The Original Pancake House

The Original Pancake House was founded in Portland, Oregon in 1953 by Les Highet and Erma Hueneke. It may be a chain of pancake houses across the United States, but it isn’t a large one that is so homogenized that the quality lacks. I don’t really even consider this a chain, because the food is so outstanding. We only have two locations in the Cleveland area – in Woodmere and Fairview Park. The OPH batters are all made from scratch, every day, and are carefully prepared and blended by hand using only the very freshest and finest quality ingredients available. Their original (and extensive!) menu of authentic national and ethnic pancake recipes has gained national acclaim and remains unchanged to this day. In 1999, the Original Pancake House received the James Beard Award in the category of “America’s Regional Classic Award”.

There is always a wait, so plan ahead. Bring snacks and diversions for the kids. Expect at least a half hour wait during breakfast hours – even during the week. The wait may be longer if it is a weekend. If you are a group you better make sure everyone shows up on time, because they will not seat you until everyone has arrived. I try to get there after the rush hours during the week. I don’t have the patience to deal with the weekend crowds.

The food is excellent, and the portions are huge. The focus is pancakes and crepes. The Original Pancake House’s specialties include the Dutch Baby (a fluffy German pancake topped with melted butter and powdered sugar) and the Apple Pancake. They use only the highest quality ingredients such as 93 score butter, pure whipping cream, fresh Grade AA eggs, hardwheat unbleached flour and their own sourdough yeast. The ham and Canadian Bacon are naturally hickory smoked, and the smoked bacon is sliced extra thick. Seriously, it is some of the best bacon I have ever eaten.

Their coffee blend is specially roasted just for the restaurants and served in their own specially designed mugs. I don’t know what it is about the mugs, but they definitely appeal to me. The swooped handle and the cup shape with its larger bottom and tapered top just make me want to keep drinking coffee. It wouldn’t surprise me if they had done psychological studies and knew that. I like that I can also order cranberry juice here.

I also love their seasonal fruit salad. The fruit varies with the season, but when I ordered it in late January the fruits were cantaloupe, honeydew, strawberries, bananas and grapes. The fruit salad is served with a little metal pitcher of Tropical Syrup. I can’t quite place what fruits are in it, but it is citrusy with a hint of bitterness to the sweet, which I enjoyed since it wasn’t so cloyingly sweet. A discussion on Reddit revealed that it is made with day old orange juice and some pineapple juice and corn starch (1 8 oz can pineapple chunks, 2 6 oz cans pine-banana-orange juice and 1 Tbsp corn starch – boil together and then pour over the pineapple chunks, slices of 1 orange, 1 c seedless grapes and 1 banana).

The first time I ate here was with my Meetup Brunch Group. We managed to get a table together – or rather a couple tables close together. This was pre-COVID. Now they don’t allow groups of 7 or more. I remember taking forever to decide what I wanted, because everything sounded so good. I knew I wanted some kind of pancake and was in the mood for sausage, so I ended up ordering the Pigs in a Blanket. The Pigs in a Blanket are three regular-sized sausages wrapped up in their own individual pancake. The pancakes are a little too sweet for my taste. I would have preferred a more savory pancake to match the savory sausages. Then again, I do tend to prefer savory breakfasts over sweet.

I need to rave about the Dutch Baby for a second. I always shied away from ordering it because it looked so plain. It tastes anything but plain! More like custardy goodness! A Dutch baby pancake is like a hybrid (or a love child, if you will) of a pancake, a crepe, and a popover — all in a 9 or 10 inch skillet. I’ve started making them at home because they are not hard. Mix the ingredients (flour, milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla extract and salt) together in a blender or food processor and let it rest for 20-25 minutes to allow the flour to absorb the liquid. The skillet should be screaming hot and preheated in a 425 degree oven. Melt butter in the skillet, swirl to evenly distribute the butter, add the batter and pop back in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Top with melted butter, powdered sugar, maple syrup, jam, Nutella, peanut butter, fresh fruit, etc. One Dutch Baby can feed two people – or one person who wants to bring home leftovers for the next day. The OPH Dutch Baby is served topped with butter and powdered sugar with more on the side along with a lemon wedge.

