The other day, one of my reviews on Yelp was called “mean and sarcastic” by a reader. I am known to be a sarcastic person by nature, but I tend to soft soap a lot of these posts, and really look for the good in each place I visit, and talk about it, regardless of the entire experience. Well, spoiler alert for the Original Pancake House – I’ll try not to be “mean” or “sarcastic”, but in general, in my opinion, this is one of the most overrated places in local food lore.
Started in 1953, and having now spread across the country to dozens of locations, I have to admire the owners and management of this company – they have extracting cash out of the customers and operation down to a science! Whomever owns this chain now have to be some of the most successful business operators to ever come out of Portland!
The assets that the company crows about are invisible to the customer – fresh home made recipes, quality ingredients – while what is not stated, but is obvious, contributes to the downside: embarrassingly high prices, apathetic service, skimping on basics in order to boost profits.
Where else in Portland can you pay $3.25 for a cup of filter coffee? And have to beg or shout for refills? Meat sides from $5 and up? TOAST $5.50? WTF? $5.50? I passed on ordering, but for $5.50 I better get a whole damned loaf of bread!
Mrs. BDB was up for treating me for breakfast, and we live nearby the Original Pancake House but have never stopped by. A Saturday morning visit requires a 45-60 minute wait to be seated, another 20 minutes to be waited on, 20-30 minutes for the food to come, and so it goes.
These guys are SO cheap, they have chosen not to even spend money on a reservation book, for fear they would have to constantly resupply the hostess with pens, I suspect. Instead, they give each party one-half of a numbered ticket, and call your number when a table is ready. But of course, since they have also chosen not to spend the money on a P.A. system, and the crowd frequently spills outside, you can easily miss your chance at your table, since the hostess doesn’t wander outside to repeat what number is in the queue.
Being outside waiting isn’t so bad – it gives you the chance to wander next door to the 76 station, or across the street to 7-Eleven to hit the ATM, because, although the owners are TOO CHEAP to print a side for the door that says “Cash only,”, if you have gazed at the menu while you are waiting for your table, you’ll note that little tidbit in small print at the bottom of the menu. Yep, cash only. No plastic. No ATM machine in the lobby. I don’t understand them skimping on not installing an ATM, hasn’t anyone told them they would get PAID to have that facility there?
Obviously trained in the European fashion of food service, waitresses are slow to serve (even tho the place doesn’t seat that many), and water is furnished to each diner sans ice. (Ice machines cost money).
Specialty syrups are extra I noted, you are not offered a carousel of toppings as other pancake houses supply.
There are lots of reader reviews on the various food sites that talk about how tasty the pancakes are – and I will concede that point, these are pretty tasty pancakes, but that’s just the point. THEY ARE PANCAKES! They cost practically NOTHING to make! $6 for 3? or even pricier options? You’re joking, right? $6 for a side of corned beef hash, which is the taste and consistency of Dinty Moore? Oooooooh, ouch.
The menu also boasts about the restaurants ‘special recipe sausage’, and as a “sausage guy”, I was less than impressed. Considerably less.
The nothing special coffee at $3.25, damned near impossible to get a refill on, despite a gaggle of help wandering around, no one person was simply dedicated to drinks (couldn’t the hostess do this?) – it reminds me of the Simpson’s episode of the “all you can eat” buffet. The management has apparently decided one cup of coffee for breakfast is enough for me, and have laid down the law on that policy.
Final gripe. Where do you buy your eggs, the midget chicken farm? These were the smallest fried eggs I have ever seen.
The bottom line – two diners, pancake breakfasts and coffee, in the north of $30 range????? Jokes on me, right?
I started this post talking about trying to “find the good” in each place I go.” The “good” at the Original Pancake House, as I said, is my appreciation for the owner’s ability to squeeze every last farthing out of a customer and processes.
Food? Eh. Service? Double Eh. Prices? Yowie!
There are so many great places for breakfast in Portland, and so many inexpensive choices….there’s no reason whatsoever to patronize this “legend.”
As a regular reader, you know it is my habit to place a map in each post. Not today. If you insist on visiting, find it yourself.