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Is there a difference between Bakers Square, Carrows, Denny's, IHOP and Marie Calendars?

If there is, how would you rank them and why?

For the life of me, I've never been able to discern a difference.

But while waiting in line at the market today, two ladies in front me were having a rather heated discussion about the merits of Carrows versus Bakers Square versus Denny's. For a minute there, I almost thought that they were going to go to blows to settle the issue. (One of them did pick up one of those rubberized separators and started waiving it rather menacingly, however.)

I'm not asking if these places are any good (that's a separate issue).

I just want to know if there is a real difference between any of these joints?

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  1. Not sure there's a lot of difference between Denny's and IHOP save for the brilliant individual thermal carafe of coffee at IHOP. Marie Calendars definitely distinguishes itself with excellent pies of all sorts. I've never eaten at Carrows, so I can't comment there.

    So, personally, for breakfast, I prefer IHOP....for pie, Marie Calendars. For anything else, none of the above.

    7 Replies
    1. re: ccbweb

      I would say that Marie Callender's and Baker's Square distinguishes themselves at doing it a little better than the others. Can't comment on Callows since I have never been. To me Denny's is a low brow version of the 24 hour restaurant, I know it boggles the mind. IHOP to me is an anachronism, they don't adhere to what is best of the diner craze and they also don't follow the best of being corporate in terms of service, cleanliness or consistency.

      1. re: ccbweb

        Yes,the best feature of IHOP is the thermal carafe of coffee placed on your table and refilled often, if needed. I like that and usually stick with the breakfasts especially the grain and nut pancakes. Haven't been to the others in years but remember Denny's as late night stop and Marie Callendar's for pies.

        1. re: foodseek

          i haven't been to ihop or denny's in years, and i've never been to any of the other places...but i remember when i was a kid we always thought it was such a great treat when we were allowed to order those chocolate chip pancakes @ ihop. they made a smiley face with the chips and garnished them with whipped cream. plus, i got my very own little jar of boysenberry syrup to pour on my silver dollar pancakes. i know, i know. boysenberry??? hey, i was a kid, what can i say? :)

          anyway, as far as the difference between the two places i think i've always considered ihop to be more of a breakfast-y place, i.e. pancakes, french toast, potato pancakes, etc...while denny's was more for savory meals [although i do recall occasionally diving into a banana split during late-night college study sessions @ denny's....]

          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

            How could I forget those chocolate chip pancakes at IHOP. Yes, they were sweet,gooey, and probably not made of things that would make an adult swoon but they were memory breakfasts for a kid. I loved them especially the whipped cream topping. Thanks for the memories goodhealthgourmet!

            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

              What's wrong with boysenberry syrup? Comes from a fabulous hybrid developed by the Knott's family, I believe.

              1. re: PommeDeGuerre

                nothing's *wrong* with it, per se...i just recall that the particular stuff they served @ ihop was obnoxiously sweet and very thin/runny....the kind of thing that would easily please a kid's palate, but now the thought of it just isn't very appealing.

                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                  Fair enough. Althoough I find that most of the better tasting syrups are a bit thin and runny, no thickeners added like in so many "maple" syrups, and a sign that they are not perhaps quite as loaded with sugar or cooked to as a high a temp, though not always the case.

        2. Marie Callender's and Bakers Square have a larger selection of pies than Denny's, Carrows and IHOP. I have spent more time at Denny's than at any of the others, especially in high school and college, when it was the main late-night dining option.

          1. Yes, I think their menus are different. But of course they all go for the same type of home style food. Marie Callendar's and Baker's Square are known for their pies (which I haven't tried, but I know it's their selling point). Denny's and IHOP are those kind of all-night diner type places you can find after a night of driving.

            1. I have no idea about Carrows; I've never been. Denny's is a short-order diner. As is IHOP but focusing on breakfast. Baker's Square is a little more upscale as is Marie Callender's. I don't remember about Baker's Square, but Marie Callender's has a bar, so I'd describe it as a quieter, more family oriented restaurant than Chili's or Applebee's.

              Have you ever been to any of the restaurants you can't tell apart? I've never been to the Rainbow Room, nor have I been to a Bubba Gumps. For the life of me, I am not able to discern a difference.

              1. They are all lumped in the same catagory for me. Places I will only go if nothing else is available/open, and I am starving.

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