Sunday, December 30, 2007

Restaurant Review - Old Spanish Sugar Mill, DeLeon Springs State Park, 601 Ponce DeLeon Blvd, DeLeon Springs, FL

The Old Spanish Sugar MillFor a fun, "worth a drive", breakfast place, you must try the Old Spanish Sugar Mill located inside DeLeon Springs State Park near Deland, FL. It is about an hour drive north of Orlando on 17-92, just north of Stetson University. Since it is located inside a State Park, you do have to pay a $5 fee per car to get into the park. This rustic grill and griddle house used to be a real mill and in fact the menu states that they still grind their own flour for the pancake batter.

The Old Sugar Mill serves family-style make-your-own breakfast every day exThe menu outside the doorcept Thanksgiving and Christmas. And, winter is the perfect time of year to go because the Sugar Mill has NO air-conditioning. There are a few fans going, but in the summertime, they really just move the warm air around.

The Old Sugar Mill doesn't take reservations, so the earlier you go, the better, as that will reduce your wait time for this very popular, yet small, restaurant. While you are waiting for your name to be called on the loud-speaker, you and the kids can enjoy what else the park has to offer. There is swimming available in the "always 72 degrees" spring, as well as a museum on the history of the park, a small playground, and boat rides.

As soon as I detected a name that sounded like ours, with our correct party size, we headed back to the restaurant from the playground. Hooray, it was our name! We were seated on old wooden chairs and benches surrounding a table with a long, flat griddle built into it. There are other items on the menu such as salads and sandwiches but we were there for the pancakes. When our server arrived at the table, she immediately turned the griddle on, and warned the kids that it does get hot and they should stay away from the griddle. Of course, LB didn't believe her, but figured it out when he hovered his hand about an inch from the griddle - "that's hot, Mommy!" All-you-can-eat (and make) pancakes are only $4.50 per person and you can also order mix-ins for $1.50 each such as blueberries, bananas, peanut butter, pecans, chocolate chips, apples or apple sauce . We ordered a bowl of chocolate chips and one of blueberries. To drink, LB ordered chocolate milk ($1) while BB attempted to order sweet iced tea. Our server explained that the iced tea is unsweetened and doesn't sweeten very well with the sugar. She said she would bring some hot water to mix the sugar in so we could try to get the tea sweet. I ordered a hot tea so avoided the whole sweetening issue.

LB's chocolate milk was a small carton with a juice glass on the side. I had forgotten that the restaurant is in a State Park so they don't allow straws to be served. However, our server did tell me that they don't mind if you bring your own straws in (something to remember for next time). They do have sippy cups available for the little ones but that kind of grosses me out, using a "community" sippy cup. LB made do with the juice glass. We tried to make BB's iced tea sweet but the server was right.. this must be special sweet-resistant iced tea as the hot water mixed with lots of sugar didn't work very well. Even my hot tea didn't get very sweet - strange.

Pitchers of pancake batterThe server then dropped off our bowls of chips and berries with the batter and we were ready to go. You will get two stoneware pitchers full of batter, one with a stone ground mixture of five different flours and one with an unbleached white flour. Making the pancakes are pretty simple. Spray the griddle with the provided no-sticPancakes on the griddlek cooking spray, pour a nice size dollup of batter, and then add mix-ins. When the top of the pancake starts to bubble, flip it over for a little bit and then it is done. There are several syrups provided at the table including butter, maple syrup, molasses and honey. The boys stuck mostly with chocolate chip pancakes although they tried both batters. I tried plain, blueberry, and, my favorite, blueberry and chocolate chip. We all agreed that the white flour batter was the best but that may be because it is the taste we are most used to as we thought the brown batter was a little too "wheaty".

By the way, pretty much everything at the Sugar Mill is make-your-own except the meats (sausage and bacon) and lunch items. The couple next to us were surprised when they asked for toast and scrambled eggs with their pancakes and received a few slices of bread and whole eggs. I guess you get your eggs More pancakes on the griddlethe way you want them that way! The restaurant is usually very crowded so service can be slow. That's fine if you already have your batter and are flipping away but it can take a long time to get your check so ask for it as soon as you are starting to get full. Also, a 15% gratuity is automatically added to your bill, probably so the servers don't get ripped off. I can see someone figuring, hey, I did all the work, why do I have to pay a tip? Also, you'll want to have at least two adults to make the pancakes. I took the kids by myself once and was pouring batter, flipping pancakes, or cutting food the whole time and didn't really have time to eat myself. The Old Spanish Sugar Mill is a fun place to go for down-home yummy pancakes for a very reasonable price. And, the more people that go with you, the more fun it is.

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