Forty Years Flipping Flapjacks
Few Edina restaurants go back to 1977, but the Original Pancake House bridges generations with its appealing selection of traditional foods. This breakfast haven is still going strong and is the anchor of Brandon Square in Edina.
Over the years, a few tweaks were made here and there for wi-fi, digital recordkeeping, gluten-free options and a one-room addition. Still, the overall feeling is the same. OPH is a place people come for a warm welcome and reliably good food—the kind of scratch-made breakfast fare that makes getting up early in the morning a joy. Where else would the number of pancakes served be broken down by the gallon? (135 gallons of pancake batter per week).
In 2016, OPH Edina served 7,164 waffles. “It really helps that we’ve had the same prep cook for 29 years.” Jennifer Adascheck, store manager says. “He knows recipes exactly.” Even when serving as many as 1,100 guests daily, consistency in quality and service keeps customers coming back for more.“We’re like the Cheers of Edina,” Adascheck says. “We try to make everyone feel like they are family. People feel at home here.” Dentists, fraternity brothers, car dealership employees, retired teachers, bible studies and other local groups meet regularly at the Edina OPH. Some guests visit daily on their own. One loyal customer’s daily routine includes both breakfast and lunch. Regulars are on a first-name basis and servers remember their order preferences, too. Staff takes pride in their jobs and maintaining high standards for the restaurant.
“It’s a great place to work. The people are great. The customers are wonderful,” Patty Kaiser, server, says. Of her many memorable customers, one gentleman stands out. Along with a cash tip, he gave Kaiser a round piece of pewter with “I appreciate you” engraved on the back. The customer also wrote out “I appreciate you” on the back of the check. “It’s very nice that people take the time,” Kaiser says. She still keeps the quarter-sized memento in her wallet.
Kaiser’s job started through a referral from a hockey coach in 1996—“All of a sudden it’s 21 years later.” Life goes fast, at least for Kaiser, who says, “The job is very, very fast-paced. No one likes cold eggs. When the food gets in the window—boom, it’s ‘gotta go,’ ” she says. “That’s probably the hardest part.”
As some regular customers have aged, staff and management have sent flowers and made hospital visits. One booth has a plaque to commemorate a longtime customer named Ed. “It’s hard to watch them pass,” Kaiser says.
The dining tradition at OPH continues through families. “When their children have children, their first stop from the hospital is the restaurant,” Kaiser says.Who can resist the beloved pancake—part pastry, part bread and completely delicious? The plate-sized ’49er flapjacks are the top pick. Jones Farm thick-cut bacon makes a popular breakfast side but the wonderments only start there. The Dutch baby, crêpes and soufflé omelets are served all day. Portions err on the side of large and customers enjoy the bounty. Many manage to eat everything, but a lot of take-home boxes go out the door, too.
Breakfast is big business at OPH. Pancakes, waffles and other traditional breakfast staples transformed the empire into legend. The first Original Pancake House opened in 1953. Now, the Portland, Oregon-based chain has more than 100 independently owned and operated restaurants across the United States plus a few in Asia. Farnam Street owns the Edina, Eden Prairie, Roseville and Burnsville locations.With the popularity of OPH, don’t be surprised by a wait for a table, especially this time of a year. August ranks as the busiest month, with vacations winding down, kids going back to school and the start of the state fair.
Kick back and ponder the prospect of a mouthwatering breakfast embellished with flavor-rich sides. Hang around the lobby and check out the display case filled with Deneen Pottery mugs. Colors change with the season and they are available for purchase. ($16 each). A hot cup of coffee served in a hand-thrown mug adds to the homey ambiance and the beverage stays warmer.
The heft of a stoneware mug connects the hand to the soul. Under a plume of coffee steam, it’s hard not to breathe a bit easier. Beautifully functional Deneen Pottery mugs have worked their way into OPH restaurants. The Edina location has an eye-catching table setting with a rainbow assortment of 10-ounce mugs.
The inclusion of Deneen Pottery on the table evolved from a chance OPH encounter in 2009. During a birthday celebration at the Eden Prairie location, Niles Deneen noticed plain white mugs on the tables. As president of Deneen Pottery, he realized something was missing from the picture. Having his custom-made mugs at a traditional restaurant known for family-style breakfasts seemed fitting.
“The same ingredients that OPH puts into each and every dish are the same with our mugs. I knew the mugs would work well and would be a fantastic representative of the superior quality that OPH stands for,” Deneen says. “Our mugs are kiln-fired to 2,150 degrees F and are amazingly durable, so I knew they would handle the busyness of weekend bussing and washing.”
One mug order led to another, and soon Edina and a few other OPH locations were on board. Deneen’s phone call to Jon Liss, general counsel and corporate chef, garnered even more franchisee interest. Liss was quick to respond: “I know who you are and I’m looking at one of your mugs right now… I know what you’re going to say and the answer is ‘yes.’ ” Today, the mugs are available at more than 40 U.S. locations, along with a few in Asia.
The over 50-year success story of Deneen Pottery exemplifies the American dream. Sure, setbacks came and went, but nothing a strong collaborative work ethic could not overcome in the long run. Superior quality and commitment to deliver the very best for customers are hallmarks of this family-owned small business.
At Deneen Pottery’s St. Paul facility, row after row of mugs stack up with methodical precision, yet these hand-thrown pieces are all individuals within themselves. In the world of artisan pottery, no two pieces are ever exactly the same. Every firing has slight nuances but overall uniformity remains within ranks. “Open the kiln and it’s like Christmas,” Deneen says.
As a second-generation family-owned business, several generations work side by side to produce mugs, soup crocks, vases and other fine stoneware. Every week the St. Paul shop uses five tons of clay to produce an average of 12,000 mugs and other custom-made pottery. The process combines art with science to produce durable items with unique charm and top quality. “We’re only as good as the last mug we shipped because it’s going to be around forever,” Deneen says. “Knowing that you are using something made by hand conveys so much.”
An innovative glaze engraving process produces a flat medallion, applied to the mug. “Seeing the detail of the medallion and the amazing colors just brings a smile to your face,” Deneen says. The charm of hand-made pottery has a universal appeal, much like a hand-crafted OPH meal. Cheers to a refill.
See their pottery website here.
Oatmeal Waffles and Apple Rum Sauce Topping straight from Lee Owen's blog from the Edina Eater.
Recipe for a hearty start to your day. Try to use Minnesota-grown apples; the harvest starts this time of year and continues through October. The sweet fruity topping smooths down the earthy whole-grain flavor of the waffles. The nutty-flavored fiber-rich texture makes them too filling for seconds.
Waffle Batter (Approximately 6 waffles)
- 1-1/2 cups self-rising flour
- 3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
- 2 T. oat bran
- 1 T. flaxseed meal
- 1/2 t. baking powder
- 2 T. granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1-1/2 cups milk
- 1/3 cup oatmeal, cooked and cold
- Canola oil
- Maple syrup
- 2 - 3 apples
- 1 T. water
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1/4 t. nutmeg, freshly grated
- 1 T. candied ginger
- 1/3 cup light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup rum