On a busy Saturday morning, Rose Campagna can point to a handful of tables inside The Original Pancake House and tell you a story about the people seated there. She can also recite, of course, what they like to eat for breakfast.
“Sometimes she remembers things you don’t really remember,” Angela Hicks, one of Campagna’s regulars, said.
For all 23 years the local pancake house has been in business, Campagna has been hurrying plates of griddled goodness to a stream of customers who regard her much more fondly than as just their regular weekend waitress. Hicks and her husband, Bob, from Oak Park, have been eating breakfast almost every weekend for years with Campagna and couldn’t wait for the restaurant to re-open.
“We had to eat at home,” Angela Hicks said with a laugh.
The pancake house is located at 7255 Madison St. in the mixed-use building commonly referred to as the Taxman Building. The breakfast spot opened quietly here in late September after being pushed out of Oak Park in favor of big development.
Cheryl and Waymon Stark, of River Forest, usually order from a short list of breakfast staples, all of which Campagna knows by heart. Whether Cheryl Stark orders eggs, said Campagna, depends on if she’s watching her cholesterol.
“It’s just nice people,” Campagna said of the work. “I love people.”
It’s not unusual for Campagna to see her customers outside of work, and she has had dinner with the Starks on several occasions.
“She’s a fantastic person,” Waymon Stark said.
Monday through Friday, Campagna works a steady 9-5 administrative job and then makes the trek from her home in Park Ridge to work weekends at the pancake house. She never misses a shift and for being allowed to work on the busiest days, she has tried to repay her boss with loyalty.
“One of the best compliments I get is how friendly everybody is at this restaurant,” owner Stephen Pachmeyer said.
Since opening in Forest Park, Pachmeyer said he has seen a lot of familiar faces and isn’t too worried about losing customers in the move. He fully expects to do more business on Madison Street than he did on Lake Street in Oak Park, and has a larger dining room in the new location. Furthermore, Pachmeyer said the decision to re-open in Forest Park was made much easier by the cooperation he got from village officials.
“You don’t want to come out and say it too loudly, but Forest Park doesn’t have the arrogance of Oak Park — not the people, but the trustees,” Pachmeyer said.
Lynne Vance and her 19-year-old son Darryl have been eating at the restaurant for some 12 years, and even after moving from Oak Park to Hillside, still make the trip to see their favorite waitress.
“We love Rose, that’s why we followed her over here,” Darryl Vance said.