Waking up at 4 a.m. for my third breakfast in America proved to be a lot harder than I had anticipated. The night before, I took a trip to Glen Mills, Pennsylvania for what would prove to be an epic fright night. The Bates Motel Halloween Haunt (ranked by the Weather Channel as #4 on their Top Ten Haunts for 2011) was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. Fortunately, I met a father and his two sons who took me under their wings and guided me through the haunted hay ride, the haunted corn maze and the ultimate in haunts…The Bates Motel. Needless to say, I spooked myself right out of a good night sleep. Yet, even when the alarm blared at that horrific hour, I sprang into action knowing I’d be on my way to another great adventure.
Just as the morning before, it was dark, crisp and misty – so different from my home in Palm Desert. I breathed in and smelled Wilmington for the last time. I packed my car and headed to Sea Isle City, New Jersey which was approximately an hour and a half from where I was staying.
I was so excited. I plugged in my mp3 and started a random play…first came Adele, then a little Led Zeppelin, k.d. lang and some Lady Gaga….I was on my way.
As I approached New Jersey’s beach cities, the sun began to blanket the morning with a soft, calming glow. I think I might have been on US-9 or Shore Road when I saw one of the most beautiful sights. In fact, I had to stop for that majestic photo op. At my left – a lake. A lake hugged by a forest dressed in fall’s best and brightest. I’d never seen trees that color before. I immediately stopped my car and jumped out into the chilly morning air. Steam was rising off the water. It looked like a scene from a Merchant/Ivory movie. I quickly aimed and shot. To my surprise, in the distance…two glorious swans wishing me good morning.
After I pinched myself, I got back in my car and made my way to Sea Isle City.
Sea Isle City isn’t a big town. I don’t even think it breaks the 3,000 mark. Situated on Ludlam’s Island in Cape May County, it is just 35 minutes from Atlantic City – in fact, I could see Sin City East from where I was standing.
Sea Isle City is a booming beach community, but in late October…it’s a sleepy little place.
I turned onto Landis Avenue and could feel the anticipation mount. I passed 42nd street, 43rd, 44th…and there it was…4615 Landis Avenue – Dock Mike’s Pancake House.
The restaurant’s bright yellow paint and flowers just made me want to check it out. I gathered my gear and actually headed to the beach – a stone’s throw from the restaurant. The smile I had when I landed in Philadelphia on October 28 was still there. I was mystified looking at the Atlantic ocean – I was actually here. My smile widened, I snapped some shots and made my way to Dock Mike’s.
As I walked back, a gentleman greeted me. I asked, “Are you Michael?” He said, “Yes, are you Lee?” We exchanged pleasantries and went inside.
I felt like I was at home…home if I was a bona fide homemaker. The interior was warm and inviting. One of Michael’s employees, Sandy, greeted me with a friendly hello and I set up shop…camera, microphone, a wing and a prayer.
Michael Tramutolo is the owner of Dock Mike’s Pancake House. He and his wife, Maria, started Dock Mike’s nearly 25 years ago…together. I found that amazing. To still be in business and still be married…my hat is off to them! Michael was a pre-med student working his way to becoming a doctor. After college graduation, he realized he wanted to do something else. He told Maria, “I want to own my own pancake house.” So, with $3,000 and a handshake from the owner of the original building, he and Maria started Dock Mike’s…and yes, it’s Dock Mikes…not Doc Mikes…a clever play on words.
Michael and I talked about my breakfast adventure. He couldn’t believe I had come all the way from California to eat at his restaurant. I couldn’t believe the “Michael” of Dock Mike’s was allowing me to interview him!
I perused the menu. I noticed nearly 25 different kinds of pancakes and everything made fresh to order. There were peanut butter/chocolate pancakes, pina colada pancakes and sweet potato pancakes just to name a few. But, then there were their golden brown waffles, omelets and, of course, their own Pocket French Toast – a thick piece of toast with fresh fruit stuffed inside, then cooked on the grill and topped with powdered sugar. I wasn’t quite ready to go there so I opted for something just as unique – orange zest/cranberry pancakes topped with orange marmalade butter.
What? Uh huh…I said that. I honestly can’t describe the flavor…it’ll pale in comparison to the experience of eating it. But, here it goes. The flavor is completely unexpected. What you might think would be tart or bitter is actually fragrant and sweet. The orange zest brings a very slight citrus flavor that, amazingly, does not overwhelm the dish. The cranberry gives it a little tartness and in just the right amount.
I like my pancakes thin. These are not and they are perfect that way. The batter was light and fluffy and did not compete with any of the other elements. In fact, all the flavors seemed utterly simpatico. Oh yes…then came the orange marmalade butter. I’m not a fan of orange marmalade, but add butter and it’s my best friend.
The dish was to die for. I quickly gobbled them up – with each bite, a bit of sadness, knowing the next would lead to my last.
Michael offered me another cup of coffee. “No, but thank you,” I said. I couldn’t get one more thing in my stomach. One of Dock Mike’s regulars, Elaine, helped with some photos and I was off to the airport.
It was the best way to finish my first breakfast trip for Little Lee’s BREAKFAST IN AMERICA.
If you can, you must. Check out Dock Mike’s Pancake House in both Sea Isle City and Cape May, New Jersey.
To Michael, I’m so happy you chose flippin’ pancakes over penning prescriptions!