During our trip to Southern California earlier this year, we stayed in the beautiful port community of Dana Point. I've often said that if I could live anywhere in the continental United States, it would be in Dana Point. Along the main drag of the Pacific Coast Highway in Dana Point, we saw a place that we wanted to try for breakfast. On our last morning in Dana Point, we stopped into Stacks Pancake House.
Nixon Tanuwidjaja grew up in Indonesia and worked in restaurants to help put himself through college. He ended up in Los Angeles running the operations of four Japanese restaurants. It was while he was in L.A. that he met his soon-to-be wife, Ovita - also from Indonesia - and the two embarked upon a quest to learn more about the subtleties of Asian cuisine.
The two moved to Hawaii and found out that the meshing of Asian and Hawaiian cuisines made for some interesting combinations. It was also in Hawaii that they found - as my wife and I discovered on our trip to Hawaii five years ago - that breakfast is the favorite meal of the day to most residents of the islands. They worked on a concept to incorporate Asian cuisine with traditional Hawaiian breakfast dishes. Once they felt they had something to work with, Nixon and Ovita moved back to Southern California opening Stacks Pancake House in 2010. They opened a second location in Mission Viejo in early 2013 because of the number of customers that were driving down to Dana Point from the Irvine area.
We found parking just down the street from Stacks Pancake House and walked up the street to the restaurant. (see map) The restaurant features both indoor and outdoor dining options. Patrons place their orders at a counter and are given a number to place on their table for the servers to bring their food to them. It was a nice morning and we decided to dine outside on one of the heavy metal mesh tables under an umbrella.
The menu at Stacks Pancake House is a mix of traditional Hawaiian breakfasts (loco moco, Spam-infused dishes) to traditional American breakfasts (waffles, pancakes, omelets) to the exquisite (eggs Benedict and crepes). They also serve lunch at Stacks and feature Asian influenced foods such as Korean barbecued short ribs, chicken teriyaki, and chicken katsu that is a Panko breaded chicken breast served with a tonkatsu sauce that is similar to a Worcestershire sauce, only thicker.
While we were in Dana Point, Cindy kept eyeing a roadside stand that sold strawberries. The only problem is that they only sold them by the pint and she didn't think she could eat a whole pint. I told her, "Hey! We're on vacation. Let's stop and get some strawberries and you can toss what you don't eat." Well, she's picky about how she prepares her strawberries and she kept saying that she didn't want to stop. And we never did. So when I saw that they had strawberry crepes at Stacks, I just figured that she'd get them.
She didn't. She got what I had - the blueberry crepes. (Actually, I almost got the French toast which they make with sweet King's Hawaiian bread. To this day, I don't know why I didn't get the French toast with blueberries on top of it.) The crepes were filled with a rich compote with large blueberries mixed in. The crepes were, in my estimation, excellent. Cindy seemed to like them, too, but was kicking herself later on in the meal by saying that she should have gotten the strawberry crepes. "These are good," she said. "But what was I thinking? I'm sure they would be using fresh California strawberries in their crepes." She was mildly peeved at herself for her decision not to go with the strawberry crepes.
When we got to Stacks and found that it had a large Hawaiian influence on the breakfast menu, I initially thought for a moment about getting a loco moco. (They also had a kalua pork omelet that caught my attention. I love good kalua pork.) For the uninitiated, a loco moco consists of a choice of a hamburger patty (or two), Portuguese sausage, or fried Spam that is placed on a bed of steamed rice and topped with two eggs and a gravy. (Click here to read about the loco moco I got during our trip to Hawaii.) It's a lot of food and probably better tasting when you're massively hungover.
But I had to get something that had a Hawaiian bent to the breakfast, so I got a side of Spam. It was four slices of Spam fried and served straight up. I can't tell you the last time I had it. Well, yes I can - it was in Hawaii. Cindy wanted a bite and she almost recoiled in horror - not because it tasted bad, but because it was so salty. And that's why I don't eat Spam once in every, oh, I guess five years. I hardly salt anything and Spam is fairly heavy in salt content. The funny thing though, Cindy kept reaching over and cutting off a corner of a slice of Spam.
Dana Point is one of my all-time favorite destinations and with the diverse and extensive menu at Stacks Pancake House I'm sure I could have breakfast every day there for a week and not have anything remotely close to the same thing on each visit. For a Hawaiian-style breakfast place, they do a very good job and it was a great value for what we got. I was happy with my blueberry crepes and even though my wife would have liked to have gotten the strawberry crepes instead, I believe she liked her blueberry crepes, as well. Stacks Pancake House was a great find for breakfast in Dana Point.