Interview with Mr. Pancake manager - Elizabeth Knoop

Getting to go behind-the-scenes of my favorite pancake place was made possible by the generosity of Elizabeth Knoop, who graciously took the time to answer some of my questions.


Tell me a little about the history of your involvement with Mr. Pancake. How did it all start?

I was born in the Dells. My dad originally came here to teach at the Wisconsin Dells Junior High, and he and another teacher decided to buy Mr. Pancake. It was a small pancake house when he & my mom bought in 1962. They decided after a couple of years that their restaurants were doing very well, so he decided to retire from teaching - but he still stayed involved in the school. He was on the school board till the eighties, but also had several restaurants in the Dells, but this was our first one.

So was the building originally designed as a paddleboat?

No, in the 80s my mom and dad decided to remodel. We had also remodeled H.H. Bennett’s (a photographer famous for his pictures of the Dells) house in town. It was going to be torn down, and my parents saved it, getting it put on the historical list. Since it was time to do H.H. Bennett house, they also decided to do the pancake house. They've added on over the years - and since the Dells are known for its boats…

 As a child, did you originally want to run a restaurant?

Yeah, I think because I grew up here, and I was always here. I actually started when I was ten years old, and would help the hosts up front. My mom made me a little skirt to match everyone else’s. I would seat customers & help everybody. Then I would help bus the tables. I’ve done every job in the whole restaurant. When I graduated in 1980 I became the manager and have done it ever since.

So tell me a little about the pancakes - do you come up with new recipes? How many different ones do you have?

We've got quite a few. My mom was the one who came up with the recipes. She was a Home Ec major, and a gourmet cook too, so we do have quite a few varieties of them. Once in awhile we'll come up with a new pancake - I think the last one we added on was our peanut butter one. That came about when the waitresses & cooks were playing around with them, and they came up with it. I put it on the menu the next year. My son Charlie is working on a couple right now. If someone wants to try something - we let them put it together and try it out.

What's the most popular pancake?

I would say strawberry.

Do you ever have any weird combination requests?

Customers will sometimes ask us for something that's not on the menu. For instance we only have cherry & strawberry crepes on the menu, and they’ll ask us to put in blueberries. Or they’ll ask to slice bananas on top of certain pancakes that normally wouldn’t have them. Were open to those kinds of things.

What’s the weirdest or unusual thing that has happened here?

I think the only thing that has happened in years past has been at night – like when the bar Brother-in-Laws was still around. We've had people climb up on top of the building and try to go in our little Captains house. That's probably the weirdest...

So it's almost Mr. Pancake’s 50th anniversary do you have anything special planned?

Were hopefully going to try to get some old pictures together, and we do have a website for our Mr. Pancake employees to write in and share their experiences. Hopefully they'll come in and see us. We do have a lot of employees that come back and see us with their kids. I've always been very lucky to have many employees that come back. They’ll send their relatives to us, or their kids back to work for us. I've always been very fortunate I have wonderful employees. I’m very happy with everybody.