October 29, 2010

A Gluten-Free Visit to the Original Pancake House in Boulder

By Evan Sandsmark -  

A piece of fruit and coffee isn’t always sufficient. Some mornings you just feel like a serious breakfast. Today we found ourselves with such a craving, and since we recently learned that the Original Pancake House in Boulder has gluten-free pancakes available, we decided to stop in and try them.

The Original Pancake House is a fairly large restaurant, so we were seated as soon as we arrived. The building is essentially square-shaped, leaving a large section of the interior filled with tables, both in the center and along the four walls. We mention this rather mundane fact because the restaurant can evidently accommodate a fairly large number of people, which is good to keep in mind if you’re looking for somewhere to eat on a Saturday or Sunday morning, when families and hung-over college students alike come out in search of a breakfast that only requires effort to eat.

Our table was positioned against the wall that borders the kitchen, which is the only side of the restaurant not covered with windows. Despite the lack of a table-side window, we still had a clear view of the outside, and it looked like most of the other tables were similarly situated. This is a virtue, as it encourages the type of mindless gazing that enabled us to enjoy the autumn-colored leaves that swayed in the breeze and watch the people who walked by on the sidewalk, enjoying the unseasonably warm weather (at least during the 30 minutes it lasted). It also allowed us to watch cars run red lights at the nearby intersection (OK, that only happened once, but it did happen).

After waiting for a little while, watching our eventual server dart from table to table, we were able to place our order, which was a regular-size plate of Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free pancakes. This was the only menu item that was explicitly listed as gluten-free, so the selection of GF items isn’t exactly extensive. On the other hand, at least they make one variant of their signature dish – pancakes, of course – gluten-free, and there are certainly other items on the menu that don’t have gluten. Again, though, we didn’t notice any dishes listed on the menu as “gluten-free” besides the pancakes we ate, so you might have to piece together sides to make a GF meal if you don’t feel like pancakes, or else ask your server if other dishes can be prepared gluten-free.

If the restaurant staff was a little slow to take our order, they most certainly were not slow in delivering our food (and in truth it didn’t take them that long to take our order – we don’t want give you the impression that the service is poor because its not). The pancakes were on our table in less than ten minutes after ordering them, and in fact they may have arrived in as little as five. Seriously. The plate presented to us had eight small pancakes arranged in a substantial heap with a dish of butter on the side. Together, the eight pancakes were probably equivalent to about three large pancakes, and so were in line with what you might expect a full-order of pancakes to be. We ordered coffee to compliment our meal, and the Original Pancake House engages in the blessed practice of leaving an entire urn of coffee at the table, so there was no need to burden the waitstaff with constant requests for more coffee.

With regard to the GF pancakes themselves, they were both tasty and filling. As far as we could tell, they tasted just about like regular pancakes (although its admittedly been awhile since we’ve eaten pancakes that weren’t gluten-free). When you take a bite, the pancake almost dissolves in your mouth, and thus only requires minimal chewing. We suspect that this had something to do with the pancake’s unique texture, which is slightly less fluffy than you might expect. It was almost as if the golden-brown outside of the pancake was a separate shell that enveloped the inside, which was something like a hybrid between cake and batter. To invoke the word “batter” in the context of describing pancakes is not to imply that they weren’t cooked – they clearly were, and looking at it suggested the same. But the pancakes, even when fully cooked, still retained some of the properties of batter, like the dissolubility mentioned above. We’ve dragged on about this because it was precisely the pancakes’ texture that made them good. A lightly-buttered pancake covered in maple syrup that melts in your mouth is very delicious indeed.

Eight small pancakes and a pot of coffee later, we requested our check. As we waited, we looked at the numerous paintings that adorned the walls. For the most part, the paintings were abstract and colorful. The fact that there was no discernible subject in many of the paintings is what united them, which the colors failed to do.

We paid our check and thanked our server. With a satisfied stomach and a caffeine buzz that still hasn’t entirely faded, we left, confident we will return again the next time we’re in need of a large breakfast to start our day.

The Original Pancake House menu can be found here:

The Boulder location of the Original Pancake House:
2600 Canyon Road
Boulder, CO 80302

Note: This is the second article in a new series presented by GlutenFreeInBoulder.com. On a (roughly) weekly basis, we will visit a restaurant, try a dish or two, and write about our experience. We will, of course, be sampling exclusively gluten-free food so we can report back to our readers about the dishes worth having. If you would like us to review a particular restaurant with gluten-free options, send an email to info@glutenfreeinboulder.com. We’ll try our best to check it out!

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