First Impressions on IHOP Philippines

August 30, 2018

If my fuzzy, syrupy sense of nostalgia serves me right, IHOP (International House of Pancakes) is a cozy place where you can have breakfast in your pajamas. Think of a wide, one-story space with old-fashioned booths and lighting fixtures, checkered tablecloths, and homemade food that makes mommas across North America proud. It’s the mother of all breakfast places, with 54 years of fluffy pancake goodness under its (probably bursting) belt.

Having had a few breakfasts at several IHOP locations, I was more than excited when I heard that IHOP was hitting Philippine shores. And since it’s a global franchise, I expected nothing less than the same hearty stacks of pancakes, crispy bacon and perfectly-cooked eggs. The whole nine yards, as far as comfort food goes, all served in the same warm, homey ambiance that old-fashioned diners are associated with (and perhaps minus the plump, white, middle-aged waitresses).

Instead, what I got was a completely different animal. Tucked into a row of restaurants along the ever-expanding Bonifacio High Street, the first-ever IHOP in Manila greeted me with a daunting façade, a long line of waiting, hungry customers, and modern interior. I guess it’s not their fault that news of their recent opening created so much buzz that a line of plastic chairs had to be placed along the entrance for the people who queued up. But the atmosphere in the two-story restaurant was definitely not warm, nor inviting. Instead of the quiet glow of a friendly diner, you get the glare of snazzy prints, overhead canvas lamps, and modern typefaces. It’s not exactly bad, but it is a bit jarring for your first meal of the day.

Spinach & Mushroom Hash Brown Stack (Php 295)

Big Steak Omelette (Php 325)

New York Cheesecake Pancakes (Php 285)

CINN-A-STACK Pancakes (Php 235)

Chocolate Chip Pancakes (this came with the Hash Brown Stack)

Buttermilk Pancakes (this came with the Big-Steak Omelette)

Although it had an extensive menu, the dishes we had did not live up to their promising descriptions. Even their quick and friendly service was not enough to mask the disappointingly lackluster quality of the Big Steak Omelette, Buttermilk Pancakes (which IHOP is famous for), New York Cheesecake Pancakes, and CINN-A-STACK Pancakes.

The steak strips used in the omelette were not as tender as their menu advertised, and the pancakes could have benefitted from a few more seconds on the griddle. The only menu item that we remotely enjoyed was the Spinach & Mushroom Hash Brown Stack. This dish of golden potato cakes topped with sautéed vegetables, melted cheese, and hollandaise sauce tasted like the early sunrise of a perfect day. It was also a stark contrast to the Chocolate Chip Pancakes, which was arguably the worst dish on the table. Unless you happen to like your pancakes dry, salty, and hardly tasting of the chocolate chips they’re supposed to be studded with.

While the typical IHOP customer doesn’t expect extraordinary food, s/he does look for the uncomplicated feel of a small-town diner, something that IHOP Manila did not deliver. And even though the plating of the food was quite rustic (think lopsided stacks of pancakes that looked like they were all made with love), it still doesn’t make you forget the feeling of biting into a pancake, and ending up with a mouthful of raw batter. But to be fair, there were a lot of customers on the day we paid them a visit. That, along with having a broad menu and being on soft opening, does make churning out consistently well-executed dishes a pretty tall order.

Well, maybe it’s my fault that I expected the same relaxed vibe that I enjoyed in the US IHOP branches. Maybe the market research behind building the IHOP brand in Manila called for a different setting. The local all-day breakfast scene probably isn’t about waking up at noon-thirty, and going out for scrambled eggs and French toast without changing out of your sleepwear.

But I can think of a few places around the metro where I can do just that. So, in the meantime, we’ll give them a try, and pay IHOP another visit once they’ve got their eggs (and pancakes) all lined up.

Giselle Jose Giselle Jose

A yoghurt aficionado and grilled cheese enthusiast, Giselle likes exploring new ways for vegetarians to eat like pigs (while also saving them!). Currently a freshman at the UP College of Law, she also likes waking up at the crack of noon, taking unnecessary naps, traveling the world, and dodging real work by hanging out with her beagle instead.

29 comments in this post SHOW

29 responses to “First Impressions on IHOP Philippines”

  1. Rob Cham says:

    How about iNOPE no? No? okay no

  2. Gin Chung says:

    Agree! I’ve never been to iHOP in the US so my only gauge is Pancake House, Maple, Charlie’s, Milky and Sonny and whatever I can whip up in my home kitchen. Thankfully, we didn’t have to wait too long since we went early on a Thursday night. The food only took about 5-10 minutes to be served and was hot when it came.

