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IHOP - What to order and what to skip?

Please no "skip IHOP" replies.

I feel like revisiting some chains.

I was a kid when IHOP opened in New Haven, CT. It was quite the novelty at the time and a special treat for a Sunday breakfast ... the extensive menu with exotic pancakes and a half dozen different flavored syrups.

The last time I ate at IHOP more than 10 years ago it was one of the most miserable meals of my life. It had not only gone downhill it had gone down to hell ... the coffee little more than brown water, the watery, yet greasy hash browns, etc.

Anyway, I'm curious to see how it is these days. So what are favorites and what are best ignored?
They seem to be on a health kick these days with 'Simple & Fit" choices. How are those

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  1. The wife always orders their whole-grain pancakes (instead of the buttermilk version, which I tend to order). Those whole-grain cakes seem to fall apart soon after some warm syrup is applied, resulting in tufts of what looks like between-the-walls housing insulation. Maybe they are better for you than the buttermilk variety, but they just seem kinda mealy after a few bites and strokes of the butter knife... If I am really (really) running-on-empty-hungry, i will order their chicken-fried steak, sided with biscuits and gravy. The CFS is massive both in diameter and in depth, and stays fairly crunchy even when doused with the white country gravy. Tender it is not; filling, it most certainly is. I hardly ever order it anymore, since I've noticed the accompanying menu calorie count of the item. Just about a day's worth of calories (and sodium) in one meal. Wiser minds (and stomachs) should take half home for dinner, as there will be plenty left over...

    1 Reply
    1. re: silence9

      We went today. My kid wanted pancakes. The one near us is clean, up to date, and always busy. I had a caramel hot chocolate, which was served in a huge cup, and was delicious. They had their new "holiday pancakes" - white chocolate with mint, pumpkin praline, and eggnog. We asked for a sample of the eggnog filing, both my wife and I thought it was gross. I ended up getting two white chocolate & mint pancakes (meh), and 2 pumpkin pancakes. The latter was really good. Pumpkin in the batter, a bit of caramel sauce, and crunchy cinnamon coated (I'm guessing) pecans. I'd get these again, except... carbs knock me out. Went home and took a 3 hour nap with the baby. Apparently they knocked her out, too. :)

    2. I recently went with a vegan friend, who was having trouble finding something to eat. He asked if they could make him anything, and they offered him fried apples, which were really quite tasty. I don't know if it was just those particular cooks, or if all Ihops offer this vegan option upon request, but it'd be worth a shot.

      1 Reply
      1. re: luciaannek

        Erm...are you sure the fried apples were vegan? I thought apples were usually fried in some mixture of butter/sugar/cinnamon/etc.

      2. I think it depends on the location -- we have 3 IHOPs in our general area, and prefer to go to a specific one because the food is cooked better there. My kids love IHOP so we go about once a month.

        I love their buttermilk pancakes with the blueberry syrup. Their omelets are pretty good, depending on the cook/chef. I like the Country omelet, which is ham, cheese, onions, hashbrowns and topped with a dollop of sour cream (I tell them to go light on the cheese). Kids like the belgian waffle and the chocolate chip pancakes.

          1. For breakfast, stick with the original buttermilk pancakes. The other specialty varieties (e.g. cheesecake, any of the fruit ones, etc.) are just too sweet.

            1. When my kitchen was being remodeled we ate a lot of breakfasts at IHOPs in my area.

              I think it's less a question of what to order than which one to go to. There can be a tremendous variation in the quality of cooking at different locations.

              At the time (a couple years ago) I got fond of the cornmeal pancakes with a fried egg on top.

              1. The Country Fried Steak with Eggs was enjoyed the last time I was there.

                1 Reply
                1. re: fourunder

                  Second this, it was really good.

                  The Biscuits and Gravy Combo is great as are the Chicken Florentine Crepes.

                2. Their basic buttermilk pancakes are consistant tasting and good.

                  1. I always get the Harvest Grain and Nut Pancakes. Their bacon is good too if you order it crispy.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: mdepsmom

                      There's a combo with the Harvest Grain and Nut Pancakes and scrambled Egg Beaters. I enjoyed that plus a side of turkey bacon, extra crispy, three mornings in a row during a recent stay in a small town with very limited dining options.

                    2. Interesting about how good the food is being location dependant. That might explain why I hear some inexplicable reports about it being good given my last two experiences.

                      Has anyone tried the funnel cakes that are their current promotion?

                      13 Replies
                      1. re: rworange

                        Interesting about how good the food is being location dependent

                        I think that can be said of any Franchise or Chain food related business.

                        1. re: fourunder

                          Nope. I have never been in a Denny's that has any big difference than any other Denny's. I really can't think of another chain that is this inconsistant. THat's the whole point of these type of restaurants ... reliable, if unexciting food. The surprise of food Russian roulette at IHOP doesn't speak well of them.

                          1. re: rworange

                            How about Five Guys, Waffle House, Burger King, McDonalds, Wendy's, Hardee's, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell. Cracker Barrel, Subway, Quiznos, Claim Jumper, Houlihan's, Friday's, Cheescake Factory, McCormick & Schmick's and Applebees.......the list goes on and on.

                            1. re: fourunder

                              As in being consistant or inconsistant? Even in Guatemala, I could have been walking into any BK, McDonald's, Taco bell, Subway in the US, only the menus were in Spanish. Exactly same taste as US menu items, soda excepted since they use sugar rather than HFCS. There's actually an IHOP in Guatemala City. I didn't go, but someone I know did and I blown away by the outrageous for Guatemala price for the steak and eggs ... $12.95 ... For that price I had lunches at some of the best restaurnts in the country. Too much for a chain

                              1. re: rworange

                                As in being consistant or inconsistant?

