Stacks adds up
The Walnut Village retail center at Culver and Walnut has always been a place for early risers. Starbucks opens at 5 a.m., Smart & Final an hour later, with late-rising Trader Joe’s and French’s Pastry joining the group at 7 a.m., most days (French’s is closed on Sundays).
Despite the early arrivals, the center was never what one would call bustling on most weekend mornings. But that was before Stacks Pancake House opened its first Irvine location earlier this summer.
Ever since, the outdoor tables are full of fans chowing down on Captain Mac Nut French Toast, Macadamia Banana Pancakes, Kalua Pork Benedict and Loco Moco.
Stacks opens at 6:30 a.m., and if you don’t want to wait, we suggest arriving not too much later, as parking can be hard to come by and a long line forms for the new breakfast hot spot.
The extensive menu items are ordered in a fast-casual style: you order at the counter, find a seat and wait until servers find your number and deliver your food. While that kind of service can be stressful when a place is packed—will a table be available after you order?–Stacks makes it easier. As you approach the counter on a busy morning, a server will greet you in line, ask how many, and go save you a table.
And after you get your food, the servers stay on the job, stopping by frequently to see how things are going: bringing extra napkins, refilling drinks (only alcohol-free available, alas), etc.
And as for food, the menu has a Hawaiian café feel, with selections like Spam and eggs and Korean barbequed short ribs and eggs reflecting the multicultural audience of the Islands (and Irvine). That being said, the menu is in no way exotic. There are omelettes, scrambles, crepes and Benedicts by the boatload.
There are a dozen or so kinds of pancakes on the menu, including Coconut Pineapple, Blueberry, Chocolate Chip, Macadamia Banana Pancakes, along with seasonal choices that include Blueberry Ricotta, Orange Marmalade Coconut and Red Velvet—and be sure to try the coconut syrup.
Prices are reasonable, and there’s a decent kids menu, too. One quibble: the water cups for kids near the fountain drinks don’t have lids that fit, as the lids available are for soft drink orders. So be sure to ask for an empty cup at the counter if you want to keep your toddlers dry.
And though the focus is on breakfast, there’s also a lunch menu available, with Asian fusion and American choices that include burgers, Turkey Avocado Melts, BLT and grilled cheese sandwiches, as well as specials like Hawaiian Chopped Steak, Yakisoba Chicken and Bo Luc Lac.
Stacks Pancake House calls it a day at 2 p.m., which frees up the patio tables for afternoon Starbucks studiers and the parking for TJ shoppers, returning the shopping center to the calm place we had come to expect.