Finding inspiration: Chef Stuart Brioza of State Bird Provisions

State Bird Provisions, arguably one of the hottest restaurants in the country, won over the dining world with its innovative, inspired dishes and creative rotating menu — and it all started with pancakes.

“I have this pancake thing,” says chef Stuart Brioza, who co-owns the restaurant with his wife, Nicole. “I don’t like sweet morning pancakes, but I like all the Korean pancakes and French pancakes — anything but ours, really. I like savory pancakes.”

Born out of an experiment based on Brioza’s favorite midnight snack food of tortillas, pecorino and sauerkraut — ingredients that can almost always be found in his fridge — State Bird’s sauerkraut pancakes have become one of the restaurant’s best selling items, with an average of about 40 orders flying out the kitchen a night.

But the sauerkraut pancake didn’t just become a best seller. It inspired a number of other pancakes that use the batter as a base, creating an entire pancake station in the restaurant’s kitchen. It also became a benchmark for how the restaurant sources inspiration for new and creative dishes.

“This recipe liberated us in cooking,” Brioza says. “I took a necessity of snack food from my favorite things and that’s what informed my cooking." 

"It didn’t have to be an inspiration from traveling or a memory," he adds. "It was just a combination of all my favorite flavors….It’s that idea of the workshop (the title of the restaurant’s forthcoming first cookbook) -- you’re just constantly creating.”

While it packs a serious flavor punch, the recipe for these sophisticated little pancakes is surprisingly simple. The base dough is nothing more than flour, egg, water and sourdough starter, which is then mixed with pecorino and sauerkraut for that amazing flavor combination that is sour and umami. There’s also a dollop ricotta cheese, for looks. It’s served alongside the restaurant’s secret super duper delicious sour salt. (The secret? Dehydrated sauerkraut. That’s it.)

So, for a savory morning snack and hopefully the start of many more inspirations in the kitchen, here’s how to make State Bird’s sauerkraut pancakes.