IHOP dropped a new menu Wednesday, filling gaps with both sweet and savory options that guests can enjoy any time of day.
New VP of Culinary Art Carl, who joined the Glendale, Calif.-based chain four months ago after heading up kitchens at Dave & Buster’s, Cheesecake Factory and other full-service concepts, introduced eight of the new dishes at a media tasting in New York City Tuesday. His chef-driven approach was obvious in components such as a house-made buttery Hollandaise, bourbon bacon jam, cheesecake mousse and a four-cheese crisp much like an authentic Italian frico. That crisp has upscale dining written all over it.
“IHOP did a gap analysis with consumers to determine what was missing,” said Carl. “We’re focusing on quality first and we’re leaning into the p.m. daypart.”
Aside from quality ingredients, the research found that guests were looking for craveable options, a balance of indulgent and lighter choices and value.
On the indulgent side is a line of new Eggs Benedict. All are served on toasted English muffins with poached eggs. We tried the Spicy Poblano with fire roasted poblanos, red bell peppers and onions, shredded beef, serranos and poblano Hollandaise. The Pesto Veggie included sauteed spinach, mushrooms, roasted cherry tomatoes, nut-free pesto and classic Hollandaise. Both introduced freshness and on-trend flavors to the classic brunch dish.
Crepes have always been on IHOP’s menu, but the category has been expanded to go beyond breakfast. New are Savory Crepes stuffed with scrambled eggs, hash browns and bacon, topped with a white cheddar-jack cheese sauce, that Carl said “really elevates this dish.” We also sampled Cinnamon Bun Crepes filled with cheesecake mousse and drizzled with cinnamon bun filling and cream cheese icing.
Those same ingredients flavored the Cinn-A-Stack pancakes, which are a guest favorite that have returned to IHOP menus nationwide.
Both the pancakes and crepes are cooked on the same griddles with batter made fresh every day. “The crepes spread out to form a thin, lacy circle,” Carl explained. Cooks get extensive training to become “pancake certified” and “crepe certified.”
Carl really leans into the p.m. daypart with two new Ultimate Steakburgers, where the beef patties are smashed on the griddle to caramelize the crust. The Jalapeno Kick has multiple layers of flavor, featuring sauteed jalapenos, a combo of serrano peppers and onions, hickory-smoked bacon and the aforementioned four-cheese crisp. It’s made with shredded gruyere, Swiss, fontina and cheddar, cooked into a crunchy disc.
Although the build sounds complex, ingredients are cross-utilized from the Benedicts and the components can be done in steps, some ahead of time.
One of IHOP’s selling points is that the entire menu is available all day; guests can order up a burger for breakfast or Eggs Benedict for dinner, if they choose. Rounding out the new menu introductions are a crispy battered Fish and Shrimp Platter and two salads: Fresh Berry and Chopped Chicken Salad.
IHOP has also conducted beverage research and recently hired a beverage director “to bring energy to the category,” said Carl. Mango Iced Tea is the latest thirst quencher to be added.
We didn’t get to taste the salads, seafood platter or beverages, but we did get a preview of three milkshakes Carl is testing out: Cupcake, Strawberry Cheesecake and Dulce de Leche. All are blended with ice cream and pancakes, and “what can be better than a pancake milkshake?” Carl asked.
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