Sugar Hill

Thanks to its perennial popularity, Polly's Pancake Parlor is expanding

Union Leader Correspondent
October 05. 2014 8:39PM
Patrons make their way Tuesday into Polly's Pancake Parlor in Sugar Hill, which is poised to undergo a major expansion this fall. (JOHN KOZIOL/Union Leader Correspondent)

SUGAR HILL — In an inverse of the classic space dilemma faced by many restaurants, Polly's Pancake Parlor has plenty of parking but only a paltry amount of room for patrons, which is why, for yet another time in its 75-plus year history, the acclaimed eatery is expanding and moving to year-round operation.

Founded in 1938 by Polly and “Sugar Bill” Dexter and opened as a tea room to complement their maple-sugaring business, Polly’s Pancake Parlor has been serving up award-winning breakfasts and lunches to locals, tourists and foodies in a building off Route 117. The building originally began life in the 1800s as a carriage house, which was then converted into a woodshed and, eventually, into the current “parlor,” which itself has been enlarged several times.

Polly’s is now operated by Kathie Aldrich Cote — who is the Dexters’ granddaughter — and her husband, Dennis, and daughter, Emily. Polly’s, which has 65 seats and is open daily from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., will close for the season on Columbus Day, Oct. 13, after which work will begin immediately on the expansion. The Cotes hope to reopen Polly’s in early May 2015.

“We’re serving upwards of 58,000 people a year now, sometimes more than 500 in a day,” said Aldrich Cote. “We’ve really outgrown our space, and after a decade of thinking about expanding and improving Polly’s, we’re moving ahead with plans this fall.”

Aldrich Cote said the expansion plans call for removing the existing parlor and replacing it with a larger building, albeit one that retains the million-dollar views of the mountains of the Presidential, Franconia, and Kinsman ranges.

In addition to the “parlor,” the Polly’s building contains a kitchen, bakery and retail shop, which is frequently crowded with waiting, would-be diners. Polly’s stone grinds on site the flour used in many of its mixes, and Dennis Cote continues to make the maple spread and maple sugar. That attention to detail has earned Polly’s glowing reviews in Road Food, Every Day with Rachel Ray, Cooking with Paula Deen, the Food Network Magazine, New Hampshire Magazine and Yankee magazine.

In 2006, Polly’s was presented with the James Beard Award as one of “America’s Classics.”

According to the James Beard Foundation, “the Beard Awards are the highest honor for food and beverage professionals working in North America. The awards are presented each spring at Lincoln Center. Nominees and winners are feted at a weekend of events in New York City that has become the social and gastronomic highlight of the year.”

The Cotes said that with their new building, they and their staff will be able to “more efficiently operate the restaurant, bakery, and mail-order endeavors” and that Polly’s will also be able to remain open year-round, which they called “an impossibility” now.

“Change is often difficult to accept, and we’re sensitive to the idea of altering a local landmark loved by so many,” said Dennis Cote. “But we have been exceedingly careful as we’ve developed this plan to preserve the essence of Polly’s. The expansion will allow us to keep doing what Polly’s Pancake Parlor has done for the past 70 years, and it will ensure Polly’s will be here for another 70 years.”

To follow the progress of construction of the new Polly’s Pancakes online, go to and Polly’s Facebook page.

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