Review | Written and photographed by Nathan Mattise
1) It’s important to recognize there are some big chain diners out there and they also need to be looked at closely.
2)… they had International Pancake Day recently (and we just happened to be there).
Now, the first thing to note about IHOP is that the ambiance is nearly the same at all of them. Crowds are always average, the hours are standard regardless of location across the country. It makes it hard to judge IHOP in our standards because so much of what makes a diner enjoyable (the decor, the crowds, the quirky hours) is taken out of the equation. In fact, I didn’t even bother taking exterior and interior photos of the place so allow these pics (via food.cjonline.com and web.mit.edu) to suffice for anyone who has never had the pleasure of being inside and out (seriously, see the caption below) of an IHOP.
If you get past the chain mentality however, my experiences with IHOP have been largely positive. My server is always personable – never takes themselves to seriously, quick to joke and typically causes me to leave the diner remembering his/her name and brief bio (like Chris, the former all-county high school gymnast who served a friend and I on our last trip).
Their prices in the overall scheme of diners aren’t great. Their full breakfast special, named the Breakfast Sampler, runs $8.99 for two eggs, bacon, sausage, ham, pancakes and a side of homefries. Probably more food than you or I can handle but you pay for it (fiscally and physically – and no toast or coffee included). They do run specials like Pancake Day or College ID 20 Percent Off nights but it’s still more than most local diners. If you can get by the price the food is OK – eggs are extremely flavorful (a.k.a. greasy and buttery) and the thinly diced homefries have won me over. They have a good mix of texture when some of them are crisper than others, surprisingly modest on the salt but that signature fast food grease still keeps them from being too dry. Just combine them with the eggs and you’ll have a mouth damp with flavor.
Despite being a house of worship for those breakfast sand dollars, the signature is french toast of the stuffed variety (seen to the right via projo.com). IHOP’s stuffed french toast comes in a variety of flavors (banana pecan, strawberry, cinnamon swirl, blueberry) with the toast acting as a fully enclosed breakfast pita, filled with flavored cream and topped accordingly with your selected flavor (plus whip creme). If you’re not in the mood for dessert for breakfast, skip it. However if you’re craving something so sweet that you won’t even want to add on eggs and homefries to make a combo, the french toast will satisfy your tastebuds. I can’t comment on anything besides breakfast in this situation. When your establishment is named after pancakes, I have a hard time mustering up the courage for even a simple burger. Stick with the breakfast and you won’t be disappointed. The pancakes were even good (light yet thick, not presmothered in butter) on Pancake Day when they were clearly being mass produced at light speed.
The Final Tab
Pros: Shockingly good service, stuffed french toast, locations across the country with similar (albeit it ho-hum) ambiance.
Cons: Cost, big chain mentality, the similar ambiance (that’s right – a positive AND negative)
Three Out Of Five (Basic combo | It’s OK – try it.)