Original Pancake House way breakfast should be

Breakfast never commands enough respect.

Some scoff at it, bragging how they never have any. But it’s the first meal and gets the day going, and may include a few of my favorite things: bacon and coffee.

So when I first heard about the new Original Pancake House coming to North Naples, thoughts of pancakes, Belgian waffles and omelet’s danced in my head. The news also brought back childhood memories of the OPH (as some call it) in suburban Detroit, where our parents took us when I was a kid.

The Southwest Florida version wasn’t exactly the quaint redbrick version I remembered as a youngster; the new one — the first in Southwest Florida — is in the earthy-colored former Calistoga Bakery Cafe along Airport-Pulling Road, just south of Vanderbilt Beach Road.

But it’s the food I came for, not the building, and Original Pancake House delivers the, um, bacon and more. Let’s start with the bacon, one-quarter-inch-thick slices of goodness OPH proprietor Troy Boane has shipped from the Midwest.

This bacon is not the flimsy ones you’re used to. A fork or even a knife is needed to cut it, or just break it in two. Bacon aroma fills the restaurant as well — inside and out, as you approach from the parking lot.

What intrigued me the most, though, was one of the pancake restaurant’s specialties: the Dutch Baby. It doesn’t look like much, just a cooked doughy bowl with an empty center.

The menu lists it as “oven baked, served with whipped butter, lemon and powdered sugar.” The last three items are known as the “setup,” which my waitress, Cynthia, brought before the Dutch Baby arrived (It takes 30 minutes to bake it).

Still unimpressed when the specialty finally arrived, I learned why its ingredients remain so top secret. Sprinkle some powdered sugar in the middle, along with the really creamy butter (“USDA score 93, the finest available,” states the menu) and squirt some lemon juice in it.

Cut off a piece of the outer shell and swirl it in the middle and, oh, I’ve never tasted anything like it. It’s flavorful beyond words, and proof that not all breakfast food needs to be doused in syrup.

But the syrup was delicious, which I carefully poured on the Georgia pancakes (covered with pecans and powdered sugar) and regular French toast — three slices of thick-cut challah bread dipped in egg batter “with a special touch of almond essence,” as the menu states.

Another OPH specialty is the apple pancake, made with fresh Granny Smith apples and “pure Sinkiang cinnamon glaze.” And yes, they crunch a bit when you bite into the apple slices.

Then there was the Irish omelet. Even though it’s not yet March 17, I have Irish blood in me so I was fine ordering it. All the omelets are billed as fluffier than most and take 20 minutes to create. Mine was infused with a “secret” corned beef hash recipe and aged cheese. And it lived up to the hype and I didn’t even consider drizzling ketchup on it.

The Original Pancake House has restaurants in 28 states, as well as Japan and South Korea. The company began in 1953 in Portland, Oregon, where its headquarters remain.

Plan a visit to the North Naples one soon, but expect to wait if you’re visiting late morning — especially with season upon us. At least there’s a shaded open-air courtyard with a fountain to make the time go by, if you can handle the wafting bacon odors seeping through the doors.

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