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O-B House, popular Fort Lauderdale brunch cafe touting giant pancakes, moves out of Himmarshee home after 12 years

The Old Fort Lauderdale Breakfast House (or O-B House, as locals affectionately called this downtown Fort Lauderdale brunch restaurant) opened in 2011. (Joe Cavaretta/South Florida ֱ)
Joe Cavaretta/South Florida ֱ
The Old Fort Lauderdale Breakfast House (or O-B House, as locals affectionately called this downtown Fort Lauderdale brunch restaurant) opened in 2011. (Joe Cavaretta/South Florida ֱ)
Phillip Valys, ֱ reporter.
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West of the Himmarshee bars in a quaint Old Florida building, the Old Fort Lauderdale Breakfast House stood as a bastion for hungry downtown eaters with oven-baked pancakes the size of hubcaps, cage-free eggs and housemade biscuits.

Now the O-B House, as locals affectionately called it, has left its longtime home after 12 years, abruptly closing without warning after lunch service on Feb. 3. Co-owner Rodney Ely tells the South Florida ֱ that plans are underway to relocate to a new storefront in Fort Lauderdale, although a contract hasn’t yet been signed.

Ely says the eatery’s cramped space — just 20 seats — played a big role in his decision not to renew the five-year lease on Himmarshee Street, which he says came up for renewal in February.

“There’s a certain nostalgia to the intimacy, but as a business model, it’s not the best dynamic,” explains Ely, who . “I don’t want to call it a forced closure. It had limitations. My instincts told me it’s just not the right location anymore.”

On Thursday, a For Lease sign wallpapered the front of O-B House’s tangerine-colored building, while a forklift stood nearby on the sidewalk.

“OB is leaving this location and while it’s been a ride, we’re sad to leave,” Ely and Johnson . “Thank you for joining us, whether it was one time or whether you were a regular, we thank you.”

When it debuted in August 2011, the O-B House stood among the rare downtown restaurants open before 10 a.m., catering to early risers and tourists beside the Himmarshee bars and nightclubs still buzzing from the night before. It offered customers rustic walls adorned with old photo prints of World War II sailors, a gravel patio and generously portioned omelets and buttermilk biscuit sandwiches.

Dense, oven-baked buttermilk pancakes stood among the most popular menu items at O-B House, which closed its longtime location in downtown Fort Lauderdale after lunch service on Feb. 3. The breakfast-lunch restaurant plans to relocate to a new brick-and-mortar in Fort Lauderdale.
Jason Leidy / Middle River Arts / Courtesy
Dense, oven-baked buttermilk pancakes stood among the most requested menu items at O-B House, which closed its longtime location in downtown Fort Lauderdale after lunch service on Feb. 3. (Jason Leidy / Middle River Arts / Courtesy)

No menu items were more generously portioned than its dense, casserole-thick pancakes, served in a cast-iron pan and made with buttermilk, organic flour, sour cream and Vermont maple syrup. A week before O-B House opened, Ely recalls barricading himself in the kitchen, refining the recipe.

“One of the secrets to that pancake was the amount of egg I used in that batter,” he says. “I had to invent a pancake where, when people saw it, their heads would explode, not only by how it looked but by how it tasted.”

As much as it delighted customers, O-B House also polarized some.

The breakfast-lunch eatery maintained a strict no-menu-substitutions policy. Online reviews of customers complaining of overlong wait times, rude servers and mandatory service charges. The restaurant also made headlines in 2016 for eighty-sixing its tipping policy by raising menu prices instead.

On the South Florida ֱ-run Facebook page, “Let’s Eat, South Florida,” patrons sounded off . One customer, Vanessa Apotheker, liked the service but compared it to “the soup nazi from Seinfeld.”

“The way Rodney would allow zero substitutions — anything resembling a complaint, you’d get kicked out,” she wrote.

“Best bacon, cheese grits and pancakes in town,” another customer, Barbra Anne-Stern, opined. “Loved being able to sit outside with the dogs.”

Ely agrees that O-B House’s policies could be divisive but defends their usefulness in creating a “better customer experience,” he says.

“That philosophy is what has made the brand so successful, even though it’s polarizing,” Ely says. “People have these preconceived notions for what breakfast should mean to them. It’s about experiencing someone else’s cooking, their vision, not recreating something that you can cook for yourself at home.”

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