Monday, April 11, 2011

24 Hour Party People

It's been awhile, but your favorite food fanciers are back with a vengeance, this time with a review of an old favorite, the Original Hotcake House on SE Powell.

Jebby’s Meal: Bacon cheeseburger, fries, and a coke.
I know what you’re going to say. I can hear the words coming out of your mouth right now – “You went to a hotcake house and didn’t order breakfast?” I know, I know. I am a heretic of the highest order. When Abbe and I approached the war-torn counter, I noticed a small laminated sign advertising that for a short period of time, all beef served at the Hotcake House would be 100% organic and come from cows raised by the owners. I looked at the picture of a happy black and white milk maker on the laminated sign and my mouth began to water as I pictured it between two toasty halves of a sesame seed bun. When I saw that a bacon cheeseburger was one of the specials, I nearly died.
The burger was voluminous, with a patty of sweet, sweet cowflesh nearly as thick as my hand. This masterpiece of meat had a blush in the center that would make a milkmaid jealous and was swaddled in a thick blanket of cheddar cheese. My beef beauty came with a hot, toasty bun and a massive heap of crisp lettuce, tomato, and onion. The bacon itself deserves a round of applause. It was bacon that meant business. The slices were about ¼ inch thick and cooked exactly how I like my bacon – not too crisp, not too soft. I’m getting a little hot under the collar even talking about it. There is just something special about a really well-made burger. The different flavors, textures, and temperatures of the ingredients come together to play a symphony of deliciousness to your tastebuds.
The fries were oily and unspecial, but considering that I would’ve paid twice as much for a burger of that caliber, I could overlook some sub-par fries.

Abbe’s Meal: French Toast, hash browns, and bacon
I still don’t understand how Jebby’s bacon came out so well on her burger, yet mine was a catastrophe. I can only assume it was a different cook who made our meals. My bacon was so over cooked, it was literally black and crunchier than the captain’s cereal. I pondered approaching the sweaty line cook and asking for a better batch, but the house was busy that night and the cooks were looking surly. I bit in, one unsatisfying bite at a time and hoped my hasbrowns and toast would bring me more joy.
My hashbrowns weren’t much better than my bacon, dry and also crunchy, I found myself weeping for the poor potatoes that sat on the stove too long and lost all their illustrious flavor. Every other bite I would get a nice soft glob of perfect browns, followed by an unpleasant crunch and sand like texture. What a waste.
My french toast was the belle of the ball. Soft and tender slices of toast, in all their glory, steaming with the sweet aroma of cinnamon and maple syrup. Each bite erased a small portion of the memory of my burnt bacon and crunchy potatoes. The hotcake house has one consistent thing, which seems to be their hotcake batter and their French toast. I still haven’t experienced a bad pancake, only bad toppings on good pancakes.
So overall my meal was a mess of bad textures, but ended with a nice soft pillow of maple smothered french toast.

Our overall review:
                I’d just like to preface this review by saying that Original Hotcake House is not a place you necessarily go for an amazing meal. In a town where most establishments close before 10, it can be difficult to find places to eat. Enter OHH. The first time I went to the ‘House was in high school, and I remembered it being like stepping into a Quentin Tarantino movie. Not much has changed since then. Every surface in the OPH is still slick with grease, the staff still looks like they just got off the prison bus, the jukebox still cranks out everything from Buddy Holly to Ciara for patrons willing to shell out the change, and the food is still inconsistent as hell. 
                While my bacon cheeseburger was a dream, Abbe’s meal was a nightmare. In subsequent visits, we’ve reached the highest highs and lowest lows of greasy spoon diner fare. The quality of the food seems to depend largely on who is cooking it. Things at the Hotcake House can be very hit or miss. But one thing is for sure, the people are always interesting. A year or so back my friends and I struck up a random conversation with a gaggle of train-hopping punks from Tennessee. Last time, Abbe and I spent the entire meal trying not to laugh at a highly intoxicated woman whose sweatpants kept migrating down her butt as she danced to the music on the jukebox. It’s an excellent place to get a big, cheap plate of hot food and strong coffee and just watch the madness unfold.  Just don’t expect that big cheap plate of hot food to blow your mind every time.   
               Here at Abbe and Jebby Eat Portland, we don’t always go to a restaurant because the food is amazing. Sometimes, we go for the experience. The Original Hotcake House is a perfect example. While the food can certainly be amazing at times, it can also be really bad. But the people, the atmosphere, the place itself are what keeps us coming back, and we urge you to give it a try if you’re racking your brain for a place to eat after 10 p.m.

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