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Japanese soufflé pancake chain opens the first of 20 units planned for U.S.

Gram Cafe & Pancakes opens to crowds seeking the thick, jiggly flapjacks

Japanese sensation Gram Cafe & Pancakes opened its first store in the United States earlier this month in San Francisco, drawing lines for the brand’s soufflé style pancakes which are selling out daily.

Because the delicate pancakes made with whipped egg whites are labor intensive, the café only makes 90 orders a day. Three serving times are set aside for the thick jiggly delicacies: 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. A maximum of 30 orders are served for each seating, where customers have been lining up two hours in advance.

The 5-year-old all-day brunch cafe chain, which has more than 60 locations in Japan, Thailand and Hong Kong, is planning to open at least 20 cafes in the U.S. over the next three years with a focus on California. The U.S. expansion will involve both franchised and company-operated locations.


Husband-and-wife team Peter and Dorothy Wong have been tapped as the franchisors for the U.S. They also are the franchisees of the San Francisco location that opened on April 5 at the Stonestown Galleria. Since then, their guests have been lining up as early as 8 a.m., two hours before the café opens at 10 a.m. Some diners have come as far as San Jose, Calif., a Silicon Valley tech hub located at least an hour’s drive south of San Francisco. 

Beyond the $16 trio of soufflé pancakes, the Gram Café menu features thinner sweet and savory pancakes, soups, sandwiches and espresso drinks made with coffee beans from San Francisco coffee roaster Sightglass. The San Francisco location also serves Japanese beer and California wines.

Regular pancakes range in price from $11 to $18. Unique savory choices include Eggs Benedict pancakes, taco pancakes, chili bean pancakes and salmon and avocado pancakes. Exclusive to San Francisco, the menu features pancakes served with matcha mascarpone with red bean and Japanese mochi.

For those ordering from the regular menu, Gram Café offers table service with seating available through Yelp Nowait list. That allows diners to enter their name on a waitlist from a tablet located in the café.  When a table is ready, customers are notified on their phone.

The Yelp Nowait list is not available for those seeking the souffle pancakes. Those folks are served on a first come, first serve basis for each of the three daily sessions.

Gram Café is not the only restaurant in the U.S. serving these novelty pancakes. Several Los Angeles area concepts serve the soufflé pancakes, including Café and Basilur Tea & Coffee.

Contact Nancy Luna at [email protected]

Follow her on Twitter @FastFoodMaven

TAGS: Food Trends
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