Review: Exclusive Items at IHOP Express

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Last November, IHOP opened a new fast-casual concept in downtown San Diego, dubbed IHOP Express. The location is a testing ground for the new IHOP concept, which has a smaller footprint, and was designed to make the brand more accessible for people who are “on the go,” including university students and military personnel, according to Nation’s Restaurant News.

While one part of me was sad to see a ho-hum chain move into the Gaslamp Quarter, I did immediately concede that it’s a boon for tourists, and a really smart idea. My original plan was to visit the location and try out the new Lorax breakfast items (sprinkle pancakes, anyone?) but the Express location has a limited menu, and none of them were available. Luckily, my initial disappointment faded when I the Express location has exclusive items you can’t find in regular IHOPs, including a few that sounded even more exciting than the Lorax offerings. I tried three things: Dough Bites, Corn Cake Tacos, and the Cup o’ Pancakes.

If you’re anything like me, the idea of a cup of pancakes made your eyebrow shoot skyward, so I’ll start there. I tried the Double Blueberry Cup ‘o Pancakes ($2.29) which is also available in a combo meal deal where you get a cup of coffee and a cup of pancakes for $3.99. It looks exactly as described. Pancake batter and fruit topping are cooked in a paper cup (presumably in the microwave) and topped with whipped cream. Once you get past the weirdness of eating pancakes with a spoon, this item is actually pretty tasty. The texture of the pancakes is a bit mushy, and gets more rubbery the further down you dig, but it’s so immersed in blueberry sauce and whipped cream that it doesn’t really matter. Eating pancakes in this form is like eating a sundae, and not using a fork and knife really drives home the fact that you’re eating dessert for breakfast. Personally, I am totally at peace with that.

My dining companion totally nailed it when she said the Dough Bites were “like a pancake had gone to hell and back again.” Crisp on the outside, gooey on the inside, and striped with chocolate syrup and marshmallow sauce, the S’mores Dough Bites ($2.49) were a little bit evil, but so tasty. Think of them as a crude, more simplistic beignet. I thought the portion size was a bit stingy, but as an alternative to a pricey restaurant dessert, these would totally hit the spot. And, because the Express location is open 24 hours on Thurs-Sat, you can get them whenever the craving strikes.

I definitely set my expectations too high for the Corn Cake Tacos ($5.49), which were really just cornmeal pancakes with grade D meat on top. The “steak” tasted over-processed and had an artificial meat seasoning flavor to it. It was fatty, chewy, and not at all worth eating. A telling moment happened when my friend asked “What kind of meat is this again? Pork?” For all I know, it could have been. I also have to take issue with this item being called a taco. When I tried picking it up to eat it like a taco, the entire pancake ripped in half, spilling the beef all over the plate. That being said, the cornmeal pancakes were really tasty. Slap some butter and blueberries on them and you’d really have something.

Pros: Cheap, fun-to-eat items that give you your daily dose of sugar, convenient for tourists and anyone who needs a quick bite on the go (seating also available).

Cons: Some items need to be re-worked (like the Corn Cake Tacos), nutritional value is suspect

Taste: 8.25/10 (Dough Bites) | 7.75/10 (Cup O' Pancakes) | 4.50/10 (Corn Cake Tacos)
Value: 7.00/10
Grubbing on-the-go: 8.00/10 (Cup O' Pancakes and Dough Bites) | 4.00/10 (Corn Cake Tacos)
Price: $2.29 (Cup O' Pancakes) | $2.49 (Dough Bites) | $5.49 (Corn Cake Tacos)

Overall GrubGrade: 7.50/10 (Cup O' Pancakes and Dough Bites) | 4.00/10 (Corn Cake Tacos)

More Info:
Nutrition Facts:
not available

14 comments on “Review: Exclusive Items at IHOP Express

  1. Chefprotoss says:

    This is so friggin’ weird. Fast casual pancakes in a cup? No matter how good any of this is, I foresee horrific failure.

  2. mjb says:

    “Oh, this is the best pizza in a cup ever. This guy is unbelievable. He ran the old Cup ‘o Pizza guy out of business. People come from all over to eat this.”

  3. Lancaster says:

    I went to an IHOP three Octobers ago and there was a little placard on my table advertising pumpkin pancakes with “real pumpkin flavor, old-fashioned syrup, and whipped topping.”

    Not a single real thing in that description. Screw that place.

  4. ljay says:

    “the hop” is good for 2 things:

    1) steak and eggs at 2 am when the bars close

    2) cheeseburger and fries at 6 am when the after hours bars close

  5. rob says:

    Oh hell no ….

  6. Scrape says:

    I would have loved more ho-hum chains in Gas Lamp. I went to a convention there and had a limited budget. I did great on a hotel, but all there is to eat are places with $35 bland burritos and expensive seafood and steak places. The only McD’s in the area was in Westfield…but that closed beore I got there. I don’t need to have a $20 lunch and a $30 dinner every day for five days. The only reasonable place was a new Subway, and I won’t eat there. Luckily, a new Smashburger opened a block away from my hotel (not on the main street), and a CVS was one block down. I stocked up on drinks and snacks for my hotel (which had a fridge and microwave) and to take with me to the convention ($4 water in that place). I did manage to make a run to In-n-out on the light rail a few miles south and walked the rest of the way. Gaslamp needs MORE reasonable food choices.

    Oh yea. IHOP…Denny’s sans the whimsy.

  7. SkippyMom says:

    Why do they have to offer such crap food? Nutritionally speaking we might as well just lick the sugar bowl. As for taste, I imagine the paper napkins are a scooch tastier.

    I appreciate your review, but it all looks vile. And not for breakfast. [And I have been known to eat things like pizza or ice cream for breakfast] I hope they don’t bring it here. It will be a huge fail.

    • Robert says:

      I’m not sure it will be successful either, but most people go to IHOP (and pancake places in general) to eat sugar for breakfast, so I don’t think this is all that crazy. I mean yes, personally, I think it’s disgusting for the morning — pancakes, muffins, cereal, most of that stuff — but this is how a lot of America eats.

  8. Suzaka says:

    Reminds me of Wall-E: So, be sure next mealtime to ask for your free sep-tua-centennial cupcake in a cup!

  9. lz says:

    I’ll have to check my local IHOP. They carried the corn cakes for a while but then they disappeared from the menu, so I stopped going there. They were my favorite pancake there.