Pancakes have long history at Tahoe |

Pancakes have long history at Tahoe

Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune The Swiss pancakes (crêpes) are a favorite among customers at Heidi's.

The pancake is one of the oldest cooked foods.

Every culture has its own version of pancakes – from French crêpes to poori in India and bao bing in China. At the South Shore, the all-American version of the pancake has been fueling skiers and other hungry folks for decades.

International House of Pancakes (founded, like the Tribune, in 1958) opened an IHOP in South Lake Tahoe in 1970, and Red Hut has been serving breakfast since 1959. Joining the ranks of long-running pancake places on the South Shore, Heidi’s Family Restaurant, formally known here as Heidi’s Pancake House, started flipping flapjacks 44 years ago, thanks to founder Hal Pitt.

According to Tribune articles, Pitt decided to build a pancake house after Neal Olson demolished Christy’s Pancake House to make way for a Wells Fargo bank in Bijou Center and didn’t plan on building another eatery.

Heidi’s Pancake House opened at 7 a.m. on July 3, 1964.

Heidi’s current president, Don Thayer, said late San Francisco 49ers coach Bill Walsh used to come into Heidi’s and order buckwheat pancakes with a side of raspberries.

Other customers began to order the breakfast.

“One customer said, ‘That must be the breakfast of champions,’ ” Thayer said, referring to the three Super Bowl championships in which Walsh coached the team.

But pancakes haven’t always been popular.

Two to three years ago, pancake orders dropped because of low-carb diets, Thayer said. But pancakes are a great breakfast for skiers and snowboarders, giving them energy to go hard on the mountain all day, he said.

Another obstacle pancakes faced was the elevation factor. Because of the altitude, the pancake recipes had to be altered. Because of the decrease in barometric pressure at high altitudes, carbon dioxide expands quicker, so the dough rises more. To accommodate this reaction, most cookbooks recommend decreasing the amount of baking powder by a quarter.

Thayer also offered two tips to cooking up the perfect stack of pancakes.

First, don’t flip the pancake when it’s wet on top – let the bubbles come up through the batter, he said.

“Also, resist the urge to pat it,” Thayer said. Letting the bubbles come up through the batter gets air in it; the air is gone after one pats it.

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