Welcome to another edition of Mastication Monologues! If it’s your first time on here or you’re a longtime fan, you’re in for a treat. I’m all about finding and trying new and unique restaurants, and today’s establishment definitely falls into both categories. Well, maybe not so much new, but its menu choices are certainly memorable. Cutting to the chase, I’m talking about Walker Bros. Original Pancake House. It has been around since 1960, and is considered by Zagat and James Beard the best breakfast place-bar none in the Chicagoland area. It is so popular that there are now six locations around the Chicagoland area, but in this post, my girlfriend and I visited the original location that opened in 1960 in Wilmette.
I’ve heard of the Walker’s Bros. before, and I wondered what made them so special compared to all of the other types of chain breakfast restaurants or even little hole in the walls I’ve visited in the past. Breakfasts in America are much more varied compared to breakfasts in other countries, so I feel like I’ve seen it all when it comes to ordering something tasty to fill my piehole with in the morning. Boy, was I wrong after eating with the Bros. The exterior of the restaurant just radiated history like it was a living time capsule, but the cars were slightly less hulking and more chock full o’ plastic compared to the motorcoaches of yesteryear. Walking through the door, however, that hasn’t changed since they first opened it (or so it seemed). It was full of beautiful stained glass windows and ornate woodcarvings coating the walls. We were promptly seated in one of the side dining rooms, and we were treated to a perfect view of one of the enormous ceiling lights that were designed in the Tiffany style. Not only were we taking in the surroundings but also the menu contents. Janice had been here before, so she automatically knew what she was going to get: the Dutch Baby pancake ($8.50). As for me, I was having trouble trying to pick something since everything looked great! Eggs? French toast? Crepes? Waffles? I was at the pancake house, so I plumped for the apple pancake ($9.95) with the additional $1.95 for French vanilla ice cream on top. Got to do it big when you’re rollin’ with the Bros.
When our plates came out, I was taken aback since I had never seen anything like it. Janice’s Dutch Baby wasn’t like a small, screeching, blonde child wearing wooden shoes but rather something that looked like a cross between a taco salad shell and a danish. What it actually was was an oven-baked pancake that was topped with a healthy sprinkling of powdered sugar. The kicker was the lemon juice she spritzed over the pancake that really brought it to life. I personally thought that it was a unique dish as it was less like a bready pancake and more like a lighter, buttery crepe that sizzled over my palate with the sweet powdered sugar combining with the raw sour power of the lemon juice. Thankfully, the pancake itself wasn’t outshone by the lemon juice. Then there was the apple pancake….where to start? It was advertised as an “Original Pancake House tradition”, and that it was stuffed with some apples and cinnamon glaze. Simple. I’ve had apple pancakes before where they slice some apples on top and put a slightly thicker syrup over the flapjacks and fruit to leave you full but just moderately satisfied. My apple pancake from Walker Bros. was the Steve Jobs of the breakfast world. A revolutionary just doing what it wants to do no matter what. It’s not for the faint of heart but rather for those with a well endowed sweet tooth, i.e. yours truly. The exterior seemed to be lacquered with the Sinikiang (fun fact: Sinikiang or Xinjiang is the Northwestern province of China that is home to the Uighur community and a majority of China’s Muslim minorities. Also, it was a stop along the famed Silk Road where spices like cinnamon were traded.) cinnamon and sugar glaze so that it shimmered under the ornate lights and beckoned me to tuck into it. I could see that it was piping hot as its snow white toupee was slowly trickling down its undulating surface through each nook and cranny. Upon slicing it open, I was greeted with slices of cinnamon apples, pure white dough and more sugar glaze. It was like an apple pie and a cinnamon roll had a delectable love child. I was in absolute heaven with every bite, and this is one tradition I hope Walker Bros. never retires.
So if you want a piece of Chicagoland history along with some wonderfully innovative and delicious breakfast items for great prices, run, don’t walk to Walker Bros. Original Pancake House. Their pancakes will make you flip!