Don’t Blow Your Stack
By Ashley Bennett
The Original Pancake House has some sweet signature items right in the heart of Norco
In my family, we have a Fathers Day tradition of visiting The Original Pancake House in Orange at opening time (6:30am), waiting 30 minutes or so for a table for 12 in a restaurant that can hold about 50-60 people. The place is always packed but nobody refuses to leave when pancakes are on the line. Luckily for me, I can recreate this annual tradition much more frequently now that the chain has arrived in Norco. Sorry, dad, but I’m going to the Original Pancake House with or without you this time.
There was once a Sizzler in Norco, which shortly became a Food Connection after its closure, followed by a temporarily empty building which is now home to the OPH you see today. It ironically sits right across the street from Norco’s famous diner, Polly’s Pies. Beneficially for the chain, it’s the largest of its kind unlike many of its sister restaurants. Although the small sizes often offer a tight quaintness (other OPHs have been there for decades), the large size of this location is a welcome sight for breakfast diners everywhere.
Jim Osborn, manager of our newest Norco pancake house as well as another in Orange County, has modeled the standards and techniques of his restaurants to that of the first OPH that opened in Oregon in 1953. One main component of this pride lies in offering the freshest ingredients. The Fresh Strawberry Waffle is served during the prime season for the fruit, complete with hand-whipped cream and a side of genuine strawberry syrup. The Western Omelette is a fluffy mound of egg housing ample amounts of diced red and green peppers, tomatoes and ham all brought together with gooey cheese. How about some fresh Granny Smith apples baked and infused with cinnamon in the Apple Pancake? Or the unique taste of the Cherry Kijafa Crepes? You get the picture.
However, my ultimate favorite (and a dish I’ve already had twice since my original tasting session) is the Dutch Baby. This German pancake rises up into a bowl-like dish with pancake walls about two-inches high and adorned with powdered sugar. The true taste of this dish lies in your ability to butter it up—literally. By basting the interior of this “bowl” with freshly whipped butter, juicing-it-up with ample squeezes of lemon slices and adding a bit more powdered sugar to make a lemon zest-paste, you get one puffy treat. Each bite is loaded with the sweet presence of sugar that’s intensified by the lemon juice.
There’s no shortage of sweet dishes here (the pancake menu alone will make other local diners feel shameful), but the more substantial, non-sweet options like Jim’s Special are a perfect contrast in taste. It’s named after the manager himself who once mixed together a random assortment of ingredients in a hunger experiment of sorts. Underneath a mountain of scrambled eggs, abundant with thick bacon bits, ham and mushrooms is a volcano of cheese and cayenne pepper. One simple bite of this behemoth with some pico de gallo on top adds some extra juice to a dish already exploding with flavors from the kitchen sink.
If dishes like these somehow still aren’t enough for you (and really, I don’t understand how most people can finish a full order in a single sitting), try an side of bacon. It’s not your ordinary slice of pig though. In fact each slice is about three bacon-slices thick and each has the tough likeness of beef jerky. Give a little tug and you get a mouthful of the best bacon. Ever.
The restaurant is only open from mornings to early afternoon. I would totally dig eating a Dutch baby or stack of pancakes for dinner but the limited restaurant hours make my morning trips more special. As for Fathers Day? Well, I’ll just invite the men in my family to little ol‘ Horsetown U.S.A.’s best new breakfast joint this year. Admittedly, I’ll sneak in a few more visits before then, too.
The Original Pancake House, 1750 Hamner Ave., Norco, (951) 403-6900; www.originalpancakehouse.com. Mon-Fri, 6:30am-2pm. Sat-Sun, 7am-3pm. AE, D, M, V.