I had never heard of The Original Pancake House when I learned that a franchise had opened in Ankeny, Iowa. But the brouhaha among my acquaintances suggested that I had missed something important. Apparently a lot of people are fully aware of the splendor of the Original Pancake House and the opening weekend was reported to be quite chaotic with a crush of folks trying to get their fill of Dutch Babies, Apple Pancakes, crepes, and omelettes. Oh, the things I am ignorant of. The Original Pancake House started in a large farmhouse-looking place in Portland Oregon. Having never been to Portland except to change planes, you can see why I might be ignorant. The fame of the original location was cemented when Portland native James Beard listed it as a “top ten best” in America. Later it received a James Beard Foundation Award as an American Classic.
What makes a great pancake? Pancakes are one of the only things I know how to make, but I”ll admit that I can’t make pancakes like these. Everything is made from scratch when ordered and some meals take a bit longer than others. The wait staff will explain. If I’m going out for this sort of meal then I certainly have no problem waiting. Even the orange juice is freshly squeezed from oranges.
We ordered the Apple Pancake Special, which is oven baked in a pie dish and packed with apples and drenched with a “Sinkiang Cinnamon Glaze.” I’m not sure what “Sinkiang” cinnamon glaze is (I guess it comes from Sinkiang — never been there either) but it was quite tasty, without the grainy sugar common to cinnamon buns. I would describe it as more gooey. The dish does not really look like a pancake, but it sure is full of fluffy goodness. This dish is really sufficient for two people.
We also ordered the Irish Omelette, a baked six-egg omelette packed with corned beef hash and accompanied by three four-inch pancakes. Because it was baked, this omelette had a lighter texture than a regular omelette, but like the Apple Pancake, it is definitely meant for two people.
With a franchise, you know what you are getting and despite my own ignorance, the getting is pretty good here. There really is no “franchise” vibe and that is a good thing. The food is obviously authentic. The staff is enthusiastic and helpful and is eager to explain anything. There is absolutely no feeling that you get from some places that you need to move it along. This is a great place to take family and friends for a full breakfast that will leave everyone stuffed. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, right? Allow for a wait time if you plan to visit on the weekends. The Ankeny location is on the corner of a nicely finished strip mall on the south side of Oralabor Road near the intersection with White Birch Circle. There appeared to be plenty of parking.