Where Has All the Buckwheat Gone?

Buckwheat pancakes have disappeared from most menus

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By David Hammond

It has been especially painful for me to realize that for the past 15 years or so, at breakfast places that serve pancakes – at Denny’s, even at the International House of Pancakes for goodness sake – you can no longer get a buckwheat cake.

Buckwheat has been the preferred flour in my breakfast cakes since the Eisenhower administration. The dark wheat makes a pancake or waffle that is very fluffy and earthy, seemingly moister than their paler brethren.

Buckwheat cakes used to be commonly found in diners across this great country of ours.  They’re kind of old timey food, popular in pioneer days.

Now, though, the buckwheat cake has disappeared from most menus. It’s gone the way of liver and onions or the chocolate phosphate: you can still find them but it takes some looking.

My pulse quickened when I spotted buckwheat waffles on the menu at Chicago’s Home of Chicken and Waffles, where I suspect the emphasis upon soul food makes the buckwheat cake more likely to appear.

As an accompaniment to the fried chicken, they were excellent. Though the buckwheat flour was mixed with some white flour, the waffles had a deep plum-color center, purple verging on black, and a lot more flavor than a regular white flour pancake.

Rich in amino acids and gluten-free, buckwheat is found in many cuisines – Japanese (soba noodles),  Eastern Europe (kasha) and France (the crepes of Brittany) – though it’s all but vanished from the standard American breakfast menu, at least in these here parts.

I don’t understand how that could have happened. Perhaps it’s due to the odd preference of many for white food (white bread, white meat, marshmallow Fluff), or perhaps buckwheat fell out of favor because people just don’t like the taste (unlikely), or perhaps Northern restaurants decided it was a Southern thing, but whatever the cause, it’s now very hard to get a pancake or waffle made of buckwheat in Chicago.

At Chicago’s Home of Chicken and Waffles, the buckwheat waffles fill a void on the American menu.

(Word on the street is that they serve a pretty good buckwheat cake at Delias, too.)

Reader Comments

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Edla from Gardner   

Posted: September 8th, 2014 11:05 PM

Oh my, when ihop started all they had were pancakes. Buckwheat were my favorite, earthy, bold and healthy. They also had the little silver dollar buttermilk pancakes. Many syrups. It was the best place my parents took us for a brunchish meal. I have no idea why they changed to be a Denny 's. They were the pancake place. Now I don't know what they are. Sad, really,

Eilene McCullagh Heckman  

Posted: August 30th, 2011 3:44 PM

Buckwheat isn't a "wheat" or in any way related to wheat. It's a seed. I can't say I've EVER had a 100% buckwheat waffle or pancake...they've always been cut with wheat flour.

@localop_sarah from Oak Park  

Posted: August 30th, 2011 11:38 AM

The cost of buckwheat has sky rocketed in the last few years. Droughts brought the price up extremely high in Russia just last year, changing the global marketplace and I bet it was cost prohibitive to keep on small restaurant menus. fyi.

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