The City of Williamsburg is home to 11 independent pancake houses and a handful of additional breakfast locales serving up fresh stacks. The Flat Hat asked 112 students at the College of William and Mary for their opinions of these restaurants to answer one question: What is the best pancake house in Williamsburg?
The Flat Hat identified 17 sit-down breakfast restaurants, including pancake houses, brunch restaurants and diners, which all serve pancakes on its regular menu. Of these 17 restaurants, 13 are local businesses, with only four belonging to a larger chain. Using a survey, students rated the breakfast restaurants they visited on a five point scale, ranging from very poor to excellent.
Psychology and kinesiology major Morgan Carr ’24 gave insight into her rating criteria.
“The most important things for a pancake house to be good include a good vibe, great customer service and a solid menu.” Carr said. “The most important one for me is for sure the food – they gotta have a good mix of sweet and savory breakfasts to really be good.”
Among survey respondents, Colonial Pancake House proved to be the most popular restaurant, with 73 out of 112 respondents having visited the location. Colonial Pancake House not only had the highest number of reviews, but also the most favorable reviews, at an average rating of 4.3 on a scale of one through five.
Colonial Pancake House has been serving breakfast in Williamsburg since 1997. Rita Prassas and her husband George own and operate the restaurant.
“We love our William and Mary students!!!!” Prassas wrote in an email to the Flat Hat, responding to the results of the recent survey.
“It is the place that my parents and I love to go to – it’s our go-to spot,” Rachel Sawyer ’26 said. “We’ve brought my roommate there, and at the end of my freshman year we all went to celebrate moving out. The pancakes there, especially to me, are the best that I’ve had in the area. My dad always raves about the blueberry pancakes there. He still says to this day that Colonial Pancake has the best blueberry pancakes he’s ever had in his life.”
Popular brunch chains First Watch and Another Broken Egg Cafe followed Colonial Pancake House in popularity, with 57 and 44 ratings, respectively.
“First Watch has really good avocado toast and this really good morning superfoods bowl,” Giorgianna Heiko ’25 said. “It’s just really high-quality food — like you can tell the fruit they use in the morning superfoods bowl is fresh and the bread is light and fluffy because they have almond butter on the side of it. The chia pudding is also very fresh.”
“I was surprised – Another Broken Egg is fantastic,” current M.B.A. candidate Christian Chisolm ’18 said. “Before I came back for grad school, I had one beside my house in Savannah, Georgia, which I would go to all the time.”
Student’s favorable ratings of Colonial Pancake house were consistent with ratings from the general public found on Yelp.
Yelp reviewers rated the Tipsy Beans Cafe the highest out of the 17 breakfast restaurants included in the Flat Hat’s student survey, at an average of 4.4 stars. International House of Pancakes received far more positive reviews from students, who gave IHOP a score of 3.14, compared to Yelp reviewers’ 2.12 stars.
“The old Williamsburg IHOP is unfortunately no longer with us — bless, rest in peace,” Mazie Doss ’22 M.Ed. ’24 said. “It always took about an hour and 10 minutes to get our food. I also went there with my ex and the whole 2019 Rocky Horror Picture Show cast, and that was an experience. I still miss that butter pecan syrup.”
The average survey respondent had visited 4.76 pancake houses, with the three graduate students surveyed having visited more than 12 locations on average. Only one respondent claimed to have visited all 17 pancake restaurants.
Carr ’24 has been to 12 out of the 17 restaurants included in our survey.
“All of the pancake houses are good – I haven't been to a bad one per se, but I've gone to ones that I wouldn't go to again,” Carr said. “I think it kind of suits Williamsburg very well because there is like the older population and then there's the college kids, and everyone loves breakfast – so it's great.”
Bake Shop, Culture Cafe and Aromas, who do not serve pancakes on their regular menus, proved to be popular choices in a write-in option for best overall breakfast.
“For social meetups, I would probably go somewhere pretty close to campus, like Culture Cafe – love Culture Cafe,” Heiko said. “I would say social meetup number one is Bake Shop for their avocado toast and amazing lattes.”
Freshmen and sophomores visited pancake houses less frequently than upperclassmen. The seniors visited pancake houses more often than other classes, with 44% responding that they visited pancake houses at least once a month. Of underclassmen respondents, 86% of the Class of 2027 and 79% of the Class of 2026 said they visited pancake houses one time at most during a semester.
“My favorite breakfast option throughout my two years of living on campus was Marketplace breakfast, because it was just a lot fresher.” Carr said. “You could get breakfast sandwiches and everything, and their biscuits and gravy was always so good.”
Coffee shops were the favorite option of upperclassmen, with 26% of the seniors and 28.1% of the juniors visiting them regularly. Each cohort visited fast food restaurants at about the same rate between 18.6% for the sophomores to 21.4% for the seniors.
81 out of 112 respondents chose pancakes over waffles.
Carr voted in favor of waffles.
“I love waffles because when you put sauces or toppings on them, it actually soaks in and you get more of that per bite,” Carr said. “They're also heftier, so you can make waffle breakfast sandwiches or you can make chicken and waffles. I just feel like pancakes don't have enough structural integrity, which is my biggest problem with them.”
Chisholm voted in favor of pancakes, noting their ease of preparation.
“I think pancakes are more filling than waffles and are harder to mess up,” Chisholm said. “Pancakes are very easy and simple, and you can do a lot of things with them. I have found that I’m a great chef, but a lot of people aren’t, so waffles tend to get burnt — they’re either overcooked or undercooked. Pancakes aren’t extremely difficult because they cook so fast; you can kind of go ‘flip, flip, done.’ It’s more consistent.”
Chisholm has been to 16 out of 17 of the restaurants included in our survey.
“The best thing is just the options,” Chisholm said. “You can go to literally any street within a five mile radius of campus and you have five options on each street. The Williamsburg food scene is surprisingly diverse and great and a lot of people, especially on this campus, don’t get out far enough to explore the different restaurants –– I would recommend doing so.”
Sawyer voted in favor of waffles, mentioning her family’s recipe.
“My mom has this recipe that’s been passed down in the family for years,” Sawyer said. “She has these little packets of yeast that she’ll use to make up the batter the night before. She’ll put the active yeast into it, let it rise overnight, and then she’ll get up early in the morning to bake it. They’re typically made around holidays or birthdays so there are good memories associated with them. Colonial may make good waffles, but nothing compares to my mom’s waffles.”
Restaurants were selected for this survey based on several criteria. Primarily, the restaurant must serve pancakes as a regular menu item. This survey was also limited to restaurants who primarily are marketed as breakfast, brunch, or cafe locations offering sit-down service. This survey was also limited to locations within the City of Williamsburg.
The data featured in this story was collected by the Flat Hat Data Section in a survey conducted online during the period of October 9, 2023 to October 15, 2023. Participation in this survey was voluntary, and responses were anonymous unless respondents opted to self-identify. The survey was distributed via Flat Hat social media, the William and Mary Student Happenings Newsletter and by word of mouth. Members of the Flat Hat were permitted to take the survey provided that they were not involved in the writing or editing process of this article. The original survey can be found here. In total, 112 respondents completed the survey, representing 1.65% of William and Mary’s total undergraduate student body. Yelp reviews were sourced from Yelp.
CORRECTION (12/6/23): This article was updated by Sarah Devendorf, the Standards and Practices Editor to make the still image of the pie chart an interactive graphic. Additionally, in an earlier version of the article, "good" was used as a label twice for the graph, "How Did the Most Popular Pancake Houses Stack Up?" This was changed so that one "good" now says "poor."