The Original Pancake House in Williamsville, New York serves fresh orange juice and enormous pancakes. That’s really its thing. That, and being a destination brunch spot for all the surrounding suburbs. On weekend mornings it has that over-warm, over-loud, elbow-to-elbow bustle of the bar/restaurant down the street here in Chicago that serves high-end beers and mussels, that fogs up your glasses when you step in from the street and makes you confer with all your friends: Do we really want to wait an hour for a table? When I come home to visit family, this is where my mom wants to take her three girls. If the wait isn’t too long.
This weekend Kevin and I were walking around the Lincoln Park neighborhood here in Chicago and saw a sign for the same restaurant, same logo — little dude in a chef’s hat, scripty font for the name. It had to be the same place. I squeaked out some kind of joy-noises and Kevin followed me down a set of stairs to the place, which was tucked away below street level in the downstairs of what looked like an apartment complex. It was closed. Which makes sense, for a Friday night. But I couldn’t help but wonder if it was the same place, or if it got the same kind of traffic, or if it’d serve me a giant apple pancake and some fresh-squeezed juice. Anyone who got the apple pancake, when we were kids, was always given a stern warning from the waitress: Yours will take longer than everyone else’s. Implicit meaning: Yours will be better than everyone else’s.
Reading Mark Bittman’s blog today, I found out he also has apple pancake memories of the Original Pancake House, except in New Jersey, and also hadn’t realized it was a chain.