Legendary Pancakes at The Hoito

Did you know Thunder Bay has the largest Finnish population outside of Scandinavia?  Neither did we, until someone pointed it out to us on Twitter.  We’re extremely grateful they did, because that’s how we ended up with a plate of crazy good pancakes for lunch when we passed through. 

The Finlandia Club of Thunder Bay is a grand brick building, surrounded by various blue and white-clad shops selling Finnish products. 

In its basement lies The Hoito, a famous old restaurant that’s been continually and co-operatively run since 1918. 

The restaurant’s name means “care,” and it was originally founded as a way to provide inexpensive, home-cooked meals to loggers in the area. 

Until we looked at the menu, I had no idea what traditional Finnish fare actually was.  The Hoito’s offerings include viili (a yogurt-like fermented milk), meat stew, breads, rice pudding, and pea soup, but what they’re most famous for are their pancakes.

I'd read on various websites that The Hoito’s pancakes (known as lettu or lätty) are thin, plate-sized, and extremely tasty, but I couldn’t conceive of how they’d be all that different from crepes.  You see, I had a bit of a ‘pancake is a pancake is a pancake attitude,’ and it turns out I’m an arrogant pancake idiot, because they are, in fact, different and AMAZING.  

While I can’t quite figure out what makes them that way, my guess is they use more butter than any other recipe, both in the batter and on the pan.  The centres were tender, the lacy edges were crispy and golden brown, and the cakes did indeed take up the whole plate.  They were simple, and they were stunning.  We ate every last bite, and now I dream about how good they’d be with bacon. 

At $6 per serving, I’d buy them for lunch everyday if I could, and since I already have far too much butter in my life, it’s probably a good thing I don’t live in the area. 

The Hoito lived up to its reputation, and I have no doubt they’ll be around for another 95 years.