The just-opened Gram Cafe and Pancakes at the Stonestown Galleria is one of several Asian food businesses drawing crowds to the otherwise faded shopping center — and it's serving an Instagram-trending dish that's kinda sorta sweeping the nation.
Soufflé pancakes have been a thing in Japan for about five years, and the trend subsequently has made it to the States with one cafe in Pasadena that serves them, and a couple of spots in New York — prompting the New York Times to report on the trend this week.
As Eater SF reports, this is the first US outpost for Gram Cafe, which was founded in Osaka, Japan in 2014 and now boasts 60 locations across Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, and Canada. The Stonestown location comes to us via a Bay Area couple, Peter and Dorothy Wong, who tasted the pancakes on a trip to Japan and rightly sensed that San Franciscan's would line up for them.
And lining up they have.
Partly at issue with Gram Cafe is there's scarcity built into the restaurant's model: Only 30 servings of the jiggly, easily deflated pancakes get served in three timed batches throughout the day: 11 a.m., 3 p.m., and 6 p.m. As the Chronicle reports, eager eaters were lined up at 8 a.m. for Gram Cafe's opening day, and the first round was declared "sold out" as of 10:30.
There's plenty more on the menu, though, as Eater notes, besides the "premium" pancakes — which are made by pouring an egg-white-heavy batter into molds on a griddle. There's French toast, egg dishes, and other, flatter pancake options including savory ones like the “taco pancakes” topped with chili and cheese, pancakes topped with smoked salmon, and some just-in-SF pancakes made with red bean matcha and layered with whipped matcha mascarpone (see Instagram pic below).
As for the rest of the dining scene at Stonestown, the Chronicle notes that the mall has turned heavily toward food to make up for the dwindling draw of traditional retail, with a third of its spaces now dedicated to food and drink. And seven out of ten recent openings are Asian businesses, including Yi Fang Taiwan Fruit Tea, Shihlin Taiwan Street Snacks, and Marugame Udon.