Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Des Plaines Family Restaurant & Pancake House, Des Plaines

Des Plaines Family Restaurant & Pancake House
1769 Miner St
Des Plaines, IL 60016

June 19, 2007


We hadn't planned on visiting the Des Plaines Family Restaurant & Pancake House this week. Instead, we were out looking for another restaurant that we'd visited almost a year before, only we did not remember its name and weren't completely sure what town it was in. I know it's shocking, but we were unable to find it. We could have sworn that it was in the same same shopping center as a Cheeseburger In Paradise restaurant, one that we'd seen somewhere in the north suburbs. We found their location in Des Plaines, but it's not the right one. Fortunately, we spotted the Des Plaines Family Restaurant & Pancake House and were able to get in less than ten minutes before they closed at 3:00.


This isn't a big restaurant; the main (well, only) dining room looks like it would hold less than 100 people. We were the only visitors on hand during our stay so our service was pretty excellent. They didn't rush us out the door in a hurry to close, either, which was nice. I ordered the blueberry crepes, which were moist and sweet. Very good. No complaints. Ayinsan's waffle was okay too. I only had one bite so it's hard for me to judge. Overall, this was a pleasant visit. I'd love to have this little restaurant in my neighborhood. Not sure if it's worth driving nearly an hour to get to, through endless construction and twisting detrours, though. But few things are.

DPStrawberryWaffle DPBlueberryCrepes

Ayinsan here. Not too much to say about the Des Plaines Pancake House. The food and prices were decent and about what you'd expect. The service was probably the most notable thing about the experience. We were greeted pleasantly when we came in, the waitress came to our table right away and we hardly had to wait at all for our food. (Of course, this could have to do with the fact that we were the only people there. This was, I believe, the first time we've been the only customers in a restaurant.) She was polite, but professional, which is good because I personally don't like it when the waitresses or waiters get TOO friendly. Call me a sour old grumpykins, but it weirds me out when they grin like the Joker and hunker down by the table and peer up at you like a hungry cocker spaniel peering at a steak as they take your order. That sort of thing seems to happen more often at chain restaurants, though, where the employees are apparently put through some sort of extensive corporate conditioning to make them as maniacally eager to serve you as possible. I appreciate the friendly-yet-restrained treatment I get at these little individually owned places.


This chef is so delighted to serve you food, he's doing a little dance. Either that or he's in the process of slipping on a puddle of grease, and the fall will result in a broken femur and possibly a lawsuit. Either way, you can be sure the food on that tray is delicious.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Golden Nugget Pancake House, Chicago

Golden Nugget Pancake House & Restaurant
3234 W. Irving Park Rd.
Chicago, IL 60618

June 12, 2007


Our original plan was to go to the Orange restaurant, but when we arrived, the door was locked. The restaurant supposedly closes at two, but we got there a few minutes before two and the place was already closed and deserted. Undaunted, we got back into the car and drove on in search of pancakes.

Luckily, the Golden Nugget pancake house was not far. We'd been to this particular restaurant a couple times in the past already, and my experiences there were always positive. Granted, I tend to get pretty basic stuff whenever I go there--usually a pancake-and-egg combo--so I don't know what their french toast or waffles are like. I do know that they don't have crepes or blintzes. I've come to expect those things from pancake restaurants, so I was a bit disappointed, but nonetheless, the food was quite satisfying.

GoldenNuggetPancakeSandwich2 GoldenNuggetPancakeSandwich1

The eggs here are better than most of the eggs I've tasted from similar restaurants. They're light, fluffy and buoyant, and they look like actual scrambled eggs, whereas many restaurants will just give you a plate with a something flat and yellowish-brown that looks like it was scraped off the underside of a truck.

The pancakes are moist, fluffy and sweet. They have a very distinctive taste. I have difficulty capturing it in words or explaining how it's different from most other pancakes I've had, but they must put something unusual in their batter.


Joe here. I know it's ridiculous, but we've somehow done more than 20 entries now without visiting even a single pancake house within Chicago city limits. As the months have passed I've become more and more aware of this, realizing that it's probably undermining our cause, or that it possibly could if anyone took notice of it. It reminds me of the Don DeLillo novel White Noise, in which the main character, a college professor specializing in "Hitler studies," privately bemoans the fact that he cannot speak German and lives in fear that his secret will eventually be found out. It's a terrible book, but I always found that plot point particularly amusing.

GoldenNuggetInside1 GoldenNuggetInside2

The last time that we visited the Golden Nugget was on July 16, 2005. I remember this so clearly because it was the afternoon of the first day of the Intonation festival held in Union Park that year. Traffic was light for a Saturday and we got into the city much quicker than we expected, so we had plenty of time to grab a late breakfast before seeking out the green line to head west to the park. It was a great afternoon of music, though come to think of it, we only saw three bands before leaving: Four Tet, The Go! Team, and Prefuse 73. We refilled our bottles of water and sat in the shade during Broken Social Scene, no sense in fighting the masses to stand within a hundred yards of that band. I'd wanted to stay late for Tortoise, but that would have meant sitting through DFA 1979, who took a ridiculous amount of time to even take the stage. By the time they started playing, we were already gone and watching from the el platform.

