Serious Eats

Phoenix: Impossibly Airy, Amazingly Awesome Pancakes at Matt's Big Breakfast

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Matt's Big Breakfast, pancakes

[Photographs: Adam Kuban]

Matt's Big Breakfast

801 North 1st Street, Phoenix AZ 85004 (at East McKinley; map); 602-254-1074; mattsbigbreakfast.com

My recent pizza tour of the West Coast included a quick, 22-hour stop in Phoenix, where, before leaving town, I visited Matt's Big Breakfast.

The eponymous owner is Matt Pool, who started this popular breakfast spot shortly after leaving Bar Bianco. Bar Bianco is the watering hole that pizzaman Chris Bianco opened next door to his legendary Pizzeria Bianco, where the thinking has always been use only the best ingredients and prepare them in a simple manner that lets them shine on their own. Unsurprisingly, Pool learned this lesson well and employs the same philosophy at Big Breakfast.

So along with a few unexpected twists (a soppressata scramble, a pork rib chop), you'll find comfort-breakfast staples: bacon and eggs, hash browns, home fries, waffles, and omelets. Oh, and griddlecakes, which is what I ended up ordering after reading about them on PHX Rail Food.

The griddlecakes at Matt's are light, impossibly airy, a little flaky, a little sweet, and, best of all, just slightly crisp on the surface.

OK. This may seem like a digression, but trust me. I make my peanut butter and honey sandwiches on whole wheat. I spread one slice of bread with peanut butter and the other with honey. You know, because you can't drizzle honey onto the peanut butter, since that doesn't really work. But sometimes I get distracted and let the slices sit before pressing them together. When that's the case, something seems to happen to the honey side. I don't know whether the sugar in the honey starts to crystallize or what, but that honey slice of bread seems to get this slightly crisp texture to it. Try it. You'll see.

And that type of crispness is exactly the type of crispness that Matt's griddlecakes had.

Served with a dollop of sweet cream butter and real maple syrup, these things are heaven. And that's from someone who's more a savory bacon-and-eggs guy than a sweet waffles-or-pancakes guy.

I had heard and read good things about Matt's before eating there, so it was hard for me to break character and go for these griddlecakes. I really wanted to try one of the egg dishes. But it's rare that I find truly memorable hotcakes, and I figured this might be the place. It was, and I don't regret ordering these at all. In fact, I'm dreaming of them a little more than a week later.

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I accidentally ended up ordering a side of home fries. I misread the menu and got the notion that all dishes came with toast and hash browns or home fries when in fact it's only the egg dishes that do. Anyway, the home fries are perfectly cooked—crisp but not burnt on the outside and soft in the middle—but they're tossed with rosemary, which I find a little much after a few bites. I'm kicking myself now for misreading that menu. Had I realized I was adding a side dish to my order, I would have made it an egg instead. Oh well, there's always next time. (And I do hope to make it back to Phoenix for a next time.)

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Yes, if Matt's Big Breakfast sounds familiar, it's because it was featured on Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives in March 2008.

Regardless of what you think about Fieri—believe it or not, a lot of people think he's an asshat—every one of the places I've been to that he's visited has been awesome. So he may be annoying on some level, but he knows how to pick 'em.

As you can expect, a place with this level of notoriety gets pretty crowded. It's open Tuesdays through Sundays from 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. People in Phoenix seem to get up pretty early. I got there at 7:10 a.m. and wasn't able to get in immediately. (Granted, I did get a table for one in about 10 minutes, though.)

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