Thursday, November 16, 2006

Elly's Pancake House, Arlington Heights

Elly's Pancake House
372 E Golf Rd
Arlington Heights, IL 60005

November 14, 2006


Out of the short but disparate list of different suburbs I've lived in over the course of my young adult life, Arlington Heights has to be my favorite town of residence so far. I don't really know how I'd justify that or how I might try to categorically compare it to Elgin, West Dundee, Elburn, or Aurora. I don't know how its average standard of living stacks up against those other municipalities, let alone if it's a "growing community" or "a good place to raise a family" or anything like that. I do know that it's the only place I've ever been the victim of a crime, as my car was broken into during the middle of the night nearly two years ago, and that I constantly complained about the window-rattling noise from planes taking off from and landing at nearby O'Hare, but in hindsight, those were small prices to pay for everything else that I enjoyed. I was happier there than I have been in any other town that I've called home, and though there were plenty of reasons for that that had nothing to do with the town itself, I did enjoy the well-stocked library, the parks and forest preserve, and the easy access to Chicago. There were plenty of shops and restaurants within walking distance too, and the streets and sidewalks were clean, free of litter and broken glass. I wish I could say the same for Aurora, but the popular use of "trash cans" never really caught on here like it did in the rest of America.

One of our favorite places to eat, if only for breakfast and lunch, was Elly's Pancake House. Just a 20 minute walk away from my apartment, it was always easy to get to, at least until you had to cross the usually-busy Golf Road to finally reach the green awnings of Elly's. Once inside, we rarely encountered much of a wait to be seated, though we rarely dined during the peak hours of breakfast. Any time around noon or thereafter usually guarantees instant service, though they're only open until 4:00 on most days anyway. One of these days we'll have to request the smoking section, otherwise we'll probably never get to sit on the left/west side of the restaurant. There's a pretty-impressive mural on the wall there I wish I'd been able to take a picture of. Unfortunately, we didn't have our camera with us on Tuesday, which is why we don't have any photos to post here. Instead, we've attempted to draw our food, with mixed results as you can see. This blob of brown and blue is supposed to be my order of blackberry pancakes, which was much better than it probably looks here.


I've never been a good artist but on a good day I can sometimes draw pictures of things that actually look like what they are. Sometimes. It's been years since I last attempted to sketch anything at all, the last time I can remember being assigned cityscapes (complete with a proper "vanishing point" in the distance!) that could have passed for Wesley Willis originals back in eighth grade art class. Amanda's rendition of her colorful strawberry blintzes platter is a bit more appetizing.


One of Elly's more reliable treats is their freshly squeezed orange juice. I've never been too keen on oj with heavy pulp, but I can't get enough of it at Elly's. It tastes great, and it's just got to be healthier than juice from concentrate, right? Check out the stacks of oranges behind the counter as you come in and see if that doesn't tempt you right away. Maybe it's all just a clever ruse, a bait-and-switch that my untrained taste buds can't detect. If it is, they've pulled it off magnificently.

About the restaurant itself: it's spacious with lots of windows, so the stale, claustrophobic feeling that I get in so many other restaurants never really comes together here. I guess I could complain about the restroom, but the peeled wallpaper gives it a haunting, noir-like atmosphere. Plus, someone carved "DRAGON ARMY" into the men's room stall door. How cool is that? I haven't the slightest idea what the "DRAGON ARMY" is, though my guess would be an up-and-coming street gang. Even if that's really the case (again, I might be wrong), then I'm once again willing to forgive Arlington Heights for its occasional crime issues if its gangs continue to choose great names like that. It’s the price you pay for great pancakes, and more...

Amanda here. I don't know why, but I've been on a blintz kick lately, so I once again ordered the strawberry blintzes when we visited Elly's. So far, none of the blitzes I've ordered at various restaurants have compared to the ones at Downer's Delight, but they've all been pretty good, and Elly's is no exception. I ordered whipped cream on the side, expecting to get a little puff of it atop my food. Instead I got an entire bowl. I proceeded to slather it on and make a complete glutton of myself.

Our waitress was quite nice, though I can't help but wonder what she thought of us when she saw us drawing crude representations of our food.

It is worth noting that Elly's has an attractive menu. They also provide paper take-out menus. As you can see, on the cover is the restaurant itself. I'm not sure what those green streaks in the background are supposed to represent. Paint raining from the heavens? Zeus hurling down angry lightning bolts because mere mortals dared to create pancakes better than his, and must pay for their hubris? Countless alien spaceships landing in Arlington Heights just to sample Elly's famous orange juice? You decide.

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