Their omelettes are not omelette-shaped. They are round – as if finished off in the pan and not flipped or folded. This photo of the Irish omelette is from my friend Jane. This fluffy omelette is filled with OPH’s own corned beef hash, onions, and provolone cheese. She definitely enjoyed it. I try to avoid omelettes due to my egg allergy, which is why I am using her photo.

I was in the mood for a waffle one morning, and their Cherry Kijafa Waffle did not disappoint. It is a Belgium waffle topped with Montmorency cherries that are simmered in homemade Danish Cherry Kijafa sauce then dusted with powdered sugar. I loved the Kijafa sauce. According to the OPH in Denver, Cherry Kijafa is a type of fortified 16% ABV cherry fruit wine that is produced in Denmark from cherries with added natural flavors. Because Montmorency cherries are naturally tart, the sweet wine sauce balances the flavors so you have a lovely cherry flavor that is not too sweet and not too tart. The sauce also paired well with the sausage links.

During my most recent visit I ordered everything ala carte. From a small fruit salad to two scrambled eggs, 4 slices of delicious, thick-cut bacon and one perfect Continental crepe. I didn’t want a full order of crepes, so this was a good solution. The Continental crepes are stuffed with sour cream tempered with Triple Sec and served with hot tropical syrup (I still had mine left from the fruit salad). I wanted to take some bacon home, but it was just too good. I sat there drinking my coffee and nibbling on the bacon

The omelettes and egg specialties (not the sausage though) are gluten-free. Gluten-free pancakes and crepes are also available.

Contact info:

The Original Pancake House
Woodmere location

28700 Chagrin Boulevard
Woodmere, OH 44122
216-292-7777

Fairview Park location

3000 Westgate
Fairview Park, OH 44126
440-333-5515

Fish Fry Friday #1: Arthur Treacher’s

Arthur Treacher’s Fish & Chips is a fast food seafood restaurant chain. At the peak of its popularity in the late 1970s, it had about 800 stores. Now, there are only four of the original old-style stores left – all in Northeast Ohio. The busiest is on Rockside Road (near the intersection wtih Turney Road) in Garfield Heights. I love going there and reliving my childhood memories of fried fish and that amazing cole slaw. I went a long time without eating there, and just one bite of the cole slaw had me realizing that it was the cole slaw I had been comparing all other cole slaws to. It is a nice, wet, mayo-ey cole slaw, which I prefer.

Things have not changed much at Arthur Treacher’s. The decor is firmly from the 1970s – as is the carpet. The food is still served on trays, and the condiments are pumped into little paper cups. You have your choice of ketchup, tartar sauce and cocktail sauce. I wish they wouldn’t use so much styrofoam, but understand their business model hasn’t changed since the 1970s so why wouldn’t they.

I made the mistake of going there on Good Friday once. That is probably their busiest day of the year. The line was almost out the door and didn’t let up the whole time I was there. Business had slowed down until the Cleveland.com article in 2016 and then news of its existence also hit social media, so they are happy to report they are doing well. It’s apparently become somewhat of a tourist attraction, with people traveling there from far away to experience it again.

Chicken dinner with cole slaw

The food still stood up to my memories. It isn’t gourmet, but childhood memories rarely are. I ordered the chowder, a fish and chip combo and a side of cole slaw. I can never finish the meal here and always bring half of it home. The fish is better than some of the fish I’ve had at other fish fries – flaky with a light batter. The chips are satisfying and made my British friend happy and “more at home” than most chips. And I usually save a hush puppy as my last bite. I really enjoy the sweet flavor yet savory texture of the perfectly fried hush puppies.

Seafood combo dinner – fish, shrimp and clam strips – and a cole slaw

I ordered the fish and chicken dinner here once, and although it was okay I will continue to order the fish. It was too jarring for me. Chicken doesn’t seem to belong with all the seafood, but I guess folks who don’t like fish or seafood have to eat too. I like the fried shrimp. They are plump and well fried without drying out. I am less enamored with the clam strips. They tend to get dried out and are a little too chewy for my tastes.

