A Love Letter to the Hoito (+ Finnish Pancake Recipe)
When I first moved to Thunder Bay, Ontario, people kept asking me if I’d gone to the Hoito for pancakes yet. I kept thinking “um, I’ve had pancakes before. Thanks though.” I didn’t get it!
When my family finally headed to the Finnish District (aka the Pancake District) for breakfast, we were shocked to see a line-up out the door of this weird little basement restaurant. I assumed it was an anomaly but I soon learned two very important facts: 1) Yes, there is a line up at the Hoito most weekend mornings and 2) It is 100%, most definitely, worth the wait.
Established in 1918, the Hoito (Finnish for care) is believed to be the oldest co-operatively owned and operated restaurant in Canada. Finnish bush workers at a logging camp outside of Nipigon pooled their money to establish a base for affordable, home-cooked meals at the Finnish Labour Temple, which is now a National Historic Site.
If you’re seeking a hearty serving of Finnish fare, you might be satiated by a bowl of Mojakka (fish soup) or Soulakala (salt cured salmon on rye). Love rice pudding? Try the Piirakka, which is a rye pastry based rice pudding that is sure to please any palate.
But me? I’m sticking with the pancakes.
If you haven’t tried a Finnish pancake, you are in for a treat. Covering the surface of your entire plate, these pancakes live somewhere between pillowy soft yet impossibly thin. Think: crepes but softer and airier.
The Hoito serves them up with eggs and bacon (or a breakfast meat of your choice) and the blend of savoury and sweet has become my personal favourite.
If you can’t make it to Thunder Bay to try the Hoito’s pancakes IRL, here’s a recipe for Finnish pancakes that deliver a dish that’s pretty close to the original.
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups milk
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 1 cup flour
- Whisk eggs and milk. Add salt and sugar.
- Add flour 1 tbsp at a time, whisking continuously.
- Once incorporated, let the batter rest for 10 minutes.
- Melt butter in hot cast iron skillet.
- Ladle in batter to form a large, thin pancake.
- Fry until golden on each side.
- Serve with syrup, eggs, bacon, or all of the above.