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Try the pumpkin pancakes at Aunt Emma's Phillip Brents | Fri, Nov 22 2013 05:54 PM

I try not to be a noisy eater but after taking the first bite out of Aunt Emma’s pumpkin pancakes, I just couldn’t hold back.

I let out a very audible “Mmmmmmmmmmmm.”

If you haven’t had pumpkin pancakes before, then get over to one of Aunt Emma’s two South County locations and try some. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

And don’t use any syrup. It’s not needed. You’ll discover that upon your first bite.

Aunt Emma’s can satisfy any breakfast or lunch craving. The Chula Vista restaurant is located at 700 E Street. The National City restaurant is located at 214 National City Blvd.

The National City restaurant continues the long-standing tradition of Keith’s Restaurant, which Aunt Emma’s purchased four years ago. Historic photos of the former National City landmark are displayed in Aunt Emma’s National City restaurant to keep the memory going. A large hand-painted mural depicting the neighborhood also greets customers.

“There are so many memories here,” National City manager Andrea Iñiguez explained. “People really are appreciative that we’re keeping those memories alive.”

While new ownership has brought in a slew of new menu items, the emphasis on quality remains the same.
“Everything here is homemade, super fresh,” Iñiguez said.

While diners can order the same items at both locations, there are some differences in local taste buds. The National City location is unique in that it isn’t surrounded by hotels (as is the case in Chula Vista) and thus attracts a more loyal residential customer base.

“People come here because they like the food,” Iñiguez explained. “We have people who come in every single day. In Chula Vista, you have a lot of tourists, a lot of out-of-towners who come in.”

The restaurant is also very affordable, with breakfast specials running at $3.99 Monday through Friday.

Mexican items are popular at both locations, particularly the chilaquiles at the National City restaurant.

The corn tortilla strips are topped with either flavorful red or green sauce and are served with rice and beans.

Besides the chilaquiles, top sellers at the National City restaurant also include the nopal (cactus) and Denver omelettes for breakfast and the club sandwich and chicken club sandwich for lunch.

Iñiguez said the tasty club sandwich ($.7.79) is a menu item that is “ordered all day long.”

The chicken club sandwich ($7.89) is served on a whole wheat bun.

Specialty sandwich side items include fries or cole slaw.

Omelettes are served with a choice of hash browns, fresh fruit, frijoles, rice and toast. Prices start at $7.69.

As for those pumpkin pancakes? Aunt Emma’s will serve them on a seasonal basis through the end of the holiday season, according to Iñiguez.

The short stack includes three pancakes and the full stack includes five pancakes. The full stack is a meal in itself and can easily be divided to accommodate two diners. The short stack can be eaten in one sitting. (Hint: the pancakes are rather large, so be forewarned.)

The pancakes contain pumpkin-flavored batter and are slightly mushy when cut by a fork — and that’s not a bad thing. They are soft and are easily eaten.

The pancakes are topped with a delicious pumpkin spread and whipped cream. The key is to swirl the topping around each bite of pancake, thus the need for no syrup. It’s plenty moist.

As for syrups, Aunt Emma’s has a large variety to suit specific cravings: coconut, apricot, boysenberry, blueberry, pecan, maple, and sugar-free maple.

Iñiguez said children love the boysenberry syrup, and seem to prefer it on the buttermilk pancakes. She said the pecan syrup goes well with the banana nut pancakes while the coconut syrup definitely complements the Hawaiian pancakes. The maple syrup, of course, goes with just about any kind of pancake (there are 24 listed on the regular menu).

Business hours are 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily. For more information, visit the website at www.auntemmaspancakes.com. For the Chula Vista restaurant, call 427-2722. For the National City restaurant, call 477-6900.

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