Monday, May 31, 2010

Country Kitchen in the City: Original Pancake House

I remember that, for a time in the 80s, my father was fixated upon having a house with cream-colored siding and dust-blue shutters. This was during the height of the Country Kitchen craze in Kansas, where even women who had never set foot on a farm or eaten an egg fresh from the chicken were suddenly decorating their kitchens with wooden geese dressed in aprons. I blame this time for the popularity of places like The Country Kitchen, which is a truckstop masquerading as homecooking -- and it works, because most of the people sucked into the Country Kitchen craze had mothers who never, or rarely, cooked good food at home.

Anyway, all of that history made me wary of ever trying The Original Pancake House in Eugene. It seemed like the kind of place that might just have sprung fully formed from my dad's early-90s decorating dreams. And inside it does, indeed, feel a bit like a city kid's idea of a country grandmother has been pasted to the walls. None of that really matters, though, if what you want is tasty pancakes -- because that's what this place provides.

Not cheap pancakes; not quick pancakes; not IHOP pancakes. Big pancakes made with a mind-stretching number of ingredients that show up unaccompanied (except for syrup).

creamandcoffee.jpgTo give you an idea of the nutritional standards here: your coffee will come with a sidecar of whole whipping cream, should you choose to dilute it. Yes, that's right: shake that creamer too long and you'll have your very own whipped cream -- or butter, depending on your patience. If that sounds like a cholesterol dream come true, this is the restaurant for you.

The menu is simply a layout of pancake styles: fruit inside, fruit on top, wheat germ, corn cake, potato, you name it. They also offer waffles and crepes and gigantic baked omelets that take up an entire plate. If you want breakfast meats, they have them -- though don't look for too many handy combos, like you might find at a chain restaurant. Here, the options are either ordering your sides separately or ordering them combined into your pancakes (yes, they have bacon pancakes).

My favorite dish here is still the banana pancakes, which are exactly what they sound like: pancakes with thick slices of banana in them, served with a "tropical" syrup that's some mixture of pineapple and orange marmalade (at least in taste).

The house specialty, though, is the Dutch Baby.


What's that? Well, it's a pancake that takes "a little extra time" (25 minutes, when we ordered) and is essentially the deep-dish brother of what you think of as a pancake. It has a crispy outer shell and an inside that's almost custardy. The standard comes with butter and fresh lemon. appledutchbaby.jpgI tried the peach version, and C had the apple version, both of which came with a cinnamon glaze on top that was, really, quite something, like the best part of the cinnamon roll for me, only crispier. Mine, we both agreed, was better, but the apples were most likely fresher -- they still tasted a bit like the granny Smithness that was advertised. My peaches might have been from a can, but after nearly a half-hour in a hot oven, it didn't matter. They were sweet and soft against the crispy cinnamon glaze and the bready pancake dough.

peachdutchbaby.jpgThis isn't a bargain breakfast. My gigantic peach Dutch baby was $10, and that truck-stop café grade coffee (with the succulent cream) was another $2, refilled often and enthusiastically for free. If you go at brunch time on the weekends, you'll likely have to wait. It will be worth it, though, if what you want is a massive plate of food that imagines a countryside never in want for flour or sugar. My $10 pancake made two meals, and they were both magnificent. It's no wonder this is my dad's favorite breakfast place when he visits.

Location: Corner of Alder Alley and Broadway/Franklin.

Hours: 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily

Original Pancake House on Urbanspoon


  1. I may have to try the Dutch baby some time. I've eaten there a few times, and I always got the sense that I was paying far too much for mediocre breakfast fare. Especially when one can get better pancakes at the Caspian for $3. hehe.

  2. Okay, this is one of my favorite places to get breakfast, though it IS expensive. The original dutch baby with lemon and butter and powdered sugar is a favorite, and their side of bacon is a thing of legend.

  3. Are you aware of the historic Country Kitchen which was at the junction of Game Farm Road and Coburg Road back in the 60s-90s? One of those places largely overlooked by locals even though it had an international reputation. Craig Claiborne came here specifically to dine at the Country Kitchen and later sent the owners an antique French cookbook as a gift.