HomeLocal NewsPancake Paradise: Sacramento's beloved circus-themed diner thrives amidst new ownership

Pancake Paradise: Sacramento’s beloved circus-themed diner thrives amidst new ownership

Published on

Sacramento, CA – The Pancake Circus restaurant in Sacramento, known for its distinctive gold and white striped roof that mimics a circus tent, is a staple in the city’s cultural scene. Located at the intersection of 21st Street and Broadway, this circus-themed diner has been a local favorite for over six decades, offering traditional breakfast and lunch dishes amidst unique clown-themed decor. Positioned near Curtis Park, opposite a gas station and a Mexican eatery, it sits in a bustling area.

“Pancake Circus is a Sacramento food landmark,” Yelp user Randy H. of Sacramento wrote on the review site. “Recently a new owner and new manager took over the operations and the place now shines with great food, service, cleanliness and they make you feel welcome!”

Adnan Anwar, who took over Pancake Circus on November 1, 2021, bought the diner because he saw it as an iconic piece of Sacramento. Anwar is keen on slowly integrating new ideas while maintaining the restaurant’s original circus-inspired charm. A bit of history: the location at 2101 Broadway has housed a restaurant since 1961, initially named Al & Bud’s Platter after its original owners, Al Nahas, Hollis “Bud” Sheely, and their spouses. They served pancakes, charcoal-broiled steaks, and burgers around the clock every day.

Read also: SACRAMENTO’S BEER ELITE GATHER FOR STATE’S LARGEST CRAFT BEER COMPETITION

Al Nahas, Hollis “Bud” Sheely and their wives owned the diner, which specialized in “pancakes and charcoal-broiled steaks and hamburgers,” according to The Sacramento Bee’s archives.

Originally, Nahas also owned another eatery, Myrle’s Trails, a Western-themed spot focusing on charbroiled steaks, which closed in 2014 and is now Shoki Ramen House. By the late 1960s or early 1970s, the Sheelys had taken control and renamed the diner to Pancake Parade. It changed hands and names again in the late 1970s or early 1980s, finally becoming Pancake Circus, a name it has retained to this day. Throughout the years, this diner has remained a favored meeting place for politicians and locals alike.

“It was a stop on the political circuit … you might go in and Joe Serna, when he was mayor, might be eating with [Congressman] Bob Matsui or someone of that level,” said Maryellen Burns, co-author (with brother Keith Burns) of the 2013 book Lost Restaurants of Sacramento, to CapRadio in 2020.

“I was in there recently and (artists) Greg Kondos and Wayne Thiebaud were eating there. It was a place for real inclusion and every strata of society can be found there.”

The numerous clowns that adorn Pancake Circus have made it a hit with locals and visitors including Charles Phoenix, an American pop culture historian.

“I have been East, West, North and South, all over the United States, and I can tell you there is no place like it. No place,” Phoenix told the Sacramento News Review in 2020.

At Pancake Circus, the theme is unmistakably clown-centric, starting right from the front desk where visitors are greeted by clown dolls, paintings, and a wooden cut-out of a clown instructing guests to “please wait to be seated.” A display case houses a variety of clown-themed memorabilia. This motif extends to the dining area, where additional clown decorations embellish the booths and a sculpted clown hangs amidst a burst of colorful faux balloons from the ceiling. Walls are adorned with circus animal figures, including a standout pink elephant.

“Our customers donate (all the art),” Terri Mead, a longtime Pancake Circus general manager, told The Bee in 2014. “Not only do they create it, they find it in thrift stores and at garage sales. They’ll come in with (items) and say, ‘This was my mother’s’ or ‘This was in the attic.’”

“Many customers will anonymously leave figurines on the tables when they’ve finished eating.”

After acquiring the diner, Anwar chose to maintain the unique clown-themed atmosphere that characterizes the establishment.

“A lot of the regular customers keep telling me not to change anything,” Anwar said.

Pancake Circus is known for serving breakfast throughout the day, with their fluffy pancakes being particularly famous. In fact, during the early 2000s, the restaurant went through about 12 to 15 tons of pancake mix each year, showcasing the popularity of their signature dish, as reported by The Bee.

“Pancakes are big here,” Anwar said.

Pancake Circus offers a delightful range of pancake options including apple, banana, blueberry, strawberry, and chocolate chip, alongside classic buttermilk pancakes. Since Anwar took over, the menu has expanded to include innovative items like lemon meringue-flavored pancakes, Nutella crepes, cinnamon swirl French toast, and banana caramel French toast. The breakfast menu also features hearty dishes such as pork chops, corned beef hash, and eggs Benedict.

Read also: SOCIAL MEDIA FEUD ENDS IN TRAGIC MURDER, TWO MEN CONVICTED IN SACRAMENTO

For lunch, the diner serves various sandwiches, including a California club, Philly cheesesteak, and French dip. There are also hot plates available, like a roast beef sandwich, chicken tenders, and country-fried steak.

“Love this place,” Yelp reviewer Janet K of downtown Sacramento wrote, saying that Pancake Circus has the “best pancakes in town and great service. I totally recommend (it)!”

Since assuming ownership, Anwar has made several changes, including installing pancake-themed wallpaper in the booth area and reducing some of the clown decorations to tidy up the space. He plans to set up a photo backdrop on the back wall of the diner. Post-spring, there are plans to introduce a buy-one-get-one-free deal for seniors and a coupon program for local community members. Pancake Circus operates from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. every day, maintains an active website for Doordash orders, and can be contacted at (916)-452-3322.

Latest articles

Sacramento takes measures to protect residents from summer heat with cooling centers

Sacramento, California - As the warmer months approach, Sacramento is getting ready to open...

Sacramento Memorial Auditorium hosts free Memorial Day event on Monday, May 27

Sacramento, California - On Memorial Day, the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium, located at 1515 J...

Woman sues Sacramento nonprofit after ice rink injury

Sacramento, California - A woman has filed a lawsuit against a nonprofit organization in...

FBI Sacramento field office issues warning for local residents

Sacramento, California - The FBI's Sacramento Field Office is sounding the alarm about a...

Sacramento’s Community Health Fair: A beacon of support for homeless residents

Sacramento, California - On Friday, April 26, First Step Communities, a county partner and...

May Lee State Complex: Honoring California’s longest-serving state employee

Sacramento, California - On Wednesday, Sacramento will witness the opening of the May Lee...

More like this

Sacramento takes measures to protect residents from summer heat with cooling centers

Sacramento, California - As the warmer months approach, Sacramento is getting ready to open...

Sacramento Memorial Auditorium hosts free Memorial Day event on Monday, May 27

Sacramento, California - On Memorial Day, the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium, located at 1515 J...

Woman sues Sacramento nonprofit after ice rink injury

Sacramento, California - A woman has filed a lawsuit against a nonprofit organization in...