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DeRusha Eats: Original Pancake House

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – There is something about breakfast, a freshly cracked egg – a fluffy pancake, thick-cut slice of bacon – which sets the table for the day.

"It's the time of the morning where you're still dreaming and everything's possible," Steve Pipkin, manager of the Original Pancake House in Burnsville, said.

The first Original Pancake House started serving breakfast in 1953 in Portland, Ore. Today there are 100 restaurants in the United States, South Korea and Japan, including seven in Minnesota.

"It's kind of like Cheers, in the pancake sense," Pipkin said.

Pipkin has been working with OPH in Minnesota for more than 25 years.

"Everything's made from scratch, there are no mixes here," he said.

So while the recipes and the pancakes didn't need refreshing, but the restaurant itself was starting to feel dated.

"It doesn't feel like your mom's dining room," Kim Aune, Vice-President at Minneapolis design firm Shea, said.

Shea designs retail spaces, offices and restaurants.

"The goal was lighter and brighter, but still warm," she said.

The new look for the old favorite has a Scandinavian flair. Lots of light-colored wood, natural light and a custom wall-hanging featuring the iconic "Pancake Pete" logo surrounded by graphic elements inspired by Minnesota: canoe paddles, moose, and leaves.

"We designed it in-house with our graphics folks as another fun décor element to add uniqueness," Aune said.

Original Pancake House is known for long-waits on the weekend, so Shea created a large waiting space with benches.

"To accommodate ample waiting space. You want guests to be happy and not feel like the pain of waiting is greater than the enjoyment of the meal," Aune said.

The new look also features a nod to one of the biggest trends in dining right now, the single diner. There's a large breakfast bar right near the entrance.

"Single diners, couples, love dining at bars. It's just a comfortable place to sit, there's energy. You can get a quick bite to eat, cup of coffee, check out the news or get out your laptop. It's just another place to accommodate different diners," she said.

While more and more restaurants are looking for high-design, Aune said she wants to focus on design as solution: creating a better experience for the staff and the diners.

"It's making them feel comfortable in their booths, have enough lighting, a sound level that's not too loud. It's all of those things combined that make people just really like where they are, and want to come back. They may not be able to identify that, but we can," she said.

Of course, great design only works with great food.

The Dutch Baby is an air-filled pancake baked to a crispy outside with lemon, whipped butter and powdered sugar. The apple pancake is legendary. At Original Pancake House, they crack real eggs for the omelets, and the pancake batter begins with a sourdough base.

"It gives it a little more depth and a yeasty boost that makes it rise and fluffy," Pipkin said.

The Original Pancake House recipe of a place that feels right, and people who make you feel welcome, makes breakfast the best part of the day.

"It is simple, but you have to do it," Pipkin said.

Original Pancake House has seven locations, including Burnsville, Roseville, Edina, Eden Prairie, Maple Grove, Minnetonka and Plymouth

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