                                Really....if you cannot figure out the context of my response, I have no desire to have a discussion with someone who is disingenuous.....especially since my response was to your comment of...

                                "I really can't think of another chain that is this inconsistant."

                                ...in your immediate prior post.

                                1. re: fourunder

                                  Sorry, I wasn't reding your responses like love letters, savoring each syllable. I didn't realize you had commented upstream that all francheses are inconsistant.

                                  So ... no ... NONE of the restaurants you mentioned are inconsistant as I cloarified. I've eaten at McDonalds on three continents and the food alll tastes the same and ... again ... that is the REASON for fast food ... you know what to expect ... usually even in decor. A McDonald's in a foreign land will pull me in if only because I know the rest rooms wil be the same as the US.

                                  I don't see what is disingenous about that. I don't agree with your initial post or the subsequent one that points out a number of consistant restaurants unlike IHOP ... unless IHOP is consistantly lousy. However, there are reports on Chowhound that seem to differ with that premise ... some can be good .. or at least decent.

                                2. re: rworange

                                  I went to a Burger King in Dublin recentlly (I know, the only thing open at that hour) and had the worst hamburger imaginable. I went to another one down the street a couple of days later (again, only thing open) and it was warm and fresh and tasty. Same amount of alcohol consumed on both evenings.

                                  Just my $.02.

                                3. re: fourunder

                                  I haven't been to all of those chains nor in many locations, but yes, I agree that there are inconsistencies within chains. I'd add In & Out to the list as well as Rubio's. Both started in Southern California and the further away you get from SoCal, the more divergence in execution. The McD's in France turn out much better fries, judging from three samplings in three different French towns. Wish that the ones in the US would take a lesson.

                                  As far as the question about IHOP, all the syrups I tried were awful tasting. I imagine that they're all made in the same place and distributed to individual restaurants, so I'm not sure how I could ever enjoy something there that was meant to be served with syrups.

                                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                                    IHOP's remind me of cough syrup. Maple is the only tolerable one.

                                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                                      My thought is that out of the US, the chains don't use the preservatives like in the US. Real sugar is used instead of HFCS. As a result, the food tastes better.

                                      I did a few more forrays into IHOP and the opinion I'm forming is that if the IHOP looks old and worn like no one cares, that is how the food will be

                                      IHOP from my experience does one thing and only one thing well ... pancakes.

                                      The crepes are a horror. They are basically the pancakes rolled around something.

                                      Unfortunately the syrup is really bad. I did learn one thing when I ordered the pumpkin pancakes which were actually very good with nice pumpkin flavor. That is they keep the original syrup in the kitchen. It isn't great but it is better than anything on the table and it is served warm.

                                      1. re: rworange

                                        No, that's not all of it. American chains reformulate to match local tastes. The pizza at Pizza Hut in Taipei was something that I'd be willing to eat for a quick lunch with my Taiwanese colleagues. And they were extremely disappointed with what Pizza Hut serves in the US.

                                        1. re: rworange

                                          Their blintzes are more like crepes. If I go to IHOP that's what I usually order. I'm not a pancake eater (except for potato!).

                                    2. re: rworange

                                      I wonder if IHOPs are franchises where individual ownership is the factor that makes the big difference. I know that near me there are 2 IHOPs. Neither is farther from the main traffic but one might have a slightly lower socio-economic and more ethnic profile clientele. I'm talking slight variation here. Nevertheless, it's the one in the slightly more middle class and diverse neighborhood that has consistently well prepared breakfasts and that you have a much longer wait to get into.

                                      Could be just who has better cooks but I have to think something about ownership/management sets standards and creates conditions that more talented people want to work in.

                                4. They took them off the menu a while ago, but at least in VA, most locations will still make pigs in a blanket (sausage links wrapped in their buttermilk pancakes) if you ask. I like them.

                                  Even though I love hash browns, I've skipped those at IHOP for the last few years. They just kept coming out barely cooked (sometimes not even) and drowning in grease.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: ForFoodsSake

                                    Yep. Sounds like the last time I had hash browns there. Pigs in the blanket ... that was one of the original menu items at IHOP. I used to love them as a kid. IHOP was the first time I had seen these.

                                  2. I like the cheese blintzes. Get the fruit and sour cream on the side. That's what I order when I go. I also ask them to hold the powder sugar.

                                    1. I like the pork chops and eggs on the rare occasions I go. I'm not a fan of pancakes so my husband gets the two that come on the side. I used to like the omelets before I found out they ladle in pancake batter to make them fluffier (warning to my fellow gluten-avoiding brethren).

                                      1. a stack of the plain pancakes with butter and syrup, coffee

                                        1. The waffles and the crepes are good. My husband likes their cheese omlets, they come with pancakes instead of toast.

                                          1. I went a couple of months ago for the first time in many years. The omlettes was horrible - dried-out eggs with whatever "fillings" you ordered sprinkled on top of the eggs. The orange juice was also awful - fake tasting and packed with ice.

                                            My friend got a pancake on the side and it was the only thing he liked about his meal (I forget the main thing he ordered.)

                                            1. Oh, and P.S. to my last post, the hash browns were VILE - very pale white, not even browned - no flavor whatsoever.

                                              1. Went to an IHOP last week. Wasn't bad. I NEVER order the omelettes as on the menu 'cuz they put pancake batter in them but, eggs straight up w/hash browns. Good and crispy outside light inside. When I want an omelette, I ALWAYS make sure they too are straight up eggs.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Kitchen Queen

                                                  OMG I never knew they put batter in their omette eggs. No wonder they were tasty and fluffy. Now they are as thin and tasteless as crepes. Same is true with their scrambled eggs. I complained to IHOP in a survey about the omelettes and they never answered me. Now I know why. Eggs over medium for me from now on.