The Original Pancake House has been in DFW for a while now, long enough that you could even mistakenly think that it’s based in Dallas. But it’s actually a large chain that has locations in more than half of the 50 states — and several in Asia.
One of the newest is in Fort Worth, opened for less than two months in a former Bennigan’s in a shopping center near the northwest corner of the Southwest Loop 820 access road and Hulen Street.
In Fort Worth, of course, “Pancake House” has long meant Ol’ South Pancake House, the more than 50-year-old University Drive spot that every Fort Worth resident should visit at least once (and if you really want an experience, that visit should take place between 2 and 7 a.m.). The late Van Cliburn was a loyal customer.
But on the crawl that we began this week with visits to Another Broken Egg Cafe in Southlake and First Watch in far north Fort Worth, we’re checking out the chains — a half-dozen breakfast-centric ones have added locations in Tarrant County this year. A Grapevine location of Original Pancake House has been open since 2010, but this is the first one in Fort Worth, so it’s our latest crawl stop.
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Original Pancake House
The history: According to the website, the original Orignal was founded by Les Highet and Erma Hueneke in 1953 in Portland, Oregon. “Drawing upon their many years of experience in the culinary field, and their extensive working knowledge of authentic national and ethnic pancake recipes they were able to offer without compromise this unique and original menu,” the website says. It’s a multigeneration family business that has grown to more than 100 franchises.
The vibe: Um, chain breakfast restaurant, although a little more dressed up, with nicely upholstered booths and trendy exposed brick and ductwork. Service is welcoming and unusually precise in telling you what your wait time might be; when I ordered a large French-press coffee, I was told that usually takes four minutes.
Speaking of coffee, there is a coffee-bar area to the left of the main entrance, but I opted for the main dining room. MusOic sounded mostly like crooner music, usually drowned out by the bustle of the restaurant, although I did hear the Bee Gees’ Too Much Heaven above the din (not exactly crooner music, but still a ballad). And the surprise of Shawn Colvin’s Object of My Affection, one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite artists.
The food: There is more here than pancakes, of course: omelets, crepes. waffles, other egg dishes, you can even get a dry cereal with whipped cream if you want. But the word Pancake is in the restaurant’s name, so it seemed appropriate to go for a pancake.
Specifically, the apple pancake, which is one of the house specialties. And which isn’t just any pancake.
The OHP website describes the apple pancake as “A single large pancake smothered with sautéed apples and cinnamon sugar baked to perfection.” This doesn’t really do it justice. The cinnamon smell hits you the moment the server puts it in front of you. It appears to be made from apples. It also appears to be much more than a “single large pancake” — it’s at least an inch thick. And yet the pancake, strong with apple and cinnamon flavor, has a light texture, almost like a crepe, eggy and soft.
It’s huge. I usually clean the plate, but I had to give up with a few bites left. If my wife were with me, we could easily have split it.
I accompanied this with three slices of bacon for some protein. The server asked me if I wanted it regular or crispy. In my book, crispy is regular, so that’s how I ordered it. I’m not sure if there was a mix-up, but the bacon wasn’t crispy. Tasted great, but still had a lot of chew to it.
I overdid it on the coffee — there’s something you won’t hear me say very often — with a large French press. It yields more than four cups, which is where I stopped. Next time I’ll go for the small.
The verdict: I have a hard time breaking loyalty with Ol’ South; even though I don’t go there as often as I used to, I spent a lot of time there when I worked nights. But if I’m in the OHP neighborhood, chances are I’ll return, if only for OHP’s take on the Dutch Baby, described as “an air filled delight oven baked to golden perfection and served with lemon, whipped butter and powdered sugar to create a mouthwatering blend.” I saw two women sharing one. They had the right idea.
4646 SW Loop 820, Fort Worth, 817-717-4406. Hours: 6:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, 6:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Saturday, 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday. Seven other North Texas locations, including 1505 William D. Tate Ave., Grapevine, 817-421-3444. http://ophdfw.com.