On a recent summer morning, I began my drive up through the White Mountains’ Franconia Notch to the tiny town of Sugar Hill, New Hampshire. My sights were set on the town’s many fields of purple lupines, but I thought I’d also take the opportunity to stop for breakfast at one of Sugar Hill’s other notable attractions: Polly’s Pancake Parlor.
Polly’s Pancake Parlor has been a popular place to eat breakfast since 1938, when the restaurant’s founders served their first homemade pancake in a carriage house–turned-tearoom. What had begun as a way to sell more of their farm’s maple sugar products soon morphed into a fully-fledged restaurant business — and the rest is history.
The founders of Polly’s Pancake Parlor, Polly and Wilfred “Sugar Bill” Dexter, passed away in the 1960s after dedicating a large portion of their lives to making the business a success. Fortunately, the Dexters’ daughter, Nancy, and her husband, Roger, took up the reins to the restaurant and Polly’s Pancake Parlor soon became known nationwide for its pancakes and pancake mixes. Today, the restaurant is managed by the founders’ granddaughter, Kathie, and her husband, Dennis, who have kept Polly’s not only alive, but thriving.
The restaurant has come a long way since it started in that tiny tearoom. It now routinely ships its pancake mixes and maple sugar products to customers across the country while somehow still managing to serve several thousands of customers in-person each year. Because Polly’s grew so popular, the decision was made to tear down the old building to make way for a larger, more modern one, which was opened in 2015. So that the long history of Polly’s Pancake Parlor wouldn’t be forgotten, pieces of the original tearoom were incorporated into the restaurant’s new décor.
Despite the name, Polly’s Pancake Parlor serves much more than just pancakes. Eggs any way you want ’em, whipped cream–topped waffles, and golden brown French toast are just a few of the other classics on the menu. Of course, maple sugar products, such as maple spread and maple pepper — yes, pepper — are also found on every table. Breakfast is undoubtedly the focus at Polly’s, but lunch is also available if you’re in the mood for it.
At this point, you may be thinking that Polly’s sounds just like any other New England breakfast place, but there are a few key things that set Polly’s Pancake Parlor apart from its competition. The first is the restaurant’s pure Yankee attitude. All of Polly’s pancake mixes are homemade — the restaurant even stone-grinds its own grain to make the flour for its batters — which means that your pancakes are as fresh as they could possibly be. And, your server is the one who cooks your pancakes, leaving little chance of miscommunication, long wait times, or rushed meals.
Polly’s Pancake Parlor offers a great selection of batters and add-ins for their breakfast foods, so you could go back several times and never eat the same pancake (even though you’ll probably want to). I ordered the “Pancake Sampler,” which let me try out three combinations: oatmeal-buttermilk and blueberry, gingerbread and chocolate chip, and — on the recommendation of my waitress — cornmeal and coconut. My favorite was probably the oatmeal-buttermilk and blueberry, though the cornmeal and coconut came in a very close second. All three types were delicious and perfectly cooked, though I do have to admit that I cast the occasional jealous glance at the fruit- and whipped cream–topped waffle that my traveling companion had ordered!
With the Pancake Sampler, you get six pancakes, but you’re brought three pancakes at a time. This gave me a chance to experiment with toppings. On the first stack, I tried Polly’s granulated maple sugar, while on the second stack, I used their maple spread. Unsurprisingly, the results were inconclusive… Both methods resulted in very tasty pancakes.
Although Polly’s Pancake Parlor now seats many more people than it did before its renovation, it can still get quite busy, so it would be wise to call ahead and get your name on the waitlist. I was there on a weekday morning and there were only a few other guests when I arrived, but by the time I had finished my meal, the place had filled up quite a bit. Even if you do end up having to wait a few minutes, you can always peruse Polly’s small gift shop, admire the antique decorations, or enjoy the mountain views and lupines just out front.
If you ever plan on spending a day at Franconia Notch, it’s certainly worth the short drive northwest for breakfast or lunch at Polly’s Pancake Parlor. With delicious, homemade pancakes and very reasonable prices, Polly’s just adds to the list of reasons to visit Sugar Hill this summer.
Have you ever been to Polly’s Pancake Parlor?
Visit Polly’s Pancake Parlor for yourself:
672 Route 117, Sugar Hill, NH. 603-823-5575; pollyspancakeparlor.com. Winter Hours: Beginning November 1st through December 23rd: Full restaurant open every Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday 7 to 3.
This post was first published in 2016 and has been updated.