Consider the pancake. Less graceful than a waffle. Heartier than a delicate crêpe. Yet still capable of drawing devotees by the dozens...

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Consider the pancake. Less graceful than a waffle. Heartier than a delicate crêpe. Yet still capable of drawing devotees by the dozens.

For years, groups from firefighters to youth soccer clubs have looked to pancake breakfasts as trusty, affordable fund-raisers. But local Scandinavian organizations say they’ve elevated them to an art form in recent years, with whipped cream made from scratch, pancake recipes handed down through generations and authentic Swedes and Norwegians handling the griddles in the kitchen.

And they have the fans to prove it.

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The Sons of Norway lodge in Everett regularly draws around 1,000 pancake lovers to its morning feasts; its counterpart in Edmonds lures more than 700. And witness a recent Sunday at Seattle’s Swedish Cultural Center, where a multigenerational crowd of hundreds packed a ballroom overlooking Lake Union, seated around blue-checked tablecloths.

It would have been more mobbed (crowds have topped 900), regulars said, but the Seahawks had an early game that day.

“It’s a nice way to start the day,” says Rick Martin, 48, as he polishes off a second plate of cakes topped with lingonberries. Beside him, friend Jerry Olson, 77 and half Swedish, looks delighted as he cracks yet another joke at Norway’s expense.

Not far away, Suli Ali, 24 and Julia Herbert, 23, finally here after six months of attempts, make plans to return and bring their friends. Across the room, as the costumed folk band picks up steam, Christine and Gaylord Lenker take to the dance floor, hand-in-hand, as they have for the past 50 years of marriage.

Pancake breakfasts


Swedish Cultural Center The center holds its pancake breakfast the first Sunday of the month, September through June, from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.. The event moves to the second Sunday if the first Sunday falls on a holiday weekend. Admission is $7 for adults, $4 for children 5-12 and free for children younger than 5; 1920 Dexter Ave. N., Seattle; 206-283-1090 or www. swedishculturalcenter.org.

Sons of Norway, Edmonds The Edmonds lodge holds its pancake breakfast three times a year, typically in March, September and May. Admission is $6 for adults and free for children under 5. This year’s fall breakfast will be Oct. 7 from 7:30 a.m. to noon; Edmonds Masonic Center, 515 Dayton St., Edmonds. Call 425-882-2212 for more information.

Sons of Norway, Everett The Everett lodge holds its pancake breakfast the second Saturday of the month, September through June, from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Admission is $6, children ages 4 and under are free; at the lodge, 2725 Oakes Ave., Everett. Call 425-252-0291 for more information.

“It’s one of the hidden treasures of Seattle,” said Sue Allen, of Magnolia. Her husband, Tim, found the breakfast when they first started dating. They’re still coming back — now with their young son and daughter in tow. “My kids look forward to it. You can’t find better pancakes in town. It’s just goofy fun.”

Maybe it’s the chipper accordion music that sets wee children and their parents dancing. Or the chance to run into friends whose kids grow up a little more each month before your very eyes. Or all the waiters, clad in aprons the colors of their homelands: Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Iceland.

Or perhaps it truly is the pancakes that lure hundreds of people out of perfectly warm beds each month, ready to eat: thin, sweet and crêpelike, topped with berries and fresh whipped cream, a side of ham providing that satisfying blend of savory and sweet.

Robert Clay, executive director of the Swedish Cultural Center, said his organization’s pancake breakfast used to be a smaller, springtime affair. The center made the breakfast a monthly event in the mid-1990s and began inviting folk musicians. Their fans came. Word of mouth spread. The event grew and grew, and has since become one of the center’s best fund-raisers, bringing in around $3,000 after expenses on a good weekend, he said.

“There’s a lot of fellowship for people within the community. A lot of people come after church. It’s become a family thing,” Clay said.

Joe Driscoll, a Seattle native who has organized many a pancake breakfast for his church or local Boy Scout troop, says pancakes lend themselves well to fund-raising. Batter requires but a few ingredients and typically is cheap to make. Hotcakes cook quickly. And people of all stripes enjoy eating them.

“It goes back to the days of the lumberjacks. That was the hearty breakfast. You think about early Seattle and you get a stack of cakes, that was basically the number-one seller,” Driscoll said. “It fills you up and it doesn’t just leave you right away.”

The breakfasts serve the groups in other ways as well. Leona Olson, chair of the Everett Sons of Norway lodge pancake breakfast, says the gatherings have injected her organization with new members and enthusiasm.

Regulars say they appreciate having a fun ritual and the chance to experience a bit of another cultures.

“We come here because it’s like a Sunday routine,” said Kevin Reynolds, a four-year veteran of the Seattle breakfast with wife Lisa, their two children and a third on the way. “We have groups of friends who come. It does kind of have that churchy, community feel.”

“And she likes the pancakes,” he said, smiling at his wife.

Karen Gaudette: 206-515-5618 or kgaudette@seattletimes.com