We stayed at the Hotel Lincoln in Lincoln Park, Chicago the weekend before Christmas and walked for pancakes.
For breakfast and brunch, the hotel’s dining options cover both ends of the spectrum: A coffee cafe and a high-end restaurant. What we were searching each weekend morning was an affordable, hearty pancake breakfast to fill us up for much of the day. Elly’s Pancake House and The Original Pancake House are located equal distances away from The Hotel Lincoln on opposite sides of Clark Street. A 5-10 minute walk will take you to both.
Elly’s Pancake House
We quickly walked by Elly’s Pancake House late during our first evening and assumed that it was a casual breakfast diner. When we returned the next morning, we were surprised by its upscale vibe. There are actually six Elly’s locations in the Chicago metro area. The Lincoln Park Elly’s that we visited is the only one open 24-hours a day. Unfortunately, Elly’s appears to be closing in the future to make room for some very expensive condos. Elly’s responded to my message and said they are relocating this location sometime in 2016, but will give everyone a two-months notice in advance online.
This Saturday morning Elly’s was bustling. We arrived as part of a large group and found seats right away. It did take a while for our server to get a chance to take our order, but we weren’t in a hurry. Other restaurant staff provided us with water and coffee while we waited to order and, when it was time to order, our server asked if we needed separate checks right away.
The breakfast menu includes plenty of savory and sweet items. If you order a full breakfast meal (as opposed to a single waffle or pancake a la carte) and coffee, expect to spend about $15 a person. Jake’s avocado and bacon omelette was the highlight. For one thing, it was as big as a fetus. Size aside, we were most impressed with how much fresh avocado it contained. No less than a whole avocado was tucked inside. The accompanying hashbrowns tasted crispy and creamy in all of the right places.
My healthy breakfast plate wasn’t as successful. The spinach and mushroom egg white scramble tasted a little bit funky, like the mushrooms were ripe. Jake’s omelette was so large that I enjoyed half of it along with the English muffin and fruit from my plate.
Several people in our party ordered Elly’s namesake pancakes. The pancake I tasted had a strong vanilla flavor that reminded me of french vanilla coffee creamer. If you like French Vanilla coffee creamer, you may like these pancakes. Otherwise, stick to something savory.
The Original Pancake House
We did not visit the original Original Pancake House but we did visit an Original Pancake House. There are Original Pancake Houses in more states then there aren’t. Somehow neither Jake or I had visited one before. The website notes the chain was founded in Portland, Oregon where its corporate headquarters is currently located.
While Elly’s is bright and open, The Original Pancake House is located in a basement. “This is scary!” exclaimed one of our younger party members as we opened the door. It wasn’t. We simply walked into the bottom level of a big building. The space was set up like a typical Perkins or IHOP with the addition of a counter.
Every restaurant we visited this weekend was packed to the gills. This was no exception. Our server reminded us of the long-time server we met at R.J. Grunts (also located down the same street). We found her no-nonsense but polished, efficient, and friendly. As we placed our orders, she informed us that the restaurant does not provide separate checks to large groups. However, she could provide us with a maximum of five checks. The final bill took a while to calculate, as some of us had cards and others cash. We figured it out.
Two unique item the restaurant featured were big, glistening apple pancakes and Dutch Babies, both baked. The rest of the menu featured some seasonal specials, lots of crepes and Swedish pancakes plus your typical breakfast foods. Prices seem to reflect the surrounding real estate, but since they’re not listed online I’m not sure how they compare to other locations in smaller cities.
A plate of pancakes or small ramekins of two biscuits and gravy could cost you about $10 with no sides. Sides of bacon are generous. The strips are thicker cut and crisp and will cost you $6.
My dish of pancake pigs in a blanket hit the spot. How bad could a pancake rolled around a link of breakfast sausage taste? I preferred the pancakes here. They tasted more like buttermilk pancakes than vanilla, but that’s just my personal preference.
In conclusion, if you are staying at the Lincoln Hotel and want to walk for pancakes or if your lodging does not offer breakfast, Elly’s and The Original Pancake House are walkable options. Each restaurant offers a different vibe and different tasting pancake. Both price points are similar. One of my biggest pet peeves is restaurants that take the time to list their menus online, but don’t provide prices. This drives me nuts. Neither restaurant provides prices online. I don’t like surprises and want to anticipate cost. I’m guessing you do too. Unless you order a single pancake, expect to spend $15-20 per person for a full meal that includes coffee.
If I could combine Elly’s omelettes and hashbrowns with The Original Pancake House’s pancakes, I’d be golden. Like a pancake.
The Original Pancake House
2020 North Lincoln Park W.
Chicago, IL 60614