Slappy Cakes is the kind of place where you come to play with food but end up enjoying a serious gastro adventure. It stems from the place mixing ready-to-order menu options with pour-your-own pancakes. Though owner/founder Adam Fuderer says it might be more than that.
“Our favorite restaurants to eat at have always been either brunch places or interactive dining like fondue, Korean BBQ, etc.,” says Fuderer. “We just had an Aha! moment one day and decided to merge the two ideas. We wanted to focus on fun so every decision was made with that in mind, how to minimize confusion and create an easy and fun guest experience. The first Slappy Cakes opened in October 2009 in Portland [Oregon].”
Fast forward to 2013: there are now Slappy Cakes in Manila, Tokyo, Singapore and Maui as well. Tokyo averages more than an hour wait for a table, and Portland’s pancake popularity is still rising. But their newest location is right here, in the Honokowai Marketplace at the former WM and Pacific Cafe location.
The restaurant is sprawling with booths featuring a Slappy Cakes Panasonic griddle mounted in the middle of the table. It’s a special griddle that was made in Japan just for Slappy Cakes and it never seems to burn a pancake. The dining room also sports large paintings of pancake toppings and hotcakes stacks with butter and syrup, for both inspiration and enticement.
It goes without saying that you must try the pancakes. It’s the only cook-your-own option on the menu, but there are oodles of different combinations, both sweet and savory. For batters, they have basic buttermilk, gluten-free and vegan, Okinawan sweet potato, chocolate and a whole grain. So far, I’ve tried the buttermilk, gluten free/vegan, sweet potato and chocolate, and all are tasty.
The menu makes it easy: first you pick a batter, choose some fillings and then get your toppings like lavender honey or coconut peanut butter. They have a list of recommended combinations for the indecisive and unadventurous. If you’re opposed to making your own food, Slappy Cakes Chef Andy McCoy will serve you any pancake combination, as well as a host of other specialties.
As far as toppings and mix-ins are concerned, this is where you spread your pancake wings. Here’s my tip: bring some kids along to do the cooking for you. They are psyched on it, especially when the little carafes of chocolate chips start showing up. You can stick to healthier options like bananas, blueberries, mango and papaya, but there’s nothing like putting chocolate chips into your pancake batter. For more adventurous types, you can try savory stuff like scallions and bleu cheese.
“When we first developed our batter we wanted something that was more neutral (less sweet) than traditional pancake batter so the fixin’s can really stand out and guests can decide exactly how they want their pancakes to taste,” says Fuderer. “Also, our batter is a little thinner than most restaurants. We wanted our batter to have a homemade taste and be reminiscent of what mom used to make. It didn’t take very long to develop our first batters but to this day we are still testing and making new batters all the time.”
During a recent visit, our server Nicole was really patient while explaining the menu and listening to the kids’ requests and somehow keeping track of it all. What’s more, she never let my cocktail run dry, which is always critical when dining with children.
We wrote our names in pancake batter, made rings to stack on a plate with toppings in the hole and even created Japanimation cartoon characters, which big in our household. We consumed every drop of batter in our squeeze bottles, and what we couldn’t finish came home with us in a box.
They also have a lot of Southern brunch favorites like delectable sausage gravy poured over fluffy homemade biscuits and country fried steak, but they’ve assimilated a few popular local inspired breakfast dishes: loco moco with red pepper sauce, Ahi Benedict and the mushroom scramble with Portuguese sausage and local goat cheese.
Their creativity really shines in the chicken fried bacon and the Veggie Benedict. Both feature their mouthwatering batter. The chicken fried bacon is light and extra crispy and drizzled with house-made apple caramel sauce. The deep-fried seasonal veggies with Hollandaise and poached eggs is a savory answer to rich vegetarian breakfast fare.
“Our food has a heavy Southern influence throughout, so we thought it would be fun to reinterpret classic Hawaiian breakfast dishes with a ‘Slappy’ twist,” says Fuderer. “Some of our most popular Hawaiian dishes are the Slappy Moco (not what you are expecting) and the Banana Bread French Toast, which is served with our signature macadamia nut candied bacon. From the beginning we knew that we wanted Slappy Cakes to be for everyone, not just children. With this in mind we always knew that we wanted to have a serious bar with awesome drinks. We think that having our breakfast cocktails as an option is a key part of the Slappy Cakes experience.”
I got more slap happy after a thorough review of the cocktail list, where their version of the Mai Tai, called the Rum for Breakfast, incorporates mango rum, lemon, maple and egg white for a frothy adult smoothie-like cocktail. But their house Bloody Mary is by far the most popular way to quench away your breakfast and brunch thirst–it’s a solid pint of classic Bloody with a cucumber vodka and garnishes. And the Slappy Screw is an inventive screwdriver with a cinnamon sugar rum that I couldn’t stop sipping. I never thought cinnamon and OJ would be a good mix, but it reminded me of a Harvey Wallbanger. They also have a tour of mimosas and non-alcoholic drinks like the Kiddie Kremescicle. There’s also Maui Oma Coffee and Harney and Sons tea.
I can see why Japan loves Slappy Cakes. With okonomiyaki and shabu shabu, their culinary traditions are more refined in the interactive genre. My family took to it quit quickly, and I’ve been back to try different batters and other dishes. It’s one of the only times my kids weren’t done eating before me, and they had something to keep them busy while I leisurely grazed on their creations. But I think next I’ll take a group of adults the next time to see if they can do better.
3350 L. Honoapiilani Rd. #701, Honokowai
Kama‘aina discount: 15 percent off
About Jen Russo
I write lifestyle and culinary columns for MauiTime. I love being a Maui girl and adore my big family. Dedicated food taster, blogger, internet fanatic, and Maui and Hawaii specialist.