December 9, 2018

Winnipeg
-10° C, A few clouds

Full Forecast

Stacking up

Sixty years after the Original Pancake House opened its doors, customers are still flipping for their flapjacks

Earlier this summer, the Original Pancake House hosted a pancake-eating competition at The Forks Market as part of the local institution’s 60th anniversary festivities.

Jeff Liba, chief executive officer for Variety, the Children’s Charity of Manitoba, doesn’t waffle when asked where winning the celebrity-laden affair stacks up on his list of lifetime achievements.

“It’s always nice to win but it’s probably not something I’m going to brag too much about,” he says with a chuckle.

Liba, who polished off 14 full-size flapjacks in the allotted 10-minute time limit, didn’t think he stood a chance on the morning in question, especially after he checked out the competition and spied Winnipeg Goldeyes star outfielder Reggie Abercrombie seated four chairs down from him.

Get the full story.
No credit card required. Cancel anytime.

Join free for 30 days

After that, pay as little as $0.99 per month for the best local news coverage in Manitoba.

 

Already a subscriber?

Log in

Join free for 30 days

 

Already a subscriber?

Log in

Subscribers Log in below to continue reading,
not a subscriber? Create an account to start a 30 day free trial.

Log in Create your account

Your free trial has come to an end.

We hope you have enjoyed your trial! To continue reading, we recommend our Read Now Pay Later membership. Simply add a form of payment and pay only 27¢ per article.

For unlimited access to the best local, national, and international news and much more, try an All Access Digital subscription:

Thank you for supporting the journalism that our community needs!

Your free trial has come to an end.

We hope you have enjoyed your trial! To continue reading, we recommend our Read Now Pay Later membership. Simply add a form of payment and pay only 27¢ per article.

For unlimited access to the best local, national, and international news and much more, try an All Access Digital subscription:

Thank you for supporting the journalism that our community needs!

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Mon to Sat Delivery

Pay

$34.36

per month

  • Includes all benefits of All Access Digital
  • 6-day delivery of our award-winning newspaper
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

Earlier this summer, the Original Pancake House hosted a pancake-eating competition at The Forks Market as part of the local institution’s 60th anniversary festivities.

GRIDDLE ME THIS

Tube guy</p>

Tube guy

The Original Pancake House created a stir on social media in July when a two-metre tall yellow metal structure affectionately known as the Tube Dude went AWOL from their McGillivray Boulevard restaurant.

"I don't know how or why but somebody ripped him right out of the ground and took off with the poor guy," says general manager Robert Walker.

The Original Pancake House created a stir on social media in July when a two-metre tall yellow metal structure affectionately known as the Tube Dude went AWOL from their McGillivray Boulevard restaurant.

"I don't know how or why but somebody ripped him right out of the ground and took off with the poor guy," says general manager Robert Walker.

After posting news of the disappearance on their Facebook page, asking the public for tips, "things blew up," Walker says, as local media outlets immediately picked up on the story.

A few days later somebody spotted the statue, seemingly no worse for wear, near a boat launch in La Salle.

Walker says their Facebook site was flooded again, this time with congratulatory comments after a blurb reading "Tube Dude has been found & is on his way home! was posted, which gave him a thought.

“Had I known a missing tube dude would result in that much publicity for the restaurant I would have happily stolen it myself."

Jeff Liba, chief executive officer for Variety, the Children’s Charity of Manitoba, doesn’t waffle when asked where winning the celebrity-laden affair stacks up on his list of lifetime achievements.

"It’s always nice to win but it’s probably not something I’m going to brag too much about," he says with a chuckle.

Liba, who polished off 14 full-size flapjacks in the allotted 10-minute time limit, didn’t think he stood a chance on the morning in question, especially after he checked out the competition and spied Winnipeg Goldeyes star outfielder Reggie Abercrombie seated four chairs down from him.

"For sure I never thought I’d be able to out-eat a guy like Reggie but I guess it’s like those hotdog-eating contests in the States where’s it’s not always the biggest person who comes out on top," Liba says, describing himself as "tall and skinny."

And what did Liba do to toast his victory? Besides loosening his belt, that is? Well, despite the fact his cheerleading co-workers were convinced he was going to suffer some ill effects after eating so much, so fast, that didn’t turn out to be the case. In fact, because it was close to noon when the event wrapped up, he suggested they celebrate by heading out for lunch.

 


 

The Original Pancake House on Pembina Highway was Winnipeg’s first. (Photos by Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)

The Original Pancake House on Pembina Highway was Winnipeg’s first. (Photos by Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)

Winnipeg businessman Wallace Guberman opened the city’s first Original Pancake House at 1049 Pembina Hwy. in 1958, not long after he came across a like-named enterprise in Portland, Ore. For the first several years, the Winnipeg operation was loosely associated with its American counterpart but since the mid-1960s, it has been wholly independent.

In a 2006 interview with the Free Press, since-retired senior manager Harvey Hoch, hired as a busboy at the flagship restaurant in 1959, recalled the concept was a runaway hit from the get-go. Every Friday and Saturday, he said, the after-theatre crowd lined up for tables into the wee hours of the night.