    We ordered the Spinach and Mushroom Hashbrown Stack with a side of Cinn-a-stack pancakes and the Philly Cheeseteak. The hashbrown stack was very good with its golden brown potatoes, well-seasoned spinach, earthy mushrooms and melted, gooey cheese. But sadly, the Cinn-a-stack pancakes tasted exactly like Cinnabon. I felt the bottom pancake (didn’t have as much sauce) was dry but for some reason became a ball of mush when I started chewing it. For the Philly Cheesesteak, iHOP ran out of the sandwich bun (can you believe it?) So they offered that we can order it but on a hamburger bun, which we agreed since they seemed to have run out of the bestsellers of their dinner menu (no fried chicken and salpicao). In all fairness, I think it was better to have it on the burger bun since you can eat more meat in a single bite than if in a sandwich bun. The meat was cooked and seasoned well with a good amount of melted cheese on top. Overall a decent sandwich.

    iHOP is a fad here. It doesn’t have the quality to meet its pricepoint. Most of the food is easily created at home with same to better results, especially if you have to wait 2-3 hours for a table.

  3. Haven’t ate here yet, but I have the feeling na they are marketing iHOP as “sosy” when it’s… not.

  4. I knew something like this was going to happen! IHOP isn’t really an “it” place for scenesters. They should focus on a homey atmosphere and making comfort food, just like you said! Raw batter is a no-no, and if Pancake House can avoid that mistake every single visit, so can they!

    (also, hi Giselle. hihihi)

  5. hylander says:

    Overrated, overhyped IMO.. I actually prefer Pancake House and Flapjacks

  6. D Camacho says:

    Pancake Houseeee!!!!

  7. aben cruz says:

    my friends and i ate there just tonight. we gave the food a rating of 6 – 7/10 and had to go to 2nd’s, a resto across the street, to have a second dinner just to make up for the disappointment we experienced.

    we’ve had much much better pancakes from other places like pancake house, seattle’s best (a lot cheaper but quality is superb), heaven and eggs (RIP, hehe), and, dare i say, flapjacks.

  8. Kris says:

    IHOP dubai has the exact same thing. i guess it’s just another overrated restaurant that people actually thought would deliver in taste. they should get their eggs and pancakes sorted. we all can make a better omelette at home. 🙂 i would love to try milky and sunny when i go home to the philippines.

  9. jess reyes says:

    Better not be fooled with this IHOP craze. I was there this afternoon with 3 of my business partners and it was a disaster. I was even with 2 British guys and was bragging that it was good we had a table as my kids and I have been wanting to try it for weeks. I don’t blog nor read blogs but I had to do this and wanted to share a bad experience to my co-crazy pinoys. Two of us ordered pancakes and they were bad. They were crumbly and the taste was blah. Different from the IHOP pancakes in the US. What ever happened? Our local Pancake House’ are way even better! Mark, one of the two British guys, ordered fried chicken and our smart-aleck waiter said ‘Sorry, we ran out of chicken’. Andrew, the other B, ordered grilled chicken sandwich and our waiter said “Sorry, we ran out of that chicken also’. Same thing when I ordered caesar salad with grilled chicken. Andrew had to change his order to pot roast melt sandwich on sourdough bread. He wanted onion rings with his sandwich and the waiter said, “Sorry, we only have french fries”. Mark, on the other hand, ordered a burger instead. The waiter even had the guts to joke and say “Sorry to say… that we have those”. Funny!!! We waited for our orders for 15 minutes and our lousy pancakes came out first. After 15 more minutes, the pot roast melt sandwich was out served on white bread that looked Gardenia to me!!! Didn’t see any sourdough bread anywhere. Maybe the waiter was already scared to say his favorite line “sorry we ran out of sourdough bread”. After another 15 minutes, we followed up Mark’s burger. Our smart-aleck-now-scared waiter didn’t come out but his Manager did and said “Sorry we ran out of burger buns”. Whoah! And the burger on white Gardenia bread came out! Sorry I was not able to take a picture for everybody to see. Like what I said I am not a blogger and never thought of taking pictures of what I eat. It was such a pathetic sight! I was so frustrated that my foreign guests had to experience this kind of food and service. I kept my cool and lovingly told the waiter that they should give us discount for the bad experience we had. Our waiter came back and was happy to say that they will extend 5% discount. Well… it was better than nothing… So it was time for us to go as my partners had another meeting to run to. We asked for the bill and waited. After 10 minutes, we followed up and our waiter said, “sorry for the delay bec the managers are still meeting with regards to the 5% discount”. Wow. Big deal! So I told him to bring the bill and forget about the discount as we needed to hurry. I paid P2,400 (4 pax) for the lousiest lunch and service I ever had in my entire life!!! I will never go back to that IHOP! The queue you see outside is just a hype. So overrated. Give them a chance? No way!!! IHOP Intl should QA and set the standard and the local owner has been in the food business for so long! Just like CPK, pricey lousy food. No excuses for bad food and service. Saving grace for the day, we didn’t fall in line to get a table! We entered smiling and went out robbed of P2,400.

