Battle of the Breakfasts, Round II: IHOP vs. Pancake House, the French Toast Face-offJanuary 30, 2017
We put American chain International House of Pancakes (IHOP) and beloved local Pancake House against each other for a series that battles out breakfast classics.
The last round had us comparing foreign franchise IHOP’s and homegrown Pancake House’s waffles, where we couldn’t declare a definitive winner based on their widely different styles. But our breakfast battle continues strong. On this round, we take a look at another breakfast/brunch/any-time-of-the-day favorite, French Toast.
Multiple stories run abound on the origins of its name. One legend claims it was invented by a New York innkeeper named Joseph French. Either way, French toast isn’t actually French—or at least not exclusively so, with similar traditional dishes hailing from Germany and Spain. Regardless of origin, the dish is not only a decadent way to start the day, but also a great way to use up any stale bread you might have in the cupboard. A dip in a milk-and-egg (and occasionally, cream) mixture fills up every nook and cranny and revives it from its dry state, while a good sear on the pan seals the deal and gives it a golden-brown crust.
While French toast takes to any sweet (or even savory) topping combinations, it is also delicious in its barest form: with butter and syrup. But which breakfast chain serves up the better basic version?
IHOP – Our Original French Toast (P195)
An order gets you four bread triangles (two less than the six-piece serving you’d get in the US), each about ½-¾ inches thick—a tad thicker than the standard commercial pre-sliced bread. You’ll notice the more vivid shade of yellow across its surface—a visual prelude to the stronger taste of egg yolk on these toasts. The texture is still moist inside but with the gummier denseness of egg, giving each bite more heft.
Served alongside whipped butter (which I’ve waxed poetic about previously) and syrup, you get a similar sensation of sweet and salty. It’s predictable but nostalgic, and succeeds in soothing after a long, winding day.
Pancake House – French Toast (P159.50)
Pancake House’s version gives you only two pieces to work with, but each one comes bigger and thicker than IHOP’s, making it much more pleasurable to sink the teeth into. These toasts are less eggy, thanks to what I presume to be a higher proportion of milk in the soaking custard, but carry the nostalgic warmth of cinnamon in the backdrop. Inside these are softer and more moist, closer to a slightly wet soufflé than an omelette, and this is wonderful in contrast with the lightly crisp, powdered sugar-dusted top. The plate is served with just the right amount of syrup poured on, which takes out the guesswork on your part (though you still get a small pot on the side for extra dousing).
If there’s one thing I’m not a huge fan of, it’s the whipped “cream” on the side which—quite frankly—was too sweet and felt artificial, both in its greasy mouthfeel and undertones of vegetable oil. (Think nondairy coffee creamer, with the sweetness up a notch.) But you can just take it out or ask for it on the side; otherwise this is one tasty plate.
IHOP offers a push and pull of sweet and savory which, without a doubt, is delicious. Focusing on the toast itself however, Pancake House’s version offers a better bite (thanks to thicker slices of bread), better texture (thanks to its pillowy interior) and better flavor (it’s hard to go wrong with cinnamon). Don’t mind the cream issue; you could get an order of whipped butter on the side instead if you’re feeling extra indulgent (that’ll be P24.20 according to their menu), but really, just a small lashing of syrup is enough to fulfill any french toast fantasies. Don’t say we didn’t warn you if you end up finishing the entire plate in one breath.
But the fight is far from finished. Which breakfast chain does better at their true flagship products—pancakes?