General manager Robert Walker with the restaurant’s Giant Apple Pancake. ‘We’re continually trying to come up with new recipes.’</p>

General manager Robert Walker with the restaurant’s Giant Apple Pancake. ‘We’re continually trying to come up with new recipes.’

It’s a safe bet Guberman, who died in 2004 and whose adult children now own all four Winnipeg Original Pancake House outlets, couldn’t have envisioned a day when customers would be able to place a take-out order for pancakes via an app on their cellphone.

"I know, eh," says Robert Walker, the chain’s general manager, when a reporter remarks "I’m not saying yours aren’t top-notch but seriously, how tough is it to make pancakes at home?" after noticing a Skip the Dishes driver leaving the Pancake House’s Clarion Hotel location with a slew of orders packed inside his insulated carry-bag.

"We joined (Skip the Dishes) about three years ago and I never would have guessed we’d get as many orders as we do," Walker says. "But when you think about it, if you wake up late and are in the mood for breakfast but don’t feel like dirtying a bunch of pans, it’s a heck of a lot easier to give us a call than to do it yourself."

If you haven’t been to the Original Pancake House in a while you may not recognize the joint. Sure you can still get over 30 different types of pancakes, including traditional, oven-baked and crepe-style. But study the menu further and you’ll spot a host of new-fangled selections such as breakfast tacos, southwest fiesta salad and a concoction billed as a hot chicken waffle sandwich, which Walker, licking his lips, describes as a crispy chicken breast tossed in Buffalo wing sauce, wedged between two jalapeno cheddar cornbread waffles, topped with pickles, lettuce and ranch sauce.

The Original Pancake House still features a few of its signature dishes like the Giant Apple Pancake, but new to the menu is their spicy chicken waffle sandwich.</p>

The Original Pancake House still features a few of its signature dishes like the Giant Apple Pancake, but new to the menu is their spicy chicken waffle sandwich.

"We’re continually trying to come up with new recipes; this weekend for example we’re introducing tater tot bowls, something we’ve been testing in the kitchen for a while," explains Walker, who got his start with the company in the late 1980s, catching on as a cook at the old Polo Park location. "There are a lot of big-name restaurants entering the breakfast market now: traditional lunch-and-dinner places that are looking for ways to expand their business. The same is true with us, except just the opposite. Breakfast has never been an issue here so what we’re aiming to do is grow our evening clientele by offering burgers and such."

On that same topic, Walker says there are no two ways about it, he and his team were concerned 12 months ago when American conglomerate International House of Pancakes opened a brand-spanking new 200-seat restaurant — their first in Manitoba — at the corner of Kenaston Boulevard and Sterling Lyon Parkway.

"In this industry you have to accept that there’s always going to be competition. But given their instant name recognition and people’s natural curiousity about a place that hadn’t been in the city before, we would have been crazy not to think it was going to have an impact on our sales," says Walker who, not unlike thousands of other Winnipeggers, paid a visit to IHOP during its first month in operation, albeit in his case, he did so — how can we put this? — syrup-titiously.

"Did we take a hit? Sure, we did. But it wasn’t as bad as we thought it was going to be which, I like to believe, goes back to 60 years of trust in a locally-owned company." 


 

The original menu. A lot has changed since 1958.</p>

The original menu. A lot has changed since 1958.

"Jeez, where do I start?" Walker says when pressed for a list of famous-types who’ve chowed down at the Original Pancake House during its 60-year run.

"Off the top of my head there’s (the late) Paul Walker from the Fast and the Furious movies, Nia Vardalos from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, singer Carly Rae Jepsen, Chef Lynn Crawford from the Food Network and members of the rock band Megadeth," he says. "Of course, we constantly have Jets, Bombers and Moose players throughout the year and The Forks often gets visiting football and baseball teams."

For a while, Walker contemplated doing away with the decades-old practice of selling toys in his restaurants’ lobby area.

For a while, Walker contemplated doing away with the decades-old practice of selling toys in his restaurants’ lobby area.

Besides all that, there are the parents and grandparents who show up with their kids or grandkids in tow, telling staff they came there with their mom and dad, and are following suit with their own offspring. For a while, Walker contemplated doing away with the decades-old practice of selling toys in his restaurants’ lobby area, thinking it was "a lot of real estate to be giving up." But after noticing the amount of Windex his managers were going through, thanks to four-, five- and six-year-olds pressing their noses up against the glass display, pointing to the Beanie baby or spinning top they wanted their parents to buy for them, he decided, "You know what? That’s not going anywhere."

One more thing; if you’re one of those long-time, Pancake House regulars who has lodged a complaint with Walker, telling him the Giant Apple Pancake, still the No. 1 seller, isn’t as large as you remember it being when you were a tot, that’s 100 per cent not the case, he says.

"I promise you it’s the same size it’s ever been. Because of health regulations and because it was always hanging over the edge and touching the table, we started putting it on a bigger plate about five years ago," he says with a laugh. "Not everyone believes us but I swear it’s the god’s honest truth."

david.sanderson@freepress.mb.ca

The Giant Apple Pancake, just as big as it ever was, says Walker.</p>

The Giant Apple Pancake, just as big as it ever was, says Walker.

David Sanderson

Dave Sanderson was born in Regina but please, don’t hold that against him.

Read full biography

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective January 2015.