m., Sunday 8 a.m.-9 p.m.

Credit cards: AE, D, MC, V

Prices: $4.25-$7.95

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