The Cavalier Daily
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Hot Cakes: Don't let the name fool you

When Lisa McEwan opened her dessert business in October 1988, she didn't imagine that 11 years later, Hot Cakes would have transformed itself from a small cake company to a quaint eatery in the Barracks Road Shopping Plaza.

Upon entering the store, the faint aroma of coffee and fresh baking permeated the air, hinting of good things to come. However, none of the food selections were, well, hot.

Not to say they were not good, but the menu consisted almost entirely of cold entrées. The shop boasts a delectable array of lunch time options, such as tarragon chicken salad sandwiches, various vegetable salads, pate, several cheeses, turkey sandwiches, and a great variety of cold salads, but no hot food. They do, however, have a small variety of coffee and hot beverages.

So why Hot Cakes?

McEwan explained that they often are mistaken for a breakfast eatery.

"Hot Cakes sounded upbeat and had a positive connotation" as a name for an outfit providing desserts for other restaurants, she said.

When they changed locations from the Village Green Shopping Center to its present location at Barracks Road in February 1993, adding seating areas and sandwiches to the menu seemed only natural.

Eating at a bakery that serves lunches daily offers an unusual experience. We were greeted at the door and placed our order (after a long period of indecision). We then paid for our selections and were presented with a delightful conversation piece -- a plastic orange line place-holder instead of a number or buzzer.

While the wait for food wasn't too long, it was just long enough to let your mind believe you were truly in for one great lunch.

And Hot Cakes didn't disappoint. The salad sampler platter, which varies daily, included ample portions of broccoli and feta salad, corn salad, a pasta salad and a small roll.

The chicken breast with honey mustard sandwich was served on excellent wheat bread. Herb potato salad, with red potatoes and dill in a delicious secret concoction, came as a side dish to the sandwich. The other side dish option, sesame noodles, looked just as appetizing.

Prices for lunch selections were in the $5 to $8 range -- a bit steeper than the numerous fast food options, but worth the extra cash.

Also, Hot Cakes offered salads, paid for by the pound. Fresh fruit salads cost about $5 a pound.

The meal was filling, in fact too filling to sample from the broad array of desserts. But they were tempting enough to merit a special return trip for a taste. Whole gourmet pies, cakes and other goodies are available, with prices varying from the modest (a small farmhouse apple cake is $9.50) to the extravagant (a large tiramisu is $35). "We are often listed with other Charlottesville sandwich joints, [which] really isn't our main focus," McEwan said.

Of course, it's not a breakfast place and while it could very well be considered a bakery, it offers much more than pastries. In any case, at Hot Cakes, the cooks and bakers emphasize the quality of their food, which was quite apparent. Diners looking for a good lunch or in desperate need of Black Forest cake should take a trip down Emmet Street to Hot Cakes, probably one of the best choices for a meal in Charlottesville.

However, if you find yourself in the mood for a cheaper, smaller snack -- or perhaps even breakfast -- you would be better off at Aunt Sarah's.