Everyone has annual traditions. There are the big ones, like Thanksgiving dinner with the family, opening presents on Christmas morning, falling asleep during the Super Bowl and getting smashed on New Year's Eve. And then there are the smaller, more personal traditions. I have a lot of those. I try to watch Terry Gilliam's movie Brazil once every year (but no more than once), because it puts me in touch with the absurdities of everyday life. I try to read the first five books of Roger Zelazny's Chronicles of Amber (though not the second five, which completely suck) once every autumn, because they remind me of a time in my life when I thought every fantasy was possible and I loved people who thought (and wrote) the same way. Once a year (around Christmas) I try to sneak in a blow-out dinner at the Palace Arms, eaten alone, because the Palace Arms represents what dining out used to be like back when normal people ate out only once or twice a year. And every year, I get back to the Original Pancake House to eat a Dutch Baby.
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Why? I'm not exactly sure. As with many traditions, the origins of this one have been forgotten. And as with most traditions, the tradition itself is less important than all the things that surround it. In this case, what surrounds the Dutch Baby — a massive, bowl-shaped, eggy, crepe-y, pancake-y monstrosity large enough to feed four that comes dressed in melted butter, lemon juice and powdered sugar — is fresh-squeezed orange juice, huge sides of handmade corned beef hash, thick-cut and chewy bacon, ten cups of coffee and a last-minute order of cherry Kijafa crepes, gotten to go and picked at in the car. Chain or no — and the Original Pancake House is a chain, with locations in 26 states, two of them here — I love this place for its assumption that even the stick-skinny soccer moms of Cherry Hills Village want home fries served by the pound and a pancake large enough to wear as a hat. And I even love some of the moms who shamelessly dig in with appetites just that large — no doubt double-booking their Pilates instructors for the next day, but still eating well while they can.
Maybe they have the same once-a-year Dutch Baby tradition that I do, but I don't think so. If theirs was a once-a-year habit, I doubt so many of them would know their waiters by name.
The Original Pancake House