Made in Fort Worth: Ol’ South Pancake House
What comes to mind when I say German pancakes, fresh coffee, and late-night conversations? Most Fort Worth residents know that could only mean one thing: Ol’ South Pancake House.
Founded in 1962 by brother and sister David and Bette Benson, the unassuming restaurant with the best breakfast in town has become a Fort Worth institution. People of all ages flock to the restaurant for the tasty food, strong coffee, and the blast-from-the-past decor. Generations of Fort Worth folks have celebrated birthdays, christenings, weddings, and just about any other life event over Dutch Babies or chicken fried steak and eggs. Business deals are struck over blueberry pancakes or a Big Ol’ Breakfast Burrito.
Recently, I interviewed owner Rex Benson, son of David, to find out what makes Ol’ South Pancake House so special.
How has Ol’ South seen Fort Worth grow over the years?
We have seen the extreme growth of Fort Worth over the years. When TCU went to the Big 12 years ago, that seemed to be the initial growth spurt for the city.
What is the most popular dish at Ol’ South?
Our signature dish is our world-famous German pancakes (some know it as our smaller version named the Dutch Baby.) It’s an egg-based crepe with lemon, powdered sugar, and lots of butter.
What is the most eclectic dish served at Ol’ South?
I would say our Skillet is our most eclectic item on our menu. It really has everything in it.
It’s an open-faced biscuit, with hash browns, scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese, meat choice of bacon/sausage/ or ham, all topped with our cream gravy… it’s really good.
What is the restaurant’s main demographic and has it changed over the years?
Truly, our demographics are wide spread – from babies all the way to [senior citizens] … we have celebrated someone’s 102-year birthday. We are a place where all of Fort Worth has eaten. We take pride in having such a diverse customer base.
How does being in close proximity to Texas Christian University affect the business of Ol’ South?
We have always enjoyed our close partnership with TCU for many, many years. TCU is a part of who we are. [TCU’s entry] into the Big 12 conference with increased attendance to all of the football games has been a tremendous help with more folks coming in the door!
Who are some famous people who have eaten at Ol’ South?
We have had many famous folks eat with us from famous athletes to dignitaries, onto several others.
Athlete [range] from lots of Dallas Cowboys to pro basketball players… UFC fighters as well as politicians. Van Cliburn, the famous pianist, has a seat in the restaurant with a plaque on the booth.
What are some challenges Ol’ South has faced over the years?
We face challenges as any business does. However, the clear challenge is simply COVID-19 and the devastation it caused since the beginning of pandemic. We have suffered massive setbacks with staffing as well as the soaring food costs that we are facing. Historically you would typically only deal with raising food cost or labor shortages. Not both problems at the same time. So, we have had our work cut out for us. Luckily, we have great customers and very loyal ones, and they are the reason we have been able to make it through this crazy time. We love our customers; they are like family to us.
Caroline Pierce is a senior at Trinity Valley School. She hopes to study journalism in college.