What an eyesore. It has to be the ugliest strip mall in the state. Even the parking lot, half torn to rubble, seems to want to escape its woe begotten mid-70’s ranch styling. And yet, it's also one of the most expensive pieces of real estate in the country, pricing akin to Palm Beach or Rodeo Drive. Inside this charmless clapboard mall, sitting on its cheap indoor/outdoor carpet you'll find millions of dollars worth of vintage wooden yachts, a children’s shoe store hawking $85 toddler’s sandals, and a place to get your Ralph Lauren suit custom tailored. Welcome to the Wayzata Bay Center.
It also houses one of the most curious breakfast spots in the western suburbs, The Original Pancake House, where the hollandaise is made from scratch and the 49ers are tender and buttery. Spotless teenagers of privilege piled into the booths look only slightly fazed from Saturday night’s haunts among estates. A slew of second wives shored up in Burberry tennis gear seated with their geriatric husbands contrast the first wives decked out in St. John knits mincing over egg white omelets. There’s always a waiting list and free coffee to sip outside the area’s most expensive hardware store: the smell of crushed Arabica beans, fertilizer, and Creed perfume make it a heady wait with perfect people watching.
The wait-list is filled with the prosperous descendents of Pillsbury, Dayton, and Cargill mixed in with some Johnsons and Andersons, nary a name ending with ' berg , ' endze , or ' ski . Am I painting too wide a brush stroke? I scan the packed breakfast joint stuffed with scrubbed clean toe-heads. Nope, not a trace of diversity here except for the choice between the Golden Fleece logo or the Polo Pony logo. As an outsider looking in I’ve always wondered what made Wayzata so uppercrusty? Why, if this is the destination of the wealthy taxed to high heaven, are the majority of the buildings ancient, and not in a charming way? Why so costly? I also ponder the fermentation process of the “Mother Dough” which gives my favorite flapjacks their busted bubbles and tang. I turn over the phrase in my mind like a mantra: all sugar turns to alcohol .
Having become regulars, the Manager greets our family like a favorite Aunt and brings us to our table. We order the usual and anticipate the breakfast “dessert” of 49ers. Big as a plate, thicker than a crepe, lighter than a pancake, rich as Wayzata. We’ve worked all week for these, the little dimples trap and pool fresh maple syrup and melted whipped butter. The hum of the breakfast crowd washes past our family trio, my husband engrossed in the sports page, our boy with waxy crayons, and me thinking this nonstop rain is perfect for fermentation. I ask the waiter, are they going to tear down the building? What will happen to the restaurant? He says they don’t know and just try to be happy day by day. I wince at him with a cockeye, how can he be so optimistic?
I may not have their bank accounts, swarthy lineage, or clean records but I do have the technology to analyze and reproduce recipes. Here’s the best recipe replica of their signature 49ers. If our local OPH doesn’t survive, and hope beyond hope it does, I’ve got my remembrance, but I will miss the impossible alchemy of a rainy Wayzata Sunday.
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (105-115 degrees F)
1 1/2 cups warm milk (105-115 degrees F)
3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2 cups all purpose flour
3 tbsp sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp salt
1. Together whisk the yeast and water. Set aside and let stand until the yeast is dissolved and frothy, about 5 minutes.
2. Whisk in milk and melted butter.
3. In large mixing bowl, together whisk flour and sugar. Pour wet ingredients over dry, and whisk them, just until combined. Tightly cover bowl and set aside in a warm place for 1 hour. Let the mixture increase in volume by at least half and become bubbly.
4. Uncover and stir the batter down, then cover the bowl again. Let rise overnight at room temperature or in the refrigerator (can be refrigerated for up to 48 hours and will be tangier).
Let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes before cooking. Stir to deflate batter and whisk in eggs and salt.
On medium/high heat preheat large frying pan or griddle.
Spoon 1/4 cup batter onto griddle for each pancake, leaving room for spreading. This is a thin batter with irregular shapes before it sets. The pancakes will look round once flipped over. Cook until some bubbles have popped, then turn and cook until browned. Serve with whipped butter and fresh warm maple syrup.