Sometimes when you’re hungry, you don’t want fancy. You want good taste at a good price, with a lot of options, someplace where you can feel comfortable.
And around here, that means you want Omega.
Open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, Omega has been in business for over 30 years—I grew up going there for the Mickey Mouse pancakes, which are silver-dollar sized and buttermilk, filled with chocolate chips and topped with whipped cream and cherries. Today, though my tastes have evolved somewhat (I usually order a cream soup to go with the bread basket or an omelet with a side of breakfast potatoes) this place remains unchanged. It still packs the crowds at all hours, especially weekend mornings, when groups come through for brunch and Omega-stamped balloons decorate the enormous bakery case.
Although particular to the Chicago area, Omega is the type of place you could find in any town, a classic Greek diner. The waitresses (as I type this, it occurs to me that I have never—not once—had a male server here) wear dark skirts, neutral nylons and gym shoes, their hair pinned back and shiny metal nametags adorning their collared shirts. The tall plastic menus are big enough that you’ll have to fan your arms out wider than your shoulder blades to open them. Flat-panel televisions broadcast news at either ends of the floor plan, busboys rush around with carafes of fresh-brewed coffee and loud conversations mingle into each other, creating an overall sense of community.
Everything’s fast here, from the service to the placing of food on your table to the way they’ll wrap up bakery items to go, if you’d like. Yet they let you linger, and it will be perfectly fine for you to sit and talk for hours with the friends at your table.
Because my family’s the kind of family that likes our restaurant breakfasts big and hearty, where you eat a lot and won’t need another thing for hours, you can find us at Omega most times we’re out for breakfast. Like on Tuesday, for example, to begin my mom’s full day of birthday celebrations, we packed our round table with everything from cherry crepes, thin and buttery, piled with rich, red cherries and sprinkled with powdered sugar, to cream of asparagus soup, rich and silky, with tiny bits of asparagus stalks softened with just a slight crunch. Three of us had tea, which we always take with cream and sugar and which we credit to my dad’s English-boarding-school background. There were a lot of happy sighs.
Over the past few months, I’ve been collecting photos at this place—always with my camera in my bag—and finally, this week, I decided enough is enough! It is time to tell you about it.
As a few final thoughts:
Parking: Fantastic. There’s a huge lot surrounding the restaurant.
Wait time: Reasonable. If you come on a weekend morning, you may wait 10 minutes, but if it’s terribly busy, they’ll have coffee out in the lobby.
Bakery: Someone, hold me back. I cannot say enough about the bread basket, the contents of which (muffins, crackers, long onion rolls, round pumpernickel loaves) are yours to keep, and that alone is worth the visit. Certain members of my family are also partial to the pecan roll, which, at the advice of a server, is best served sliced and grilled, so the gooey insides caramelize into extra flavor.
If you’re in the area, try this place: you’ll leave satisfied. And if you’re not from around here, I expect places much like this are all around you. Just look for 24-hour signs, big crowds and, mostly, the smell of hot coffee.
Omega Pancake House, Downers Grove location
1300 Ogden Avenue
Downers Grove, IL 60515
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.