Thirty years ago, Gina Pantely took over a spot at the corner of Main and Miller that had operated under a variety of concepts, including the Olympia and the Old Fashioned Soup Kitchen.
She transformed it into The Broken Egg, serving a wide variety of elaborate breakfast dishes, from egg concoctions and breakfast stews to omelets, French toast, and especially pancakes. Customers waited in line out on the street, particularly on Saturdays, when many coupled their visits with a trip to the Farmers Market.
But the Broken Egg closed in March 2020 and never reopened even when pandemic restrictions were lifted. The ‘building underwent repairs, and in the meantime, Pantely needed a quadruple bypass operation that knocked her off her feet for much of 2021.
In January, Pantely announced on Facebook that the Broken Egg was permanently closed, and “for lease” signs subsequently appeared in the restaurant’s windows.
However, diners can still enjoy the recipes that she created. Actually, some of them have been, they just didn’t know it.
In 2009, Pantely gave her pancake recipe to her nephew, Nick Panos, when he was getting ready to open his own restaurant in a former Big Boy on Lohr Rd. (Observer, August 2020).
She had overheard a conversation between Panos and his father, Demos, who is married to her sister, Helen, the owner of the Village Kitchen in Maple Village.
Although Nick had saved the menu from a favorite pancake spot as an inspiration, Pantely was concerned that the yet-to-open place was going to be too much like a conventional Coney Island diner.
“I said, ‘don’t you dare'” go down that road, Pantely recalls. “I gave him my cook, I gave him all my recipes. The pancake mix is mine from scratch.” And thus, Nick’s Original House of Pancakes was born. Pantely’s advice was evidently sound: Nick’s recently celebrated its twelfth anniversary.
At the Broken Egg, Pantely even made ingredients like candied pecans and granola herself. “I like ‘from scratch,'” she says.
The biggest sellers, she recalls, were Eggs Arnold, a riff on Eggs Benedict, but with spinach and tomato, covered with a yogurt tarragon sauce, and the Floridian French Toast, which was cinnamon swirl bread dipped in custard then sauteeed and topped with an entire sliced banana, a sliced kiwi, and a cup of sliced strawberries in syrup.
Pantely, who emigrated with Helen from Cyprus in 1950, says she has missed her customers. “I miss socializing with them, and them telling you what’s going on,” she says. She especially enjoyed chatting with Michigan football and basketball players, who could relax in her exuberant presence. “When you talk to them, they make you laugh,” she says.
Despite still recovering from her surgery, Pantely says she’s been tempted to open another restaurant, but with one requirement: any new place would need to have a parking lot.
“People were not happy to put $4 in a meter and still get a ticket,” she says of downtown parking. “I don’t know if I’ll call it the Broken Egg, but I’m going to call it something.”