I can also recommend the seafood chowder. The first time I ordered it I don’t know what happened but it had an overwhelmingly metallic taste. I gave it a second chance the other day and enjoyed it. I’m a sucker for a decent chowder.

Contact info:

Cleveland area:
12585 Rockside Road
Garfield Heights, OH
216-662-6067

Akron area:
926 E. Waterloo Road
Akron, OH
330-724-9990

1833 State Road
Cuyahoga Falls, OH
330-923-8900

Niles:
2 Youngstown Warren Road
Pinetree Square
Niles, OH
330-505-2625

Bonchon

imag0150I had no idea what Bonchon was, but one of the people I follow on Instagram checked in here on its opening night. It looked delicious so I googled it.

Several of us met there (on Broadview Road in Seven Hills) a few days later to check it out. It is an Asian fusion restaurant with a wide variety of menu options, imag0157but they specialize in Korean fried chicken and wings.

The parking lot was packed, but they offered complementary valet. I’m not sure if it will continue, but it was nice to drop off the car and run in since I was running late due to traffic. It was the night of Game 3 of the World Series, so the TVs were going and once the game started it got pretty loud.

Let’s talk about what they do best – the fried chicken. The chicken is dipped in corn starch and double fried. They are super crispy andimag0156 packed with flavor. We ordered a ton off the menu and shared a lot of it. The chicken is delicious. A++ Would order again. We ordered a medium half and half combo – half spicy and half soy garlic. The spicy was a nice pleasant heat that wasn’t overwhelming. It is served with a small bowl of pickled radishes that help extinguish the heat.

The “drums” are full-sized drum sticks. My friends who ordered this in a combo had the drums brought out first since they were finished already. They enjoyed them just as much as the wings.

My imag0159friend and I also split an order of potstickers. The potstickers also come in the spicy and soy garlic flavor offerings. Once again we ordered half and half. The wrappers were a little thicker than I like, but the filling itself was flavorful and firm. You could tell they were made in-house due to the lack of uniformity. I always like to see that.

I was less impressed with the Japchae (more like a teriyaki noodle bowl – I think it was a bit overcooked last night) and shu mai (I’ll try them fried next time, they were too delicate steamed). Others at the table ordered sliders, bulgogi, and tteokbokki. I’ll definitely be back. Our waitress was super competent and deftly handled a table of 8. They are still in “soft opening” mode and will be gradually adding things to the menu. Be sure to check it out. I may head there again tomorrow for some more wings. They are that good.

imag0158

Update:
I can highly recommend the Salmon-Avocado Ball. I got one to go on Superbowl Sunday 2017 along with some wings and loved every bite. I paired it with Triscuits, but it is served alone in the restaurant. So good!

Contact info:

Bonchon
7581 Broadview Road
Seven Hills, OH 44131

Southern Cookin’ class at Viking Cooking School

I’m a sucker for banana pudding and fried chicken, so signing up for the Southern Cookin’ class at Viking Cooking School in Lyndhurst was a no-brainer for me. Viking Cooking School is located in the Viking Store at Legacy Village, and they offer a variety of fun hands-on cooking classes and chef demonstrations. I have attended 9 hands-on classes there so far, my favorite being the Steak, Roast and Chop class and my least favorite being the Vietnamese Cooking class. I am on a cooking class kick at the moment, so I have attended cooking classes at both The Chubby Cook and Viking recently. This led to some confusion on my part when I showed up for the Southern Cooking class at The Chubby Cook. I realized my mistake when they started passing around edamame, and I apologized and ran out of there to drive to Viking. Luckily they are close to each other, so I was only five minutes late. I had missed the introductions, but quickly grabbed a seat next to my friend A., put on my apron, grabbed a sweet tea and took a deep breath (not necessarily in that order).

