This trip actually took place much earlier this year and I kind of forgot all about it until recently. We continued our exploration of different Florida State Parks and this one I was really looking forward too because of a unique restaurant located there. Plus there is a certain fountain that I wanted to see, but we will get into that a little later.
De Leon Springs State Park is about an hour and a half from our house north of Orlando.
The name may sound familiar. Juan Ponce de Leon was a Spanish explorer known for leading the first official European exploration of Florida.
Inside the park is a Pancake House called the Old Spanish Sugarmill. But not your average restaurant. This is a popular place and wait times can stretch past 2 hours so be sure to put your name on the list as soon as you arrive.
After we paid our small carload admission to the park, we found a parking spot and started exploring. The day was beautiful and being outside in the sun is always a plus.
There is a portion of Spring Garden Lake that do see Manatees during the colder months of the year. Unfortunately, during our visit, there were not around but we will be back to see them again in the future. The park also does offer guided boat tours that I am interested in trying sometime.
Before heading behind the Old Spanish Mill I went up to put our names on the list for breakfast. Remember how I said wait times can be pretty crazy, well I was told it could take about 1 and a half hours for our table to be available. We were in no rush so it was time to head out back and check out some historic items that were on display.
Here lies The Fountain of Youth…well sort of.
As you can see there wasn’t much left of it, and there was certainly no youthful water available. Back in the 1950s, this was a popular Florida roadside attraction where visitors could drink the water. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be on this trip.
On the other side of the Mill was the Springs and there was a nice path that wound all the way around.
There was plenty of space around for visitors to set up their blankets and chairs before plunging into the Springs.
On one side of the Springs was a fairly large building with restrooms, changing areas, and a small Visitor Center.
Inside was a little museum with information on the Springs and surrounding areas.
I’m not really one to just sit down for too long and found myself walking around and just taking it all in.
Eventually, our name was called out over the loudspeakers in the park, notifying us that our table was ready.
It was perfect timing because by now we were all starving. We headed up to the Old Spanish Mill and walked inside.
Once inside we were greeted by our server who walked us over to our table and explained how things worked. Do you notice anything different about the tables?
They are known for their All you can eat pancakes but do have some other items if you prefer. But I can attest that the pancakes are really good and are what we opted for. You can also order toppings for your pancakes like chocolate chips, banana slices, blueberries, and a bunch of other things.
Not too long after we ordered our server brought over to pitchers of pancake batter. One was their Early American style batter with unbleached white flour. The second (is that a hidden mickey on the pitcher?) was their own house mixture with 5 fresh stoneground flours.
Now here is where things get a bit interesting. Located right in the middle of your table is an electric griddle. This is to ensure they are piping hot and made just as you like them. You can make little ones, or one huge one, whatever your heart desires. We even tried to make a Mickey-shaped one that kind of settled into more of a blob shape.
We tried both batters and they were really good, but I did prefer the Early American style the best. With plenty of butter and maple syrup I was in heaven. We tried to take our time and just enjoy our breakfast, and once done we had eaten probably a few too many pancakes but it was worth it.
After I paid our bill my family headed into the little gift shop they had near the check out area. But I had something else in mind. Back near the main entrance of the restaurant was a pressed penny machine.
I had seen it the first time we walked in but there was quite the crowd around the door so as much as it pained me I decided to wait until it cleared out.
One thing I want to point out about this machine is that the cost is a little higher than usual. It was $0.75 per design to press plus your penny. Thankfully I always bring extra quarters just in case.
The pennies rolled a little short but I find that is pretty common for this style of machine. The set was nice and I enjoyed the images of the De Leon Springs State Park seal and the Old Spanish Suger Mill building. Of course, being located in Florida there has to be designs of an Alligator and Manatee.
After our visit, we had told friends and family about this place and many of them questioned why we would want to go to a restaurant that makes us cook our own food. But that didn’t even really cross my mind, it was a unique experience and my entire family just had a really fun and memorable time. The price of the pancakes was less than $6 a person which I think was a steal, and to this day my two daughters keep asking when we can go back. They are definitely anxious to get a little older so they can try to work the griddle and make their own creations.