THIS UNIQUE SMALL CHAIN OF PANCAKE HOUSES, WITH A NEW LOCATION IN MERCER COUNTY, TURNS UP THE VOLUME ON ALL THREE DAILY MEALS
BY GILDA ROGERS • PHOTOS BY ROBERT NUZZIE
With full bars at both the Ewing and newest Robbinsville locations of PJ’s Pancake House, you can actually order a stack of banana-pecan pancakes (enough for two people) with a spiked salted caramel milkshake made with vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce…and bourbon; a clear sign that this is no ordinary pancake house.
The Robbinsville location, opened in May, joins what is now a five-location “breakfast and more” operation by the Gretalia Hospitality Group, which also owns Osteria Procaccini in Pennington and Crosswicks, Trattoria Procaccini in Princeton, as well as Princeton’s Porta Via Catering Company.
Since opening in 1962 at its original location on that city’s historic Nassau Street, near the university, PJ’s has been an institution. In the wake of Gretalia’s new ownership, the menu at all locations has been expanded to include lunch and dinner, along with a wide array of imaginative and popular breakfast options.
“I took over in 2011,” said company principal John Procaccini, “It was originally a breakfast spot, but I decided to add dinner and more healthy options to the menu…then liquor,” adding that he is proud of the new Robbinsville restaurant, called PJ’s Pancake House and Tavern, where bellinis, mimosas, and Bloody Marys are quickly becoming stars of the show. Procaccini created a winning combination of hospitality, quality, a plentiful selection of kid-friendly food, libations, and a sports bar vibe, including large TVs. It’s a model, he explained, that appeals to the tastes of a broader and more diverse customer base.
Case in point, the “Pain Killer,” a touch of the Caribbean made with Jamaican Appleton Estate Rum, pineapple juice, cream of coconut, orange juice, and a dash of nutmeg one that goes particularly well with chicken and waffles. After a few, the owner observed, everything will be just “irie,” as they say in Jamaica, meaning “all right.”
Trenton pork roll? Breakfast quesadillas? Short rib fries? Check, check, and check. A “Healthy Corner” section, meanwhile, offers gourmet salads, and a variety of Eggs Benedict dishes are called (what else?) “Bennys.” Espresso is imported from Italy. Soups, sandwiches, burgers, and classics like chicken, fish, and chili are freshly made, and there’s even Philly cheesesteak and tacos. The pancake menu includes full and half portions of tiramisu, peanut butter chocolate chip, multi-grain, and potato varieties, and for the indecisive, there’s a sampler platter of three types.
In warmer weather, outdoor bistro-style seating at some locations also offers a slightly faster tempo. Happy Hour is another draw: from 2:00 to 7:00 p.m., and with $5 cocktail specials. Procaccini said the eatery’s lobster ravioli and fried shrimp and grits are fan favorites, and that new items are added regularly. All locations open at 7:00 a.m. and close at 9:00 or 10:00 p.m. “We’re still dedicated to bringing you the best pancakes around, but we’re not just pancakes anymore!” said Procaccini.
PJs Pancake House and Tavern
19 Main Street, Robbinsville