Viking always puts out a snack to nibble on while we cook, and the “sample recipe” this time was cheese straws. Not being a big fan of cheese straws I ate one and then concentrated on the recipes at hand. We started out making banana pudding with vanilla wafers, because it needed to set in the refrigerator for a while (at least 1 hour, but preferably up to 4). We whisked the ingredients together, added egg yolks (carefully tempering them into the heated mix), and made a custard. We especially enjoyed pushing in the bananas and vanilla wafers into the serving dish.

Next up were the slow-cooked collard greens, because they needed to cook on the stove for at least 20 to 30 minutes. We cooked the bacon and onions (in A.’s case, because she is Jewish, she cooked the onions in a separate sauce pot and made her very own bacon-free collard greens), washed and chopped the greens, added them to the bacon and onion, added water and let them cook down until tender while we focused on the mashed potatoes and fried chicken.

The mashed potatoes were fairly straight-forward. We cooked and riced the potatoes and mashed them with warm half and half and butter, adding salt and pepper. The interesting technique we learned is that you can make them ahead, wrap them tightly with plastic wrap and keep them in a 200° oven or warming drawer for up to 4 hours. They were still warm once they were served with the gravy later.

I had most anticipated learning how to fry chicken in a Dutch oven. I recently inherited my grandmother’s, so I was anxious to learn how to use it properly. The chicken had been brined in a buttermilk mixture overnight, so all we had to do was heat up the oil in the Dutch oven (checking the temperature constantly with a candy thermometer), coat the chicken in a bag of flour, cornstarch, baking powder, cayenne, paprika and black pepper, and fry it up two pieces at a time. The toughest part about frying the chicken was maintaining a steady heat, because the heat drops once you add the chicken. I was the fry master, learning how to scoop out the little bits that broke loose while frying using a fine-meshed sieve to use later for the gravy. I only burned myself once when A. accidentally singed me with the sieve. The chicken was then put into the oven to finish cooking.

Our instructor Brie then showed us how to make a quick skillet cornbread and sent us out into the store while she and her assistant whipped up some gravy using some leftover oil and crispy chicken bits, cleaned up, and prepped and set the table. Class attendees get 10% off on most items in the store during classes. I used my discount to buy a sieve, a good Viking Santoku knife and a scone pan.

We then came back into the classroom and took our seats for a delicious meal and a glass or two of wine. I wanted a chicken breast, so I had to wait a bit until it wasn’t raw on the inside. I ended up taking another one home for the next day. The food was delicious. There is something about enjoying the fruits of your labor over a glass of wine with friends. No one went home hungry, and I couldn’t wait to go home and try making the banana pudding on my own. It was a very enjoyable and delicious evening.

Contact info:

Viking Cooking School
24703 Cedar Road
Lyndhurst, OH 44124
(216) 381-2100

A&W Drive-In in Kent

100_0978I had a craving for a root beer float this afternoon after taking my dog to Bow Wow Beach in Stow. I haven’t had a root beer float in about twenty years and really enjoyed it. I was hoping it would be served in the big glass mug the root beer is served in, but unfortunately it came in a “to go” cup.

Who doesn’t love root beer? My German friends can’t understand the appeal, but anyone who has grown up in the U.S. surely has fond memories of it. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the concept of a root beer float,  it is traditionally made by pairing root beer with vanilla ice cream. A&W serves soft serve ice cream, but floats can also be served with scoops of ice cream.

I love A&W, because it features old-fashioned car hops. The root beer is mixed fresh on site every day. I think the A&W in Kent must have been built in the late 1960s, but that just adds to its charm. I wanted to get there before they closed down for the season.

100_0979Feeling a little peckish, I decided to try something different and tried their Mozza Burger, which features mozzarella cheese, bacon and a Thousand Island dressing. The patties were a little overcooked, but the mozzarella cheese and bacon really went well together. I’m going to have to try to recreate this burger at home. The crinkle fries were perfectly done, and my dog enjoyed her plain beef hotdog. It was a pleasant afternoon, and I was sad that I had finished my root beer float so quickly.

Contact info:

A&W Restaurant
1124 Main Street
Kent, OH 44240
330-673-6912