Hotcakes, hot coffee, and a chance to ogle hostess Lynnie Sprinkles' outfit du jour: That's proving to be the recipe for success at Woodmere's Original Pancake House (28700 Chagrin Boulevard, 216-292-7777), the popular East Side breakfast spot that opened last April.
"She's like performance art," says Jane Frazin, who operates the Pancake House with husband Mike. "I've had to tell her to watch her language once or twice, but otherwise, she's been great."
For a 57-year-old grandmother of two, Sprinkles (also known as Lynn Norris) is quite the exotic dish -- part French toast, part red-hot chile pepper -- and her outrageous outfits and exuberant personality go a long way toward spicing up a visit to the otherwise reasonably normal eatery.
"I'm sure people come in here just to see what she's wearing," Frazin says. And why wouldn't they? One day may find Sprinkles in head-to-toe polka dots; another, in 1920s flapper getup; and on yet another, she may waltz in wearing a floor-length, sequined, emerald-green sheath, accessorized with an embroidered Mexican bolero jacket, black-beaded choker, rhinestone-encrusted earrings, silvery metallic socks, and a fistful of cocktail rings -- including a five-carat, marquis-cut, faux diamond. ("Five dollars at Stein Mart!" she beams.)
"I'm a Bohemian," says Sprinkles, a sort of one-woman Red Hat Society. "My style is kind of gutsy. And sometimes I get a little risqué." She's fond of announcing that Liberace is her folk hero and that she dreams up her outfits while she's having sex.
Actually, though, Sprinkles' sartorial journey began not between the sheets, but following her 1979 divorce. "It set me free spiritually," she says, "and I found myself feeling quite creative." Since then, she has raised three children, worked "a million" jobs, and married a man 14 years her junior. Most important, she's accumulated a vast wardrobe of thrift-store finds, discount bargains, vintage wear, and hand-me-downs, which she dons for any and every occasion.
In fact, Sprinkles has a hard time understanding why the rest of us choose to look so boring. "The human spirit loves diversity and color," she maintains. "People are sick of being robotized and having to conform, and I think that people really appreciate my freedom of expression."
"Everyone seems to get a kick out of it," Frazin concurs. "Even our more conservative customers enjoy seeing what Lynn has on. We haven't got a bit of negative feedback."
Of course, Sprinkles' fashion flair has raised a few eyebrows. She says she's lost several job opportunities because of her insistence on self-expression, and during a trip to Disney World, fellow tourists understandably mistook her for a member of Mickey's troupe. And even inside the accepting atmosphere of the Pancake House, she's shaken up some of her co-workers. It took chef Stephan Yoder four months to get up the nerve to speak to her.
"She freaked me out," Yoder can now say with a laugh. "If I saw her coming, I'd run away."
Still, Sprinkles knows her gig is one in a million. "It's wonderful to work for Jane and Mike," she says warmly. "They let me do my thing, and it's been a blast."
Then, she adds the qualifier. "Of course, Mike doesn't want me to wear my Las Vegas showgirl costume . . ." she giggles. "But other than that, it's been great!"
The Original Pancake House is open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Sprinkles takes the weekend off.