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Hubcap-sized pancakes are Pamela's Diners road to riches

P&G's Pamela's Diners have a large part of Pittsburgh covered.

That's not only because of the chain's incredible, hubcap-sized pancakes.

With locations in Millvale, Mt. Lebanon, Oakland, Shadyside, the Strip District and the original site in Squirrel Hill, the restaurants have become a destination point for those with hearty breakfast appetites.

Keith Smith, who manages the Millvale location, has hosted patrons from as far away as Arizona and Indiana who come specifically for the chain's pancakes.

What's the secret?

There's silence before Smith says, "I can't tell you." More silence. "I really can't tell you."

Trust us. The hubcap-sized flapjacks (really, they are that big, albeit for a small car) have an inherent sweetness even before one douses them in maple syrup. They are served wafer-thin, with crispy edges. A mere $4 gets you three pancakes that will tide you over until supper time.

Just don't ask for recipe.

Restaurants don't survive by offering just one menu selection. Pamela's also specializes in omelets, ranging from the Corned Beef and Swiss ($6.25) to Cheese ($5.25). They're also enormous, and come with a mound of home fries (potatoes lyonnaise, to be exact) and a serving of toast.

Another option is California French Toast ($4.25). This is probably not your mom's version (unless you grew up in Los Angeles), but it's nevertheless appealing: Wheat raisin bread dipped in an egg batter rich in vanilla and cinnamon, topped with powdered sugar.

For a little variation (forgive those who want to mess around with perfection), Pamela's also offers Specialty Hotcakes. At $6.25, the choices include Chocolate Chip, Strawberry, Banana Walnut and Blueberry.

Each Pamela's location closes daily by late afternoon, so there are no dinner options. Lunch is served daily (save on Sundays), with a variety of burgers, sandwiches and salads at each locale. Some selections are tailored to the location, with name changes and slight variations. The Chatham Club at the Squirrel Hill locale is made from turkey breast, bacon, cheese, lettuce and tomato. The Duquesne Club at the Shadyside restaurant is almost the same sandwich with ham substituted for the turkey breast. Both are $6.50, and come with a choice of French fries, home fries, onion rings or cole slaw.

Service is quick and friendly at Pamela's locations -- Smith says training the waitstaff correctly is a priority, and "the ones who aren't good don't last" -- but be prepared to wait a bit on weekends, when it seems entire neighborhoods flock to the restaurants. On previous Saturday morning visits to the Squirrel Hill location, which opened 28 years ago, there were often lines out the door.

Additional Information:

P&G's Pamela's Diner locations

Millvale: 232 North Ave., 412-821-4655. Hours: 8 a.m-4 p.m. Mondays to Fridays; 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays; 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Sundays

Mt. Lebanon: 427 Washington Rd., 412-343-3344. Hours: 7:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays; 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Sundays

Oakland: 3703 Forbes Ave., 412-683-4066. Hours: 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m. daily

Shadyside: 5527 Walnut St., 412-683-1003. Hours: 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays; 9 a.m-3 p.m. Sundays

Squirrel Hill: 5813 Forbes Ave., 412-422-9457. Hours: 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays; 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Sundays

Strip District: 60 21st St., 412-281-6366. Hours: 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays; 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Sundays

Web site for all locations is www.pamelasdiner.com .

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