Monday, December 7, 2015

Northwest and Seattle Traditions: Swedish Pancakes Anyone?

Chances are better than even that you have some Scandinavian blood or are familiar with the culture if you were born and raised in Seattle.

That's changing now with our massive influx of tech workers the last few decades. But even if you're not Scandinavian at all, that shouldn't stop you from enjoying a beloved Seattle tradition: the Swedish Pancake Breakfast at the Swedish Cultural Center (aka the Swedish Club) on the first Sunday of each month.

For 20 years now, the current version of the pancake breakfast has drawn a diverse crowd from all over the city, and even region. As we bought our tickets at yesterday's breakfast, the volunteer ticket sellers asked us where we came from. My cousin's friends Beth and Mike, up from Eugene, had traveled the farthest so far.

A big part of the charm at this breakfast, besides the very tasty and crepe-like pancakes, is that it's such an unpretentious, truly local cultural event. You'll mingle with elderly Swedes in traditional Scandinavian sweaters and garb, neighborhood families with kids, maybe a few hipsters, and friendly club volunteers.

Bengt Hag welcomes everyone at the door.

Be prepared to spend 10 to 20 minutes in line.

When you enter the vintage 1960 building, it's reminiscent of an old school building downstairs where the breakfast is served. The food and the setting are not hip or fancy. But the ambiance is friendly, the crowd is happy, the pancakes are excellent (and also available in a gluten-free version), and you'll probably see some traditional Swedish dancing.

Pancakes, lingonberries, strawberries, ham, OJ, Swedish kaffe (coffee) and oh that whipped cream!
Traditional Swedish folk music with a smile!

We shared a table with a family from the neighborhood and feasted on the kind of breakfast that many used to enjoy at our grandparent's (in my case, my Swedish "Gooma")The breakfast includes tickets for seconds, but none of us indulged. Heck, I couldn't even finish my firsts.


After breakfast, I went upstairs on my way out to use the less-crowded restroom and see some of the club's holiday decorations. 
All in all it's a fun way to start a Sunday. But then you should probably take a good long walk or exercise afterwards to offset the carb/sugar hit.
While I've been meaning to check out this breakfast for over a year now, it was a snarky tweet I read that got me thinking about Seattle traditions new and old:

I'm going to celebrate the Christmas season by tweeting about Seattle traditions. Not like anyone there knows them.

Wrong! So here's to enjoying a classic Seattle tradition.

Tack för att besöka Pacific Northwest Seasons!

In between blog posts, visit Pacific NW Seasons on FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram for more Northwest photos and outdoors news.   

When You Go
As noted on the links above, the Swedish Pancake Breakfast takes place the first Sunday of each month. Cost is $9 for adults, $7 for members, $5 for kids 5 to 12, and FREE for kids under 5. Breakfast includes pancakes, berry toppings, maple syrup, butter, Swedish coffee, orange juice, ham, and tea.  Plus seconds if you can handle it. The Swedish Club is at 1920 Dexter Avenue on the east side of Queen Anne Hill (click link for map) just below SR 99 and above Westlake/Lake Union, immediately north of downtown Seattle. There is ample parking in the lots below the club or across the street. 


Anonymous said...

Love the building, the people are great and lets hope that these nice folks don't give in to the considerable pressure to sell the large view property, Mary Lou

Salish Sea Communications said...

Real Seattle. My daughter is taking Swedish class and I passed your blog onto her- but she's gluten intolerant so will have to appreciate the tradition. Mike

jill said...

Hey Mike! They do offer gluten-free pancakes because, well, this is Seattle. I just finished the basic Swedish class this fall at the Swedish Club. Is your daughter taking it there also? Or at a school/college (UW?). I am going to take it for the winter also but oy, need to study more. And yes, this is a throwback to the Seattle I remember as a kid and younger adult.

Mary DeFelice Bartley said...

Oh, just loved reading about this and now am very motivated to get to one of their monthly breakfasts. Turns out a bunch of dancers from the local English dance community, which has a dance there most Friday nights, were serving at that breakfast. They do it once a year as thanks for using the facilities. I recognized the dancers in the photo you included. BTW, English dancing is open to everyone and and each of the dances is taught. It's always done to live music. The style of dancing is like the dancing in all those great Jane Austen movies and many are from that period. For more information, check out: and select "English"

Lesley said...

Yum! I'll put this on my list for one of my frequent trips to Seattle! Enjoyed seeing the photo of Bob dancing -- he always comes to our Scottish Dance events! :)

Laura said...

I absolutely love reading about, and attending, this sort of local cultural event! I will definitely have to try to remember this for next year. It looks like such a good time!