The Original Pancake House

8127 Mesa Blvd, 795-8969

Weekdays 6:30am-8pm, Weekends 7am-8pm I really love breakfast, though not necessarily first thing in the morning. So I'm predisposed to favor a restaurant that serves breakfast all day long and I've discovered another one at the Original Pancake House. Knowledgeable friends told me this unassuming family restaurant had been designated one of the best restaurants in the country at one point by none other than James Beard himself. They insisted that I check it out and try the famous "Dutch Baby," a oven-baked souffle pancake.

The local Original Pancake House is a franchise operation founded in Portland, Oregon by Les Highet and Erma Hueneke in 1953. The former hotel chef and his partner based the dishes in their restaurant on recipes of the European immigrant families who trekked across the American West and settled in Oregon. They became famous for the naturally leavened sourdough pancakes, flapjacks, waffles, crepes, a German apple pancake, and the inimitable Dutch Baby. They staked their fame on using only the finest ingredients: the best eggs, real butter, top-quality syrups, seasonal fruits, imported berries, Hormel meats, and a special house coffee blend.

Portland native James Beard did designate the Original Pancake House as one of the "10 Best Restaurants in the Country" in a McCall's magazine article in 1956. Ron Highet, who took over the company from his father years ago, still has the certificate on the wall in his Portland office. He told me recently that the company only opens about four franchise operations a year in suburban neighborhoods where the clientele is likely to appreciate food prepared with quality ingredients. Theirs are not 24-hour-a-day operations beside highways. Some of the Oregon locations are owned by the next generation of Highet and Hueneke heirs and the remainder of the 75 nationwide units are owned by franchisees, such as the Kim family of Austin.

This place is a must for breakfast lovers. There are 18 varieties of pancakes, seven waffles, six crepes. They have steak and eggs ($7.95), corned beef hash ($6.25) and Potato Pancakes ($4.95) with applesauce. The fried eggs are perfectly done, virginal white with no brown scrunge. The bacon slices are thick, meaty, and flat. There are omelettes to choose from, hot and cold cereal if you must. But you should have at least one Dutch Baby -- an oven-baked souffle pancake as big as a plate, sprinkled with powdered sugar with crocks of real whipped butter, more powdered sugar and fresh lemon slices on the side. The waitress will gladly demonstrate the time-honored tradition of spreading the butter around the pancake's interior and then squeezing lemon juice over the top. At that point, you can add fresh fruit or syrup or just roll that baby up and dig right in!

-- Virginia Wood

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