Urban Spoon Week Day 1: Pancake Pantry

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As I began my week of Urban Spooning, I found that I had to set a few ground rules. I promised that I wouldn't hit spin again just because I didn't think that I would like the choice or wasn't in the mood for Ethiopian that particular day. I also can't schlep all the way to Cool Springs and back during my allotted lunch hour and still keep my day job. (Yes, believe it or not, writing for Bites is not the lucrative gig you might think it is.)

I used Google Maps to determine driving distances and set myself a fifteen minute limit figuring that most lunch spots could get me in and out in a half hour. So sorry, Hayashi in Franklin. I'm not gonna make it this week.

My last rule was that the restaurant had to actually serve something that could be considered a somewhat healthy and hearty lunch. As much as I'd love to accept the first two randomly selected choices of The Donut Den and the Cupcake Collection, I had to spin again.

But I didn't exclude all types of cakes.The first acceptable suggestion from Urban Spoon came up Pancake Pantry. As a resident of Hillsboro Village, I've walked past the PanPan thousands of times making all the snide comments about stupid tourists and muttering "they're just PANCAKES," but I've only actually eaten a few meals there.

Stumbling block #1 was the Village parking panic. We Nashvillians have what I call a "mall mentality" wherein we believe that we have a God-given right to be able to drive up to wherever we're going and park for free within twenty feet of the front door. Could I get to the Pantry, find a spot to park and get back to work within my allotted hour?

It turned out the answer was a resounding yes. The parking lot behind the brick building that contains the Pancake Pantry as well as a few other retail establishments has turned into a pay lot. Don't let that strike fear into your libertarian heart, though. It's the strangest pay lot I've ever seen. By that I mean it's free. All you have to do is park and walk up to the machine and print out a receipt for no dollars and no cents to put on your dashboard. That buys you an hour and a half of dining and shopping time. No worries.

I arrived around noon, but had no difficulty getting a table. Here's a power user tip for future Pancake Pantry patrons, bring a sweater. Apparently they store the bacon somewhere in the dining area because it was cold as a meat locker in there.

Luckily my attentive server quickly offered me a cup of coffee to warm my extremities as I perused the menu. I decided on the soup and half sandwich special. Since I chose a healthy vegetable soup offering, I figured that I could sin a little on the sandwich part, so I ordered the country ham. My server then brought me two glasses of water. Uh oh. I hoped she didn't know something about the ham that I didn't.

The bowl of soup was overflowing with chunky tomatoes, new potatoes, green beans, onions, carrots and celery, but I thought it was a little light on the seasoning. Nothing a little table salt and pepper couldn't improve. My fears that the country ham sandwich might be a salt lick proved to be unfounded. It was a tasty slab of ham on toasted sourdough with iceberg lettuce and a thick juicy slice of tomato. Half of a sandwich was plenty for me along wit the soup and made for a nicely balanced meal.

I was in and out in about 20 minutes for less than ten bucks. On the whole, it was a great choice for lunch that I would not have thought of myself. Well done, Urban Spoon.

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