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Blueberry Hill

Out of a possible five

Blueberry Hill does pancakes a flavor

It’s not that I don’t like blueberry pancakes so much as it is that I just never order them.

I love pancakes but have never felt good ones needed fruit, nuts, chocolate chips or anything to make them better. But when the name of the pancake house is Blueberry Hill, how could I not try them?

And Blueberry Hill, on East State Boulevard in a remodeled former Burger King, lived up to its name with easily the finest blueberry pancakes I have eaten.

At many places, blueberry pancakes are simply regular pancakes soaked with dark, super-sugary, blue syrup containing few tiny berries. At Blueberry Hill, the fluffy, flavorful, somewhat cake-like pancakes are dotted with a plethora of plump whole berries that are mixed in the batter and cooked into the flapjacks, not just sprinkled on top.

The berries were firm and the juices sort of exploded in your mouth, giving them a burst of slightly tart, but still sweet flavor that fresh berries should have.

A manager or owner who was making rounds from table to table said he was proud of the pancakes and that the other versions – strawberry, cherry, banana, peach and cinnamon-apple – come with the fruit on top instead of in the batter because they do not come out as good as the blueberry.

The pancakes didn’t need a lot of syrup, which was good considering the warm syrup arrived early and cooled as I waited for the pancakes. Pancakes can be had with about every breakfast platter, and, although they are plenty tasty plain, can be upgraded to blueberry for a minimal charge.

The spinach and feta omelet was almost as impressive as the pancakes that came with it. This four-egg monster was packed with bright green spinach, and it was loaded with big chunks of feta. And if the pancakes weren’t enough starch, the half plate of perfectly fried potatoes – crisp and brown but cut into big enough pieces that they stayed light and fluffy inside – easily filled the gap.

Those potatoes also went great with the butt steak and eggs combo. The steak was served alone on a separate plate, covered in its flavorful juices, which smelled strongly of oregano. It was sinewy and chewy, which was expected, but it was cooked to the right temperature and was adequate in terms of flavor. I was also surprised to see three over-easy eggs with my potatoes because the menu said two. My waitress said an extra egg is always added as a rule.

The extra egg was especially unnecessary on top of the Mediterranean skillet. A base of those tasty potatoes was also topped with finely diced gyro meat, feta, onions and tomatoes with tzatziki on the side. The sauce was needed to cut the powerful feta, and the potatoes were, again, perfect. The eggs were fine, don’t get me wrong, but I thought mixing the runny yolk would add something and it really didn’t.

I did, however, make the mistake of having biscuits and gravy instead of pancakes with this breakfast. The gravy was thick and somewhat pasty and had just a few specks of sausage in it. The scant amount of sausage made it more like a heavy cream sauce than gravy. The biscuits were dense and kind of doughy, which was great, but they were split and toasted on a flat-top. This made them less satisfying texturally and made it hard for the gravy to soak into them.

Despite its being a pancake house, Blueberry Hill also had some favorable lunch offerings.

Both of the soups I ordered were great. The cheddar potato had bits of salty bacon, onion and cucumber in its thick, yellow base, which had the cheese mixed in and not just sprinkled on top. The navy bean was even better, and different than I expected. Instead of your standard ham and bean soup, this was a vegetarian soup with a red tomato broth and carrot, celery and onion along with the namesake ingredient. The broth was tangy with a sweet finish, and the beans were still a bit firm and enjoyable.

I was able to sample a third soup, the macaroni chicken. It was offered on the house because it was getting late and the restaurant wanted someone to enjoy it instead of having it go to waste. It, too, had the standard celery, carrot and onion, and was overflowing with fat pieces of macaroni that had soaked up a lot of the broth, which had a fresh, light flavor.

The chicken Philly sandwich was served on a top-notch, toasted French roll and contained plenty of moist chicken pieces that were browned a bit on the flat-top with peppers, onions and big, meaty mushrooms, which were probably more the star of the sandwich than the meat was. The melted mozzarella was creamy and coated all of the sandwich fillings, and I really had nary a complaint.

The few complaints I did have with Blueberry Hill were mostly aesthetic. The converted fast-food building has a rather stale atmosphere, which was represented perfectly by the old, tattered plastic flower centerpieces. The patio area was a bit brighter and not so stagnant, so get a seat there if you can. The parking layout is also not optimal with the main lot behind a neighboring building, which explained why cars filled the former drive-through lane, which was much closer to the door.

I was also not impressed with the dessert case, which held a small selection of mediocre, restaurant-service pies and commercial muffins still inside their imprinted wrappers, or the coffee, which was weak and had a bit of an aftertaste.

And although subpar coffee is something a breakfast place should never have, it will not prevent me from returning next time I am in the mood for blueberry pancakes.

Restaurant: Blueberry Hill Pancake House

Address: 3710 E. State Blvd.

Phone: 484-2888

Hours: 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily

Cuisine: American

Handicapped accessible: Yes

Alcohol served: None

Credit cards accepted: Yes

Kid-friendly: Yes

Menu: Spinach and feta omelet ($6.99), Mediterranean skillet ($7.89), butt steak and eggs ($9.29), chicken Philly ($7.19), fruity pancakes ($5.49)

Rating breakdown: Food: 1 1/2 (3-star maximum); atmosphere: 0 (1 maximum), service: 1 (1 maximum)

Note: Restaurants are categorized by price range: $ (less than $20 for three-course meal), $$ ($20-$29); $$$ ($30-$39), $$$$ ($40-$49), $$$$$ ($50 and up).

Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. E-mail him at rduvall@jg.net, call at 461-8130, or go to the “Dining Out” topic of “The Board” at www.journalgazette.net. DuVall’s past reviews can also be found at the Web site, and you can hear Ryan every Thursday from 5 to 6 p.m. on 92.3 FM, The Fort.