Pancake houses generally don’t waste good money on sophisticated phone systems, so when I called around for fact checking, I’d hear everything happening in the restaurant after whoever answered the phone put it down to find a manager. That usually just amounted to the sounds of background music and the cash register, but at Omega Pancake House, I could clearly hear a server tell her customers, “We would love to help, you know.”
Better believe it. Service at Omega is so caring that a startling number of customers are ready with a hello hug before a favorite waitress is halfway to their table. The servers’ cheer is enough to hoist the mood of the paisley-carpeted room, but it’s the pancakes that make Omega so special.
Mildly sweet, Omega’s bronzed pancakes are a model of pancake construction, with a gently crisped bottom edge framing a tender cake that seems to have just as much lift as nature allows. It’s an honest pancake, served with real butter and maple syrup, which sings the grassy notes that the artificial stuff can’t manage.
“I changed the food for the better, because I’m kind of like a health nut,” owner Nick Pournaras told me.
Pournaras in 2000 gave up a professional golf career to take over Omega from his father, Harry, a Greek immigrant who was struggling with health problems caused by smoking, and exacerbated by needless medications. On the advice of a physician who was asked for a second opinion, Pournaras says, “we threw all the junk away, and did a different diet and helped him live another 14 years.”
Reasoning that what worked for his father might also work for his customers, Pournaras took a similar approach at the restaurant, replacing the cooking oil with non-GMO sunflower oil; seeking out antibiotic-free meat and poultry and eliminating Sweet ‘N Low in favor of turbinado sugar. Although he doesn’t advertise it, the coffee beans are organic, and so is the syrup.
“If I could go all organic, I would, but people don’t know: Charleston is more into that stuff,” Pournaras says. “But customers can see and taste the difference because I don’t like to use preservatives. Those little things make a difference.”
As does the longstanding family recipe for making pancakes “fluffy and da da da,” but Pournaras isn’t talking about that either.