Original Pancake House
954 Lake Street
Oak Park, IL 60301
August 18, 2007
I know I said I wasn't going to do any more entries on chains we've already been to, but in light of recent events, it's become clear to me that I was wrong to take these individual franchises for granted. You never know what tomorrow is going to bring... or if tomorrow will even arrive. For you.
But if it does, you might want to treat yourself to breakfast at the Original Pancake House. They have 16 locations in Illinois alone, more than any other state. If there's a non-acronymical pancake house out there with more locations (109 nationwide), I'd like to know. This one sits in downtown Oak Park, just blocks from the childhood home of Ernest Hemingway. I had time to kill before breakfast so I went for a walk but missed it by one street. Nice houses in the neighborhood, anyway. But we all know what Hemingway thought about those.
We dined on a Saturday morning, so as you can see, the OPH was packed. We had to wait almost 15 minutes for a table, and passed the time as best we could. Eventually we were seated and ordered some coffee, brought to us in a pot that was conveniently left on our table. On a busy morning like this, they probably wouldn't have time to come around and give everyone refills, anyway. We all ordered pancakes or eggs. I wish I would have picked something a little more adventurous than a basic plate of buttermilk pancakes, but I've been burned a few times this summer by ordering a few appetizing-sounding but ultimately disappointing exotic pancake dishes, so I chose to play it safe. And nobody wants to be the only person to order a pile of fruit and whipped cream. Not when you're in the presence of greatness, anyway.
My pancakes were delicious: evenly cooked, fluffy but not bready, and a perfectly-sized portion. In other words: good pancakes, which is all we ever ask for. This good-ness is a difficult quality to define in plain, flour-based pancakes, much less discern to any significant degree for most people from restaurant to restaurant. These differences are largely imperceptible to the human tongue, though I hoped that in time I would somehow develop the skills to do so. Unfortunately, this ability is purely genetic, meaning that I'll probably never fully experience the long-rumored, consciousness-altering, fourth plateau of pancake goodness that's supposedly out there somewhere. I wanted to try some of Gena's omelet, which was too much for her to finish, but I didn't want to look like a gluttonous cadger so I didn't ask. No one else had any trouble cleaning their plates. For the five of us, our bill came to about $45.00. This isn't bad for a group of single people with a wealth of disposable income to blow indiscriminately. But I'm starting to understand why going out like this would be difficult for families to do on a regular basis.
Downtown Oak Park seems like a nice place to live, a suburb with character, if you will. Maybe I'm just oblivious to its dark, gentrified secrets? I don't know. Any place with a pancake house, movie theater, Borders bookstore, and internet cafe/bubble tea bar on the same block can't be that bad, can it?