Smile Politely

Merry-Ann’s pancake recipe has survived four decades

It’s funny when you think about big companies and restaurants protecting their recipes for certain food products. Of course the everyman can make whatever the product is at home, but without the proper equipment it’s pretty tough to recreate that crisp flavor of a fountain Coca-Cola or the exact same flavors of Chipotle’s guacamole.

They’re mass produced and so trying to recreate those things is sort of a fool’s errand. But smaller businesses and smaller shops sometimes have to keep the lid on their recipes to avoid the competition from serving the exact same item.

I was actually pretty shocked to learn that Merry-Ann’s pancake mix is basically a secret recipe. I had the chance to chat with owner Tony Pomonis at the Downtown Merry-Ann’s about their pancakes and he revealed that there are only 5 people (himself included) that know how to construct the dry-mix for Merry-Ann’s pancakes.

I honestly had assumed that a diner with monster turnover at breakfast and after bars closed would just use a generic food service mix for their pancakes. But instead, Pomonis explained the secret to me (although, not the full recipe of the dry mix). Trademark secret, I’m told. But there’s probably flour, and probably cornmeal and other ingredients that you’d usually make pancakes with. We just don’t know how much Merry-Ann’s uses.

While he made the batter in front of me, Pomonis told me the story of how the pancakes came to be.

“My dad had gone on, I think, a 45-day bender in the early 70’s with his buddies after they sold their bar and every morning they were trying to find the perfect pancake batter. They tried all kinds of variations and this was the one that was the reigning champion for two weeks. It’s been used in family restaurants since then.”

Hungover experimentation is how I want the ideas for all of my food to come to fruition.

The impressive thing about the pancakes at Merry-Ann’s is that there’s a right way to make them, after the dry mix is constructed. Fresh eggs are beaten in a giant mixer first, then the dry mix and buttermilk are added to make the batter look, well, like batter. And then 8 ozs of oil is added to smooth out the mixture. The oil has to get drizzled in very slowly, but once the mix and buttermilk are in the mixer the cook has 8 minutes to get everything in a container and into the walk-in refrigerator. Then, that entire mixture has to be served within 24 hours.

Pomonis has been doing it since he was 16, but he hasn’t always been the most diligent pancake batter maker. “I’d cut corners, you know, as a teenager might,” he says. “But I got called out for it because you can absolutely tell. If one of these little rules isn’t followed, the cooks will know. If I let it whip too long the pancakes will be flat and won’t rise on the griddle.”

Happy pancakes, Pomonis calls the pancakes that actually do rise. Having a gigantic stack of those to start or end your day usually makes for a happy eater too.

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