Foodstuff: Breakfast redemption tour at Poppycock’s Cafe
Poppycock’s pancakes earn their best-in-town accolades
Consider this my breakfast redemption tour.
After a year and a half grousing about this town’s lack of a breakfast culture, I learned much too recently that I was flat-out wrong. Aspen need not redeem itself for what I thought was a dearth of sit-down breakfasts; it’s me who owes an apology for my unwarranted complaints lodged in willful ignorance of the Poppycock’s pancakes I could have been eating this whole time.
My editor had recommended Poppycock’s Cafe — a “classic” Aspen breakfast joint since 1971 with “the best pancakes in town” — after I conceded last week to the idea that perhaps Aspen does have a breakfast culture after all.
Sure, I’d give it a try. For an excuse to eat pancakes (though I rarely need an excuse), why not?
I had heard praise of Poppycock’s before, and made a couple of half-spirited efforts to get some friends to join me there last spring and summer to a middling response. Rather than revisit the idea later, I continued to proclaim for nearly another year that there just aren’t any good places to get breakfast around here while walking several times a week past what is in fact a very good place to get breakfast around here.
I knew it the moment we walked through the door, just to the right of a row of counter seats that could just as comfortably welcome the regulars of a small-town diner as those of this Aspen institution. Like all truly fine breakfast establishments, Poppycock’s does not waste energy on gloss that could be better spent at the griddle.
The tablecloths, just a shade greener than the default wallpaper of Windows 95, radiate the carefree mood of simpler “Seinfeld”-era times. The list of served-all-day breakfast menu options, single-spaced in Calibri font, fills nearly a page and a half on standard printer paper slipped under the glass on the table. Food arrives on sturdy speckled stoneware designed to accommodate the orders of ravenous appetites; portions dwarf the plates, not the other way around.
I tucked into a nook with breakfast buddies Bryan and Henry — this week’s willing subjects of my frequent eating exploits — and found myself with a wide-angle view of the everyman’s restaurant. At one table, all but one member of a fashionable family wore what looked to be custom western hats adorned with the requisite feathers and trim; at another (ours), a trio of breakfasters had the telltale signs of helmet hair.
The menu, too, is sufficient for eaters of all inclinations — crucial for any all-encompassing breakfast joint, given how variably hungry the human race is upon rolling out of bed. Sweet and savory options abound; we three opted for the former.
Bryan and Henry both opted for the combo crepe, filled with strawberries, bananas and chocolate; “The Ultimate,” the menu says. Fitting, as two English women founded Poppycock’s as a creperie some five decades ago, according to the restaurant’s website.
(The hub opened first in the Brand Building that now houses the likes of Dior and Gucci; the restaurant now resides in the Aspen Square building and has been owned by local restaurateurs Paul Poh and Bee Wong since 1990.)
As they wolfed down their morning sugar rushes laden in whipped cream, I tucked into what I have good reason to believe are indeed the “best pancakes in town.”
I should note that I have eaten only my own homemade pancakes within Aspen city limits, so my bar for best-in-town is sky-high and, until last week, unchallenged. The recipe I use, from Magnus Nilsson’s “The Nordic Baking Book,” yields dozens of fantastic flapjacks that gave me little reason to seek out a restaurant alternative from within the 81611 zip code.
But the Poppycock’s website calls the oatmeal pancakes “world famous,” and the menu identifies the dish as a “have-to-try,” so of course I had to try them. Rich but not heavy, satisfying but not stuffing, creamy in a way I didn’t think pancakes could be creamy and smooth in a way I didn’t think oatmeal could be smooth — it isn’t hard to see (or taste) how the hearty stack earned its international renown.
Kaya Williams is a reporter for The Aspen Times and The Snowmass Sun who is still getting acquainted with Aspen’s breakfast culture. Next up: Hickory House. Email her at email@example.com.