There are a hundred Original Pancake Houses around the country, all vaguely related to the original Original, which opened in Portland, Oregon, in 1953. We’ve never eaten in a bad one – the formula of using top-notch ingredients and a repertoire of great recipes is sure success – but the Walker Brothers franchise in Wilmette, Illinois, opened in 1960, raises the bar even higher. Decorated in spectacular art nouveau stained glass and wood, it is incredibly clean, embarrassingly polite, comfortable, and generous. Everything served is eye-opening good, from the brilliant fresh orange juice and good, dark coffee (with a pitcher of heavy cream) to thick-sliced bacon and chicken-apple sausage. Order eggs, and you may exclaim, as we have, “I forgot how good a fresh egg, cooked in pure butter, can taste!”
Granted, it is difficult to order eggs when the pancakes are so good. The plainer ones are simple excellence – rich buttermilk cakes, tangy sourdough flapjacks, old-time buckwheat; and the snazzy “crepe” menu includes banana crepes, Cherry Kijafa crepes, and luxuriant seafood Newburg with crusty potato pancakes.
Our favorite meals, and the kitchen’s showstoppers, are the baked pancakes, either the German pancake or apple pancake, both of which are made with egg-rich batter that causes them to puff high above the skillet in which they are baked. Both arrive completely eclipsing the plate on which they sit. The German pancake is accompanied by lemon wedges and powdered sugar to create its own sweet-tart syrup. The apple pancake, a veritable mesa of breakfast, is a bubbling feast of fruit and cinnamon and tender batter – approximately 10,000 calories of deliciousness.
The only bad thing to say about Walker Brothers is that sometimes you can’t get in. There is often a wait for a table, a long wait on weekends.