Yes sir, that's my Dutch Baby, rising to ridiculous heights in the kitchen then imploding as it makes its way to my table. It arrives misshapen and sugar-powdered, soaking up melted...
Yes sir, that’s my Dutch Baby, rising to ridiculous heights in the kitchen then imploding as it makes its way to my table. It arrives misshapen and sugar-powdered, soaking up melted butter and waiting for a spritz of fresh lemon. I squeeze. I eat. I sigh. Ooh, baby, that’s good!
After an 18-month gestation period, the Original Pancake House finally made its Seattle debut, quietly opening on Crown Hill this fall. Things didn’t stay quiet for long, though. Neighbors have been checking it out and coming back for more. And folks like me, thrilled to have their favorite breakfast-joint recreated in Seattle, are regularly making the pilgrimage.
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The first Original Pancake House, founded in Portland in 1952 by Les Highet and Erma Hueneke, is the mother ship of a coast-to-coast, mom-‘n’-pop franchise, now run by second- and third-generation family members. As Washington’s sole franchisee, Ken Naito scouted Seattle sites for years before finding the right spot to open his second pancake house, modeled after his first in Kirkland’s Parkplace Center.
This Crown Hill construct, complete with trademark knotty-pine décor, a 10-seat counter, and a take-out window (yet to be put into action), is housed in the gutted and remodeled remains of McGrath’s, recently closed after 50 years in business. I doubt many of the old-timers are still mourning McGrath’s. After all, the Original Pancake House is a fitting replacement for those in search of a good old-fashioned Big American Breakfast — hold the greasy spoon.
There’s no better place to get your fill of flapjacks, hubcap-size apple cinnamon pancakes, buttermilk waffles, fruit-filled crepes, hefty omelets, Dutch Babies and other I-can’t-believe-I-ate-the-whole-things. Kids have their own menu (pigs in a blanket! blueberry pancakes!), as do seniors (smaller portions, kindly discounted). The batters used to create pancakes, crepes and waffles are made here from scratch. The bacon is thick and smoky, the coffee strong and plentiful, the whipping cream’s the real deal and the OJ is fresh-squeezed on-premises. The staff isn’t quite up to the well-oiled-machine-like standard of their more practiced Kirkland counterparts, but they’re every bit as cheerful and helpful.
Reservations are unavailable, but those in-the-know know to call ahead up to an hour in advance (on weekends only) to put a name on the waiting list. Check in upon arrival, and when your party’s complete you’ll be given preferential seating. That said, I never mind waiting for a table. Folks hanging out in the big reception area sip complimentary coffee and chat with their neighbors: just like at an old-fashioned neighborhood cafe, which, come to think of it, is a fitting description for this sunny spot.
It’s become our family tradition to order an apple pancake as an appetizer as soon as we’re seated ($9.95). We divy up this spectacle of sticky, cinnamon-scented Granny Smiths like a pizza and save the leftovers for later. Deciding what’s next is always a tough call, which is why options like the waffle combo (waffle, eggs, meat), half-orders of pancakes and crepes available in thirds (one, two or three — your call) make life easier for the undecided.
My husband regularly chooses the Swedish pancakes ($7.95), whose sweet batter is griddled to lacy goodness, filled with lingonberries and served in broad folded rectangles. He also has trouble resisting the sourdough flapjacks ($6.95), a substantial stack whose sourdough flavor is just shy of intense. These beauties are heftier than the basic buttermilk cakes ($4.95), which are fluffy but not overly so and served as part of a variety of breakfast combos.
Given the fresh eggs sold here, I often convince my kid to have the Junior Plate ($4.50). Junior gets the bacon and pancakes; I eat his egg, over-easy. Other kids will prefer to prove that life is short and you should order dessert first, insisting on the chocolate chip pancakes ($6.95 full-size, $4.50 on the kid’s menu). Heavy with melted chocolate chips and garnished with whipped cream, these are a chocoholic’s idea of breakfast. Pair this with a hot chocolate ($1.75), and you’ll be in a cocoa-induced stupor for the rest of the day.
In the line of duty I’ve ordered dishes I wouldn’t normally choose but would gladly order again. These include the eggs Benedict served on weekends ($9.95). Kudos to the kitchen, which poaches those eggs till they’re perfectly runny, layers them over Canadian bacon on an English muffin and treats the whole thing to the lightest of hollandaise. Baked in the style of a frittata, the five-egg vegetarian omelet ($9.50) makes a bounteous brunch and easily feeds two. It came studded with fresh broccoli, mushrooms and tomato, filled with sharp melted cheddar. The side of crisp hash-browns lived up to the name. (They didn’t on an earlier visit, when “hash whites” accompanied my eggs Benedict.)
When I’m not on the job, my must-haves rarely waver. It’s either the thin, onion-scented potato pancakes ($7.95) offered with sour cream or applesauce (both, please!), or the Cherry Kijafa crepes rolled with tart Montmorency cherries and sweet Danish cherry liqueur ($7.75). Unless, of course, I’m hankering after that Dutch Baby ($8.95). You may beg to differ, convinced there’s nothing better than a crisp pecan waffle, a stack of coconut pancakes or the sourdough French toast (all $6.95). And you won’t get an argument from me.