When it comes to pancakes, some people think globally, as in the International House of. Nick Panos thinks locally, as in Nick’s Original Pancake House, which was on schedule to open in the former Lohr Road Big Boy in mid-December. “It’s not corporate,” he says of his new restaurant. “It’s locals running it hands on.”
Panos knows all about running local restaurants. He also owns Smokehouse Blues. His father owns the Chelsea Grille, his mother owns the Village Kitchen, his aunt owns the Broken Egg, and the list grows almost exponentially if you start adding in extended family.
Nick’s has more than a dozen different kinds of pancakes, including buttermilk, fresh cinnamon apple, and what the menu bills as Nick’s Favorite, pecan banana. It also serves seven kinds of waffles and nine kinds of French toast, plus all kinds of omelets and crepes, and for the lunch crowd, a large selection of sandwiches, soups, and salads. Breakfast and lunch items are available till 3 p.m.–when Nick’s closes for the day.
“For quite a few years I’ve wanted a family restaurant,” Panos says. By that he means not just a place where families are welcome, but a place where the owner can have a family. “It was kind of a quality-of-life thing,” he says. “You run a bar and grill, you don’t leave till eleven or twelve at night.” While he’s single and doesn’t have kids, he’d like to someday–but “if I want to raise kids, we gotta get another concept going that’ll be conducive to having kids and spending time with them.”
When the former Big Boy franchisees were evicted in mid-July, “my dad told me to take a look at this place,” Panos says. “He told me to just do breakfast and lunch. He said, ‘You’ll do well with that.'” Nick’s is open eight hours a day. “I’d just rather get up early, get the day done, and be able to go out and have a personal life.”
Getting the restaurant up and running was fairly easy. The kitchen was fully updated, the place was in good condition, and pretty much all Panos had to do was redecorate. Going for a “nice, warm, fuzzy feeling breakfasty look,” he had the walls painted in soft, muted earth tones of orange and brown. He removed the classic Big Boy red and white checkered pattern from the outside of the building. Big Boy corporate carted away the fiberglass Big Boy statue out front. That left one last vestige of the Big Boy theme: a strip of red and white checkered tiles high on the wall behind the counter. A friend of Panos had the ingenious idea of covering the red tiles with adhesive-backed, orange stick-on squares cut to size. It’s like the Big Boy had never been there.
Nick’s Original Pancake House, 3030 Lohr Circle. 622-6425. Daily 7 a.m.-3 p.m.
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