Founded in Portland, Ore. in 1953, The Original Pancake House is a breakfast chain with about 111 branches across the country, including one that just opened in Grapevine; it joins three branches in Dallas and two in Plano.
Although the menu includes salads, sandwiches and soups, breakfast is the thing, from pancakes to omelets, from crepes to waffles. Pancakes ran from standards, such as buttermilk flapjacks ($5.99), to pancakes with chopped pecans, bananas and chocolate chips.
Signature dishes are the unique Dutch Baby pancake ($7.89) and the apple pancake ($8.79), baked with a very sweet apple-pielike filling of sliced apples in a cinnamon-y sauce.
The Dutch Baby was terrific, with a lush, spongy texture more reminiscent of an omelet or soufflé than a pancake. It gets baked in the oven for 20 minutes, so if you want one, order it right away. It was served hot, with powdered sugar and lemon wedges and a ball of whipped butter. You're supposed to sprinkle the sugar, squeeze the lemons and fold it up into a sweet-and-tart delicacy. (At Ol' South Pancake House, they assemble it for you at your table, if you don't know how to do it yourself.) But if you like to customize the puffy pancake yourself, the Original's hands-off approach is welcome.
Blueberry pancakes ($6.99) were disappointing. Blueberries are in season, but these weren't fresh, neither in the pancake nor the accompanying compote. Small and shriveled, the berries seemed like they came from a can or had been dried.
The country eggs Benedict ($8.59) offered a twist on the classic Benedict, and also showed the Original's flair for cooking eggs properly. Scrambled eggs were served on a biscuit, replacing the traditional English muffin, then topped with country gravy in place of the usual hollandaise. The scrambled curds of egg had body and were moist. The biscuit was so crumbly it almost seemed stale; but it was big, providing an ample base for sausage and egg. The gravy was excellent: creamy, peppery and loaded with chunks of crumbled sausage.
The Original even knows how to scramble egg whites. The special Runner combo ($7.49), listed on a menu of lighter-appetite dishes, featured firm moist scrambled egg whites accompanied by a small bowl of excellent oatmeal and fresh fruit. Orange juice ($2.79 small, ,$3.39 large) and grapefruit juice ($2.89 small, $3.49 large) were fresh-squeezed, and the coffee was superb -- good, dark and strong -- even if it was $2.19 a cup.
Prices here definitely are not cheap, and if you visit on a weekday, the service may not be brisk enough to get you into the office on time. But the Original is a fun weekend splurge, and we're not the only ones who think so; on Sunday mornings, expect an hour wait.