The Daily Gamecock

Pancake House puts original twist on breakfast

Trenholm Plaza restaurant adds flavor to classics

Mention to a friend that you’ve found a breakfast joint that serves crispy bacon, scrambled eggs and fluffy pancakes, and you might not elicit much excitement.

Isn’t that a bare minimum for a breakfast diner?

So how does Original Pancake House — the Columbia mainstay at Trenholm Plaza — differentiate itself from, well let’s say, IHOP? Time after time, the restaurant serves outstanding food, offers a wide array of options and provides stellar service.

There is always a wait, which is quite remarkable considering the cavernous restaurant serves food quickly and jams tables together so closely you can hear three conversations at once.  On a recent Saturday morning, an awestruck couple gazed into each others’ eyes five feet to my left. To my right, another couple met a priest for counseling.

Diners at two-tops exchanged glances at dishes dripping with fresh fruit, specialty syrups and dollops of whipped cream — each new dish leaving diners envious of their neighbors, doubting whether they had indeed picked the perfect waffle.

Once you sit, you’re quickly prodded along to order. And that can be quite a challenge, because the menu is page after page of delectable options. There are waffles and chicken sandwiches, burgers and crepes. And everything looks equally appetizing.

The pumpkin pecan pancakes, served six to a plate for just over $6, are sweet enough that you barely need syrup. Pecan crumbles and pumpkin flavoring are folded into the pancakes and sprinkled on top, giving a consistently delicious taste to every bite.

An apple Belgian waffle — perfectly crisped and served with slivers of fresh apple and a ladle of the restaurant’s signature bright pink apple syrup that tastes like heaven’s honey — doesn’t disappoint.

The delicate crepes are jam-packed with fruit but don’t overpower. The strawberries inside always seem fresh, whether it’s May or December.

A simple platter of creamy grits, fresh eggs and seasoned sausage will suffice for the simplest of diners, but the menu encourages adventure. The priest discussed earlier ordered a Dutch baby and stared at it incredulously when it arrived — the chain’s staple plate piles whipped butter, lemon and powdered sugar on the deep-dish “German pancake.”

And although there’s enough on the breakfast menu to keep you occupied, the Pancake House does offer a smaller menu of lunch options. You won’t go wrong with the chicken cheesesteak or homemade burger, both of which drew raves from recent dining companions.

The restaurant does have a few downfalls. The coffee is average; you would be better served to stop by the Starbucks, conveniently located two doors away. And expect to pay at least $8 for breakfast and $10 for lunch or dinner if you want a drink.

And, yes, Original Pancake is a chain restaurant.

It is a chain restaurant without a chain feel, a place where you can quickly become a local and eat some of Columbia’s best breakfast food.

But please, don’t order just the grits and eggs.


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