When I first started on the road as in independent rep in the mid-80's, one of the sales managers I worked with was Walt Rising, who was - at that time - working for NAD Electronics. Walt became one of those great mentors of mine at a time when I certainly needed some mentoring. Although Walt's tenure at NAD didn't last much longer after I began to work with him, we've still stayed friends over the years. He now lives in the northern suburbs of Chicago and I met up with him for old time's sake over breakfast at Walker Brothers Original Pancake House in Highland Park, IL (see map).
In the 1940's after World War II, brothers Everett, Victor and Dick opened the first of what came to be four Walker Brothers Snack Shops in Evanston. In 1960, Everett and Victor Walker bought a franchise from the owners of The Original Pancake House in Portland, OR. They soon opened the first Original Pancake House restaurant on Green Bay Road in Wilmette (see map). They quickly garnered a reputation for having great breakfasts at a good price. Today, there are four other locations in addition to the Wilmette and Highland Park locations, all of them located in the north and far northwest suburbs of Chicago. There are 15 Original Pancake House franchise locations in the Chicagoland area. But the six Walker Brothers locations are still owned by the Walker family, of which Victor's son, Ray, is the CEO for the restaurants.
Each Walker Brothers location is unique unto itself as far as the interiors are concerned. But one thing that is constant throughout the six locations is the collection of stained glass each restaurant has. The interior is also filled with a lot of brass railing, antiques and comfortable seating throughout. It's a very comfy and cozy place to eat.
It was around 9 a.m. when I met up with Walt at the Highland Park location. We were seated at a large booth and given our menus. Walt and I hadn't seen each other for quite sometime and we spent nearly the next 45 minutes catching up on things. I think our waitress came back to our table five or six times before I finally said, "Look, we've got to order something before she kicks us out."
The signature dish at all Original Pancake House locations is the Apple Pancakes, and that's what Walt ordered. I'm not big on apples and they just don't sound appealing to me to even try. But according to Walt, the Walker Brothers Apple Pancakes are even better than the ones you find at most other Original Pancake House restaurants. Walt said, "I don't know what they do to them to make 'em better here, but I swear the Apple Pancakes are much better at Walker Brothers than at any other Original Pancake House I've eaten at."
Although the French Toast looked tremendous on the plate of a lady who was seated across the way from our booth, I stuck to my basic diet breakfast of eggs over easy and bacon. I have had the blueberry pancakes at Walker Brothers in the past and they are fabulous. Some of the best I've ever had. Oh, and so filling!
We continued to talk as we waited for our food and Walt reverted to his sales manager ways of 20 plus years ago. He may not be in the audio/video business any longer, but he keeps his finger on the pulse of what's going. He was free with information and tips to help make my job easier. He's just one of the nicest guys I've ever run across in my line of work.
Our breakfasts finally made it to our table a little after 10 a.m. We continued to talk as I made quick work of my two eggs and four pieces of bacon. Walt's Apple Pancakes were just huge. There was no way he was going to be able to finish them. He said, "I'd have 'em box them up for me, but they never taste as good at home as they do here."
He told me that the Walker Brothers locations also have frozen Apple Pancakes that they make up and freeze for people to take home. "I've never done that," Walt said. "But I guess they're pretty popular for people to buy 'em to take 'em home."
It was great to sit down, eat and talk with Walt. It was like we left off our last conversation just 2 days before and not the 2 years it took for us to meet up again. And doing at Walker Brothers just added to the enjoyment. I was more than happy to pick up the tab for breakfast and will do it again when Walt and I get together later this summer.
Walker Brothers Original Pancake House has been lauded by both national and local publications as having the best breakfast in the Chicagoland area. They certainly have a lot to choose from on their menu and while I can't enjoy the more sinful things they have to offer at this time, take it from me - the food at Walker Brothers is great.