March 4, 2009 > Restaurant Review: The Original Pancake House
Restaurant Review: The Original Pancake House
By Denny Stein
Have you ever driven up Fremont Boulevard and noticed the ski chalet building between Walnut and Mowry? Well, pull in to their parking lot and go in for breakfast or lunch. It is The Original Pancake House, and you'll be glad you stopped.
It's easy and comfortable to sit back and while away the time. The chalet-style building has large windows on the front and fanciful diamond-shaped windows at either end. The sun streams in as you watch people coming and going through the shopping center. Inside, the diners are as varied as the history of The Original Pancake House. Old and young, families, and twosomes are sitting at tables spaced throughout the dining area or in the booths along the side. As usual in Fremont, you might think you are eating in the United Nations' dining room.
The Fremont Original Pancake House is owned by Sam Mourad, who also owns a second Original Pancake House in Los Altos operated by his wife, Amal. An unabashed fan of Fremont, Sam says "Fremont people are friendly, like one family." True to this statement, he seems to know most of his customers and cares about them as his own family.
I first caught sight of Mourad talking to a table of diners, asking about their children, their parents, their grandchildren; asking who was in college or had moved away or found a new job. He knows his customers the way he knows pancakes. And he was happy to sit with us and talk about this restaurant's specialty.
The first Original Pancake House was founded in 1953 by Les Highet and Erma Hueneke. Their recipes, the same used today, were gathered from mothers and grandmothers of different nationalities and ethnicities. Mourad, a world-renowned pastry chef in his own right, opened the restaurant in May 2003. Previously there had been an Indian eatery in the building, and before that a Copper Penny restaurant; the distinctive chalet style was a Copper Penny tradition.
Open the menu and be prepared to make some difficult choices. There are at least 20 kinds of pancakes, 10 crepes options and seven waffle alternatives. Words like delicate, golden, luscious, authentic, premium, old fashioned and fresh compete for your attention and the favor of your order. Apple, pecan, bacon, blueberry, coconut, buttermilk, oatmeal or wheat germ, Hawaiian or Dutch Baby - how to choose?! Don't worry about making the wrong choice because everything is fresh, pure, chewy, tender, hot and homemade every day. Of course, this is only the breakfast (served all day) menu. If you prefer lunch, there are sandwiches, specialty chicken platters, and salads. And any time of the day is fine for smoothies, lattes, or espresso; or maybe you'd just like a glass of chocolate milk to remind you of your childhood.
Whatever you order, Mourad makes sure it's absolutely fresh. Quality is the name of his game, from the eggs and milk used to make the "from scratch" pancakes, waffles and crepes to the fruit, butter, cream and specially blended, freshly ground, brewed coffee. As Mourad says, "We aren't a fancy look, we are fancy taste."
I can certainly attest to that. Our perfectly cooked over-easy eggs came with three buckwheat pancakes, made to order. A slice of ham complimented both, and my companion stacked eggs, pancakes and ham one on top of another. Mourad looked over at the plate and said, "That's just the way I eat them!"
We also ordered the Cherry Kijafa Crepes as a culinary adventure; my eggs and perfectly cooked bacon took a back seat to this exquisitely delicate yet buttery Danish favorite. Powdered sugar lightly dusted the Montmorency cherries in Kijafa sauce. We ate them all up despite being a bit full from our other plates, orange juice and coffee! So, some of our pancake stack had to come home with us.
Mourad told us that Saturday and Sunday the restaurant serves 800 to 1,000 people. The Original Pancake House clearly has a loyal following but even more important is the loyalty of its employees, the same staff since opening. In my book, loyal staff equals happy staff equals good food and good service - you'll find them all at The Original Pancake House.
Mourad also hosts some of Fremont's community meetings: the Fremont Sunrise Rotary meets there each Wednesday at 7 a.m., and the Deli & Small Restaurants Association holds meetings in the quiet back area. These are people who want quality for their hard-earned money, and they get it at The Original Pancake House in the heart of Fremont.
The Original Pancake House
39222 Fremont Blvd., Fremont
420 So. San Antonio Rd., Los Altos
Reviewed January 23, 2009