Battle of the Breakfasts: IHOP vs. Pancake House PancakesFebruary 5, 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 time has come. After an exhausting first two rounds—first on their waffles, where no one contender took home the prize, and next on their french toast, where Pancake House won by a small margin—we arrive at the final battle. On this grand finale we’ll be looking their actual flagship product, the very breakfast item after which they take their name: pancakes.
Homegrown favorite Pancake House’s been serving up their signature flapjacks since the 1970’s. International chain IHOP on the other hand has been serving pancakes in the US since the late 50’s, bringing the franchise to our shores in 2013. Both have cult followings: the former will be more familiar to many a Filipino tongue, while the latter became the subject of much hype (with long lines to get in!) when it made its Philippine debut four years ago.
Can IHOP’s pancakes stand a chance against the well-loved, tried-and-tested local chain?
IHOP’s original buttermilk pancakes (P145/2pcs; P245/4PCS)
Each individual pancake at IHOP comes huge and thick. Slice into it and you find a fluffy, open crumb that falls apart easily, but at least feels far from tough. With a coarse and hearty texture, these flapjacks feel heavy and can sure fill the stomach, but will happily soak up any additional syrup or toppings without disintegrating. These carry a floury mouthfeel when you take a bite, but deliver on the nostalgic, sweet-salty ‘homemade pancake’ flavor (similar to their waffles) with a hint of tang that likely comes from the buttermilk. Better yet, you’ve got four syrups on the table to choose from—original, butter pecan, blueberry, and strawberry—all of which (as I’ve said before) taste artificial and saccharine by themselves, but contrast well with the salted butter to sweeten up the mixture.
By default you get four substantial pieces in a plate, which can feel intimidating to finish alone (though we won’t judge you if you do). If you squint hard enough you’ll find a smaller, 2-piece option on the menu, but even that can get really heavy—more conducive to sending you back to bed for a post-meal nap. (You’re more than welcome to share your plate with a friend in any case.)
PANCAKE HOUSE’s classic pancakes (p145/2pcs; P179/3PCS)
In direct contrast to IHOP’s mammoth flapjacks, Pancake House gives you delicate, even-looking pancakes with a softness and airiness that veer more toward cake than muffin. We mean this in the best way possible though; they come fluffy, light, and literally melt in the mouth, revealing an eggy flavor similar to what you’d find on their waffles. The lack of sweetness leaves you free to sweeten your plate by pouring in as little or as much syrup as your heart desires, or your blood sugar levels can tolerate, while the whipped butter provides saltiness and richness like the icing on a cake.
The way the plate comes together must be tried to be believed—each part plays a role in the whole, and the resulting whole is delicious symphony. And with their lightness, it’s easy to polish off a plate of two, even three, pieces and still have room for their other menu items. (Fried chicken, anyone?)
Once again you have a clear case of two widely different takes on a classic dish. In many ways, their differences between the two parallel that of our waffle battle: IHOP goes big and bold—a reflection of the all-American love of excess—while Pancake House shows restraint, keeping relatively smaller Asian appetite in mind. Both are good in their own right, but after much deliberation (and way too many pancakes ingested), we award the crown to Pancake House. It might be smaller and lighter, but this makes for forkfuls that are dreamy and fluffy without weighing you down immediately. You get just the right amount of fullness and indulgence to get you through the rest of the day.