First time visitors to the Griddle in the Middle Pancake House in Meredith often come up short at the door. Some can’t handle it – some turn around and leave. Not NHPR’s Sean Hurley. He marched inside, sat right down and - after a little work - ate breakfast.
The sign out front doesn’t offer any clues. It just says Griddle in the Middle. It looks like a completely normal breakfast place. Until you step inside…”You can see it in the person's face,” owner Kyle Goren says, “They're like "oh what am I getting myself into?"
Goren seats me at a table and gives me a rundown of the pancake and omelet toppings currently available. “Applesauce, sliced bananas, chocolate chips,” he begins. “Nutella, sprinkles, ice cream, fresh raspberries, blueberries, peanut butter chips, fresh sliced strawberries, even whoppers. And some kids love the Skittles. I don't know how. But they do.”
There are 14 tables at the restaurant – each with a hot griddle right in the middle. “I made them myself with my father,” Goren says.
But it’s that griddle in the middle of the table – and what it means – that stops some breakfast seekers at the door. But most people who come here, Kyle Goren says, have a good time. “90 percent of the time they leave here with the biggest grin on their face when they start flipping pancakes and making what they want to have for breakfast,” Goren says.
One review on Yelp speaks for that 10 per cent that just don’t get it. “Awful,” the review begins. “You have to cook your own breakfast. If I wanted to do that I would have stayed home.”
MJ McCormick from Cornwall Connecticut has been coming here since the place opened five years ago. “I have four children and they've all come here and do griddle in the middle. And now my grandchildren come and do griddle in the middle,” McCormick says. “They think it’s an experimentation. They can put whatever they want in their pancake and they can do it themselves.”
The first thing you do after ordering eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes…the skittles…is spray your griddle down. When the batter or cracked fresh eggs arrive, you pour them out onto the griddle, adding skittles or whoppers or blueberries - and then you sit and wait.
McCormick says even her 3 year old grandson now knows when a pancake is ready to be flipped. “They have now learned,” she says, “OK when the pancakes start to bubble, when there's a good amount of bubbles, that's the time that you want to flip it.”
And if you’re confused, if you can’t handle the griddle in the middle, Kyle Goren says don’t worry. “We work with you,” he says, “we'll help you make an omelet and we'll help teach you to make pancakes.”
But ask Kyle Goren how he makes their special brand of dark and chocolatey syrup and he remains silent. “That's the secret recipe,” he says. “My father came up with it. It’s a family recipe.”
As I leave I suggest they put a wooden statue of a barred owl out front - have that owl’s distinctive call play out in an endless loop as a kind of warning – who cooks for you? Who cooks for you?
At Griddle in the Middle, you cook for you.