Following our July 4th fireworks cruise through the Thousand Islands, my wife and I found ourselves in Syracuse the following morning. Headed to the Adirondacks for a full day of bright sun and water, we needed a hearty breakfast. We were armed with plenty of convenient options, but we headed off the beaten path, towards a shanty little shack on the outskirts of the city called Mother’s Cupboard.
If we judged books by their covers, then Mother’s Cupboard would find itself in the trash bin. Standing off by itself on James Street, looking more in need of a maintenance crew than a restaurant, you’d never know that the place advertising itself as “Fish Fry” specialists was actually home to some of Syracuse’s best breakfasts.
They’d actually first come across my radar in 2010 when the eatery appeared on Travel Channel’s “Man v Food”. Host Adam Richman competed in their Frittata Challenge; a ridiculous 6 pound platter of eggs, sausage, pepperoni, vegetables, and home fries. If you can’t even begin to imagine something so gargantuan, I’ve helpfully screen captured the monstrosity. Given that I had no intention to spend my day doubled over with intestinal cramps while digesting like a snake, I didn’t plan to follow suit. I just wanted to kick start my day with some classic American breakfast.
We had actually tried to eat here once before, but made two mistakes. The first was even thinking about coming in on a weekend, when the lines stretch so far that even finding parking becomes a frustrating game of Tetris. Secondly, they work as a cash only business, and we only had the credit cards. This time, we rolled in on a Tuesday, with cash in our pockets.
The first thing we noticed was how cheerful the small staff was. They were attentive, friendly, chatting away with the customers. My wife, with her love of scratch baking, commented that she’d be in heaven working in this kind of atmosphere.
The prices for everything are reasonable, with almost nothing exceeding a $10 price point. A Southerner at heart, I opted in for the biscuits and gravy. My wife saw the words “foot wide pancakes” and was instantly sold.
I sipped at my orange juice while I watched the lone cook work away. There’s a long grill right behind the counter, where Peter Greene, one of the co-owners, skillfully worked his business. Without a measuring cup to be seen, he knew how much pancake batter to pour (a lot), how many home fries to toss on the grill (tons), and exactly when the bacon was ready to be flipped (when it was done).
The plates arrived, and even though I knew this place was all about the portions, I wasn’t quite ready for what was headed our way. At least a half pound of potatoes was joined by 4 full fluffy buttery biscuits, with the entire portion drowned in a puddle of their steaming hot homemade sausage gravy. I’m not even sure the picture is doing justice to how much food this was. If Jesus managed to feed 5000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish, he’d feed the world with this thing.
The gravy was excellent, with big chunks of sausage present throughout thick, well seasoned sauce. The potatoes had been cooked quickly, allowing them to form a nice brown crust on the outside. They were paired with grilled onions, and once I’d topped them off with a little hot sauce, I was set. I managed to eat roughly half the plate before I had to tap out.
While this was going on, the pancake had also arrived. To sum it up in 2 words: Good Gawd. The thing was bigger than the plate it was served on, topped with a field of strawberries, and enough whipped cream to cover two whole pies. There are fully grown elephants out there that would do a double take at the size of this serving. This wasn’t breakfast – it was the main attraction at a birthday party.
I tried a bite, and it was wonderful. Strawberries and cream just pair together so naturally that you can never go wrong. Because it wasn’t already sweet enough, I even dipped my bite into a little syrup. It’s a wonder I didn’t immediately collapse into a coma.
There’s a sign on the wall that commands you to clean your plate, as per Mother’s rules. Sorry mother, we tried, but there was no chance. We left nearly two thirds of the pancake behind. I truly hate wasting food, but some things just don’t travel well. Cream topped pancakes, and gravy soaked biscuits just happen to be two of those things.
If you’re coming, bring your appetite. Do what we couldn’t. Make mother proud.
Address: 3709 James St, Syracuse, NY