I’ve never seen someone more excited to make pancakes for dinner. Philip Kain was nothing less than ebullient as he scooped chocolate chip batter onto a griddle from the vat in the sink. He verbally ushered a line of students into his apartment, shouting, “Come on in, come on in! Put your name on that sign-in sheet and I’ll get you some pancakes.”
Philip Kain and William Crow have been Faculty Fellows in Residence at Gramercy Green Residence Hall for the past nine years — but please, call them Phil and Will. Their chocolate chip pancakes, which they’ve been serving to residents monthly ever since they moved in, have gained a sort of cult status among students.
“There’s something magical about breakfast for dinner,” Will said, looking up from the griddle. The spatula never left his hand. He flipped the pancakes with the swift, repetitive motions of a factory worker, but was having way more fun.
There are no plates, forks or mugs at Pancakes; in an effort to be environmentally friendly, attendees must bring their own. Phil informed me that my plate was Pfaltzgraff brand. “They’re heavy, aren’t they?” he said. “I bet that’s why your parents had you take them to college.”
Typically, 100–250 students come to Pancakes, and Phil and Will go through 12 boxes of Aunt Jemima pancake batter and 15 bags of chocolate chips. The consensus among students is that there has to be some secret ingredient, because these pancakes are weirdly good — we’re talking up there with the best pancakes you’ve ever had.
The couple likes to perpetuate the rumors that students have met their future spouses at Pancakes, that students have come up with a billion-dollar startup idea at Pancakes and that attendance at Pancakes can raise your GPA. Nobody can confirm these for sure, but the event has an indescribable allure.
Two hundred students showed up to the first Pancakes event nine years ago, back when Phil and Will only had a small frying pan. Somehow, they’ve always managed to keep up with the demand — even when more than 500 students showed up when there was a blizzard on the first day of classes two years ago.
“It was wonderful,” Phil said. “The entire building was there.”
Pancakes saw an increase in attendance when Phil and Will moved the event from Sunday mornings, which was apparently Will’s idea, to weekday evenings.
“William is a nerd,” Phil said. “Students aren’t home, let alone awake on Sundays. So we switched to doing it for dinner.”
On the Tuesday of midterms week, pancakes for dinner seemed to be just what every Gramercy resident needed. When asked what the secret ingredient was, Will didn’t skip a beat: “Love.”
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Oct. 17 print edition. Email Abigail Weinberg at [email protected]