It’s been a long time since I got passionate about pancakes, but I hit those joyful notes when I visited Tahoe Joe’s for their new weekend brunch.

This summer they started offering a new breakfast menu Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. as well the lunch items they serve on weekdays. It’s not a buffet, but there’s a lot to recommend, especially those pancakes.

What makes them so good? First of all they’re thick—had to be three-quarters of an inch high, and fluffy like a good cake. The exterior was brown and almost caramelized (butter? A speck of or two of sugar? Who knows?) We ordered the berries and cream pancakes ($12.99), one of three types of pancakes you can choose. My companion, admittedly famished after surviving a morning spin class of 20- and 30-year-olds going full bore, was rhapsodic over everything about them: the fresh blueberries and strawberries on top, that famous Tahoe Joe’s whipped cream that we know from their excellent cheesecake and isn’t just spritzed from a can, the syrup that she insisted had to be real maple syrup. And it came with two fried discs of what sure seemed like Jimmy Dean sausage.

In short, if the pancakes you’ve been eating are putting you to sleep, try these. I couldn’t make them as good myself at home, which is always a good sign that your restaurant money is well spent. And our platter had five of them—a lot of carbs, folks.

Because we were determined to sample as much as possible on one visit, we also ordered the carnitas ranchero omelet ($11.99) and the redwood tacos with eggs, bacon and cheese ($9.99). The tacos were just as impressive as the pancakes, with extremely soft taco shells that had scorched melted cheese in the center with the eggs and strips of bacon, salsa on the side, fresh fruit on the side and these amazing potato chunks that looked first boiled then deep fried and presented with unbattered fried onion strings. The flour tortillas were soft as fresh made, though I doubt they were. It was just the quality the restaurant was aiming for.

Now the only bad news is really my carnitas omelet. It wasn’t bad, built with cheese, red sauce and crispy tortilla strips. The pork itself just had no personality in taste and texture, not up to the mark set by all the other food. Next time I’ll probably try the steak and eggs ($14.99) or the grilled salmon bruschetta ($15.99) with braised tomatoes and onions. The health conscious may prefer the wood-grilled asparagus egg-white omelet ($11.99).

I do need to mention that $2 mimosas are available (other drinks are $9 for comparison purposes) and before the entrees came out we received house-made blueberry muffins and cheddar-bacon biscuits that were something else, with or without butter.

Service was nearly perfect from our waiter Nathan, and the crowd was light for the brunch this Saturday morning. Most of the customers were seated on the patio and it was one of those rare cool mornings in August that, with the blowers and fans above to add some wind chill, was quite wonderful al fresco dining. Expect more of that in the fall months to come, and once word gets out about the quality of this brunch, I suspect seats will be much harder to find than they were on this visit.

Weekend brunch at Tahoe Joe’s can be recommended for a fine dining experience.

Pete Tittl’s Dining Out column appears here on Sundays. Email him at pftittl@yahoo.com

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