The Skeptical Diner: The Original Pancake House

After years of delay, I’ve finally managed to get out to Edina to sample the breakfasty goodness of The Original Pancake House.

Devotees of the chain know that it started in Portland, Oregon in 1953, and has sprawled out to more than 100 franchises across the country. And although the restaurants work from a unified playbook of home-style specialties cooked with high-quality ingredients, the menu, service and execution can vary from location to location. Chicago’s Hyde Park location was nothing to write home about (at least it wasn’t 10 years ago, when I visited.)

But the Madison West Side location is so incredibly solid (in terms of food and welcoming service) that it has essentially become my brother’s second home. Some would say first home. He’s there three-to-five times a week, and they now give him an annual Christmas gift.

So what’s the chain’s charm?

Essentially, imagine an IHOP where you can eat the food. Among other things, the Edina OPH has cherry crepes, big Dutch-style pancakes, Swedish pancakes with lingonberries, old-fashioned American flapjacks (with bananas, or blueberries, or strawberries, or straight-up, or even silver-dollar sized) and plenty of egg-based favorites. It also features “basted eggs” (which I’ve never seen before), Roesti potatoes (another local quirk) and an Eggs Benedict variant with a mushroom sherry sauce instead of Hollandaise.

The basics check out, however. The bacon is thick-cut and delicious. The coffee is mild and the refills are prompt. The service is friendly, and the location itself is almost a little too charming to deal with early in the morning. (Floral wall-paper, old-school wooden trim, cheerful staff, etc. etc.) For comparison’s sake, I tried the apple waffle, a favorite of mine from Madison. Apples baked into waffle? Check. Delicious apple syrup? Check. There were thin slices of apple on top of the waffle, too – a new thing, but not a bad one. The glump of margarine on top was also new, but less welcome. Once the fat was booted from the waffle’s top, however, the dish passed the familiarity test with flying colors.

Oh, another difference? No bagels. And based on local conditions, I don’t hold it against them.

5 Comments so far

  1. Tipper (unregistered) on July 14th, 2007 @ 6:59 pm

    That waffle sounds so delicious I could weep.


  2. Ashley Marie (unregistered) on July 14th, 2007 @ 11:51 pm

    I was also very impressed by the bacon, lol.


  3. Erica M (unregistered) on July 15th, 2007 @ 1:22 pm

    Almost went to the OPH in Eden Prairie a couple weeks ago, but it wasn’t open yet and I had to get to work. Now I’m dying to try that apple waffle.


  4. James Norton (unregistered) on July 15th, 2007 @ 1:24 pm

    It’s not worth death, but it is worth at least a modicum of bodily harm. A pinky, maybe. Or an earlobe.


  5. Clint (unregistered) on July 15th, 2007 @ 4:17 pm

    They do a pretty good job, that’s for sure.



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