I'd already seen Tortoise before, four times, actually, so missing out on them was no big deal. The second time I saw them was with a friend at Metro. We met up with a few friends of his, a couple of art school dropouts who were renting a farmhouse out in Plano or God knows where, and who wouldn't stop talking about about all the amazing parties they'd been having and how wasted they'd gotten last week. This was my introduction to the modern indie music
dude: guys who read Pitchfork and have esoteric taste, but who act like complete douchebags at a Dave Matthews concert -- screaming at and high-fiving each other -- whenever they go out to a show. I'll never forget one kid in our group in particular. Halfway through the show during "Seneca," he elbowed his way to the front to the crowd. Holding his hands above his head for everyone to see, he started clapping out the rhythms of the song, several minutes before the actual handclap parts even came in. He turned around and smiled to us, obviously incredibly pleased with himself that he was so far ahead of everyone else in this regard, and later bragged about this after the show as we had a late-night break at the Golden Nugget. I didn't have pancakes that night, just some coffee, which said kid proceeded to spill all over me as he drunkenly struggled to open a packet of cream, tearing it open in a violent motion that carried over into my coffee cup. He apologized for this for at least the next ten minutes.


Our afternoon at the Golden Nugget this week was much more enjoyable. We seated ourselves as directed to, visited the restrooms, and waited to be served. Considering that we were two of the only diners in the restaurant at all, it took a few more minutes than we were expecting for the waitress to take our order. Perhaps it wasn't a long wait after all, but I was extremely hungry, so it certainly felt like it. Ayinsan ordered the "pancake sandwich," which turned out to be nothing like a sandwich at all. I just ordered a plain order of pancakes. "I hope you're hungry," our waitress said. "Oh, I think I can handle it," I replied. Or so I thought. All I had was just five buttermilk pancakes, and they weren't even very big. But they were very filling and I regretfully had to leave uneaten scraps of the last one on my plate.


There are several Golden Nugget locations throughout Chicago, all located on the north side of the city. We visited the easternmost location on Irving Park Road. I've been past several of the other restaurants, but never inside, so I can't compare this location to any of the others. For more information and some history, there's a Wikipedia entry on the chain.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Omega Restaurant & Pancake House, Downers Grove

Omega Restaurant & Pancake House
1300 Ogden Ave
Downers Grove, IL 60515

May 29, 2007


My Greek is a bit spotty, I'll admit, but a name like "Omega Pancake House" is not necessarily promising. Maybe I'm alone in this, but when I hear "omega," I think of the omega wolf, the lowest member of the wolf pack, basically the canine equivalent of that undersized, nearsighted kid who gets picked on by all the bullies at school. Maybe the owners of the Omega Pancake House are unaware of the negative connotations...or perhaps it's a deliberate attempt to tug at our heartstrings? A "support the underdog" kind of thing?

Probably not, but nonetheless, these connotations scampered about in my subconscious as we entered the Omega Pancake House. We were greeted by the traditional glass display case of tasty-looking desserts--always nice to see, even if we don't usually end up getting dessert at these restaurants. We were seated promptly and given a rather impressive basket of bread. Along with the usual saltines and rolls, it offered several different kinds of muffins, and a sign inviting us to take any unfinished bread home with us when we left. I kind of wished I'd asked for a bigger to-go container.

omegainside3 omegabread1

The menu offers the usual choices of pancakes, waffles, crepes, and french toast, with a few non-standard options, such as the Hawaiian pancakes (which Joe got). These are simply pancakes with pineapples on top. The menu also claims they came with "tropical syrup," but as far as I can tell, what we got was regular maple syrup.

omegahawaiianpancakes omegabananapancakes

I got the banana pancakes. They were tasty and filling, though not remarkable. The bananas were slightly underripe and chewy, which is, incidentally, exactly how I like them. Nothing worse than a mushy banana...unless you're making banana bread, in which case they're perfect. But I digress.

It's always slightly awkward when the waitress notices our camera and asks questions about it. In this case, the waitress seemed almost suspicious: "What are you doing? Taking a picture? What for?" As if she thought we were up to no good--perhaps spies from one of their rival pancake houses, sent to ferret out their weaknesses.

Joe here. Somewhere in the massive suburban sprawl of Downers Grove, you'll find the Omega Restaurant & Pancake House. Is it anywhere near Downers Delight? I have no idea. There's a reason that I-355 and I-88 were built; so you'd never have to actually drive through Downers Grove under any cirumstance. Is it related to the Omega Restaurant that I've passed by so many times in Warrenville? That location simply billed itself as "Omega Restaurant" on all of its outdoor signage and not as a pancake house in any way, shape, or form. As for the Downers Grove location, the "& Pancake House" portion of the name feels like an afterthought. An eight-page menu devotes about a single page to breakfast, less than half to pancakes.

omegainside1 omegainside2

For a Tuesday afternoon, the place seemed really busy. The service was good; despite the overflow of regulars for the lunch rush (you learn to recognize these people over time, they're the same wherever you go) we were seated quickly, our orders taken promptly. No complaints there. The food itself was... disappointing. My Hawaiian pancakes were just a regular order of pancakes with a handful of diced pineapples tossed on top. The banana pancakes? An order of regular pancakes with some banana on top, which may or may not have been applied using a Salad Shooter. Not much to get excited about, unfortunately. I wish I had more to say about my experience visiting Omega, but nothing left a strong impression on me. Maybe this is a destination better saved for lunch and dinner?