  10. Tiff says:

    Kudos for making an honest review! I had my IHOP Fort experience last night and was so disappointed! I went online and wanted to see what food bloggers had to say, surprisingly most food bloggers just went on and on in praising this over-hyped version of the well loved pancake house in the US. We ordered the strawberry cheesecake pancakes but it was out of stock so we opted for the stuffed french toast and blueberry pancakes instead. Waited 30 minutes for our orders to come, when they were served, they looked old and unappetizing. Pancakes tasted like paper and the stuffed french toast was bland. Strawberries were mushy from being frozen… Two Thumbs down! Makes me miss Heaven and Eggs!

  11. Christina says:

    Erm… to me, IHOP in the US isn’t so much a cozy diner experience as a big chain restaurant experience, quantity over quality, and way too sweet. So maybe the international versions aren’t that far off the mark… It does sound like they’re trying to fancify it a bit outside the US, which is a strange branding maneuver.

    Thanks for an honest review!

  12. new bait on the hook. a lot will bite at first, but soon it will wane down. too expensive and people are shelling out just for the sake of saying that they ate at ihop and not because they are really craving for it.

  13. Marty says:

    Spot on review!

  14. Marty says:

    IHOP Manila pancakes reminded of of “puto in a bilao”.. same texture, same dryness, same crumbling mess.. In fact mas masarap pa nga yung puto with its salted egg and cheese!

  15. IHOP Manila’s pancakes remind of of “puto sa bilao” – same texture, same rubbery feel.. in fact puto is better with its salted egg and cheese

    I wonder if these are pre made and just microwave these pancakes before serving since they serve it with warm-hot plates.

  16. Jamela Belle says:

    We ate there last night!! So disappointed! The rice was cold and man I could’ve made a better pancake!! :/ And their hashbrowns looked like Okoy. hehe

  17. The thing I’ve noticed. Any food establishment that comes this way from the states. There is always something lacking. Taste, options, customer service……. It sucks to know what I should expect, but it always comes up lacking. =/….. Quality control should really be enforced from state side, instead of leaving it up to this side.

  18. gonbamboo says:

    The worst breakfast experience of all. There is absolutely nothing to be said good about this place. It certainly ain’t even close to the Ihop’s in the US. The food and staff are absolutely horrible. Opening more locations you say? Save your money unless you can overhaul your kitchen and employee’s……and I thought the Pancake house sucked!!!!

  19. Arianne Albag says:

    But in my case, I was able to take a seat upon arrival last Tuesday morning. I ordered CINN-A-STACK Pancakes, SIMPLE & FIT Spinach, Mushroom & Tomato Omelette and Splashberry. I like the taste of the omelette and splashberry.. But for the pancakes, I have noticed that while slicing, it get crushed. Which is not good when you use fork. I would love to eat pancake from Pancake House and McDo.

  20. We just ate here kanina, it was alright, I ordered the French Pot Roast dinner and the pot roast was good, but the rest was ehhh, the potato, corn, and pancake were all below average. Overall a bit too expensive for what they offer.

  21. Anny Romero Farinas says:

    My craving for pancake led me here. But after reading some comments I might as well make my own hotcakes hehe

  22. Anny Romero Farinas says:

    Pancake house is good but a bit expensive. My craving can wait.. First thing in the morning I’ll be at Jollibee ordering 2 pcs of pancakes with extra butter and maple and hot choco, for less than a hundred bucks hehe

  23. angle says:

    Ihop BGC is a disappointment. You wouldn’t want your pancakes served like a sponge, buhaghag, with just 2 strips of bacon and small sausages at an overrated price. grrrr.

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