LINCOLN SQUARE — The family behind the Famous Dutch Pancake Huis has quietly and permanently closed the restaurant, unable to weather pandemic disruptions after more than a decade near the heart of Lincoln Square.
Linda Ellis and her family opened Pannenkoeken Cafe in 2007 at 4757 N. Western Ave. to serve traditional Dutch pancakes, or pannenkoeken, daughter and co-owner Bobbi Rodriguez said. They later changed the name to Famous Dutch Pancake Huis.
The small restaurant sat only a few tables tightly packed together, quickly leading to long wait times during busy weekend brunch hours.
For years, people clamored for sweet pancakes, including ones with thinly sliced apples, whipped cream sprinkled with cinnamon, powdered sugar and sweet Dutch hazelnut crunch; and savory options like grilled salami covered with melted havarti cheese.
Dishes weren’t complete without classic, deep brown Dutch syrup, hot coffee or a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice that sometimes had a hint of lemony pucker.
“It definitely was a passion project for [Ellis], and so much of her identity was tied up in that,” Rodriguez said.
But the size of the business made operating in an era of social distancing impossible. After trying to find a larger location, building patio seating, launching a GoFundMe and encouraging takeout orders, Ellis closed Pannenkoeken last year with no plans to reopen, Rodriguez said.
Brown paper was recently put up in the windows, signaling the end of the restaurant’s 15-year run and shocking neighbors.
Unlike larger chain restaurants, Ellis and her family didn’t have the time or resources to go after federal loans and other assistance that might have kept the business afloat, Rodriguez said.
“COVID just absolutely obliterated my mom’s business. She was wasn’t able to do anything with it,” Rodriguez said. “She’s really struggling right now financially still.”
Neighbors Samantha Parrish and Jarrett Tate frequented Pannenkoeken for almost 12 years.
The couple were accustomed to dropping by to leave one of their names and phone numbers with the restaurant and then strolling around the Heart of Lincoln Square until a server texted to let them know a table was free, Parrish said.
“That was our spot because it was walkable and it was small. And the food was so good,” Parrish said. “All of our family are from out of town. Anytime they would come visit, we would go and endure the 45-minute to an hour-and-a-half wait, but then sit down and enjoy a great breakfast.”
“Their sausage and havarti pannenkoeken could not be beat, and the Schenk Stroop was the perfect syrup,” Tate said.
They had no luck trying to bring some of that signature syrup home, though.
“Every time we would go, my husband would ask if he could buy some of this imported syrup from them. And they’d be like, ‘No, it comes from a special warehouse,’” Parrish said.
The couple last saw the restaurant open when they visited in July for Parrish’s birthday. It appeared closed when they dropped by this spring, she said.
“Such a loss to Lincoln Square,” Tate said. “Everyone there was always so lovely, and we will miss them greatly.”
“It was just authentic and unique, and I was shocked and sad to see them close,” Parrish said.
A business called Territory Kitchen appears to be opening up at the former Pannenkoeken, but it isn’t affiliated with Rodriguez’s family, she said.
Someone was painting the inside of the business Tuesday afternoon. Territory Kitchen doesn’t appear to have any active licenses with the city, and messages left with its owners were not returned.
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