Monday, November 26, 2012

IHOP



Gravois Bluffs
Fenton, Mo

Maya
So where do you go after three full days of turkey and trimmings and the leftovers? “IHOP.” Angel declared. “I want some breakfast-y food.”
This was fine with me even though unlike her, I was not tired of the leftovers.
The IHOP in Fenton was chosen due to logistics. Maya, a sweet and charismatic Bull Terrier (not a pit bull) needed to be taken home to Valley Park Saturday evening, about the same time that we normally go out. So we’d known ahead of time that we needed to pick something in that general direction. There were many other dining options of course, but Angel’s craving was pretty specific.
So we loaded up Maya, who travels well, and headed out. We delivered her to her delightfully Swedish family and headed back to Fenton.
Gravois Bluffs also played well into another craving, the craving to do at least a little shopping. Gravy Bluffs is also home to Target, and a new H.H. Gregg Electronics and Appliance store. None of us had even left the homestead since the day before Thanksgiving. We’re not ‘Black Friday’ people.
The Place:
Gravois bluff is a large shopping area perched, as the name implies, on a high bluff overlooking Highway 141. Across the highway is a smaller, but just as busy shopping area. I only go there a couple of times a year, being shopping-center-reluctant as I am. I even buy my shoes, shirts and underpants online.
IHOP is one of many restaurants, all lined up at the front edge of the vast shopping center. Red Robin and Olive Garden are literally a stone’s throw away.
The IHOP was generally busy, but not as busy as some of the other places. Inside the bright store we were greeted and seated immediately. The aroma of breakfast, coffee and syrup (blech) wafted through the air as aromas tend to do.
Brian was there immediately to hand us menus and take our drink orders. I’d pre-decided on coffee, which meant I’d pre-decided on a breakfast-type meal of some kind. The tea at IHOP is bland, at least according to memory, but their coffee is pretty good. This meant I would have trouble going to sleep on time, but I wasn’t exactly lacking sleep after three days off from work.
The menus were colorful and picturesque. Everything looked good. There was a separate menu of new offerings. One meal stood out.
The Food:
Country sausage and potatoes. Country fried potatoes with chopped country sausage, cheese and gravy, served with two eggs and two pancakes. Add two strips of bacon for a buck and my meal still only cost 7.99.
Angel decided on the country fried steak with ‘extra’ gravy. Her plate also came with hash browns, eggs and pancakes.
Adam chose the chicken strip plate with mashed potatoes and (blech) broccoli. I don’t know what it is with this kid and broccoli.
As Brian took our order and I filled up my cup with coffee I first noticed the music. ‘Take On Me’ by A-Ha. An eighties favorite of mine. The music that followed was not eighties, but a mix of upbeat songs from several periods and artists. Not bland, but not edgy either.
Country Sausage Potatoes
Adam sipped his Pepsi, Angel tasted her sweet tea, I bathed in the steamy, aromatic pleasure of better than average coffee. I excused myself to go to the restroom, something I don’t normally do. However I’d been imbibing, heavily, the holiday punch, a wicked brew of citrus juices, mixed with red Kool-Aid packets and sugar-free lemon lime soda. It’s a family blend, we made it when I was growing up. It took it’s distinctive characteristic from dad’s strict no-sugar diet. No sugar at all, but with the right blend of juices, pineapple and orange, the stuff is plenty sweet and given a tart bite with grapefruit and lemon juice. When I make it I tend to become instantly addicted to it, which also means many more than the usual trips to the restroom.
The restroom was bright white tiles with a few red ones thrown in to give it some contrast. It wasn’t the cleanest restroom but it was far from the worst I'd seen.
The food arrived soon after I returned to the table. I was famished, having only had a turkey sandwich much earlier in the day.
The pile of food in front of me looked just as advertised, heavenly. Well, there did seem to be a whole lot of cheese. The butter balls on the pancake stack weren’t melting very quickly, the butter was rock hard so first things first, I chopped up the balls and spread them around. Since I don’t ever, ever put syrup (blech) on pancakes, the butter needs to coat them evenly.
Country Fried Steak with 'extra' gravy
We dug in. I was quite pleased with everything until about halfway in, that’s when I noticed the ratio was all wrong. There were lots of sausage chunks, and lots and lots of cheese and gravy, but not so many potatoes. When I make a similar dish it’s mostly potatoes, with only a sprinkling of cheese and only a small amount, if any, of gravy. The potatoes were all but gone, there were twice as many sausage chunks, and I was pulling globs of melted cheese and making a pile on the side of the plate. What was there was all quite good, the potatoes could have been crispier, but they weren’t bad. It was the ratio that was all wrong. My last few bites were mostly gravy and sausage and cheese, very, very unnecessarily rich. A dish like this is a certain artery clogger to begin with, I was OD’ing on it. Fortunately the pancakes provided a semblance of balance. IHOP certainly knows how to make pancakes.
Angel, when I asked her about hers simply said “Yum!” I pressed her and got a little more. “The meat was too big, it didn’t even fit on the plate.” 
“Perhaps they should use bigger plates.” I offered.
“No the meat was too big.”
She continued: “The hash browns need to be crispier, sometimes they are, sometimes they’re not. Crispy is better. And the syrups are all really, really sweet.”
Chicken Strips
She’d put boysenberry on her stack.
“It’s syrup” I replied. “Syrup, by definition is going to be really, really sweet.”
She dismissed my comment as she does most of them.
Adam summed his up after a lot of thought: “No complaints.” I noted that he’d cleaned his plate quickly and helped himself to his mother’s second, non-syrup’d pancake.



Summary:
I will not choose the same dish next time, too rich, too cheesy. It probably suits some people fine though.  Better to stick with the controllable classics, and mix them together myself.
Brian, our server did a bang-up job. Friendly, dutiful and mostly attentive. He did fail on a promise to refill Adam’s Pepsi, but caught the error later and offered to let him have some to-go.
The empty plates were taken away quickly and Brian twice came by just to see how we were doing. Not overbearing, just friendly.
I could have sat there another hour or so, sipping on my coffee, but we were on a schedule. To get in a run through Target and Gregg’s we needed to rush a little, there were dogs at home that would be getting anxious soon.
All in all we were quite pleased. It was cheap at thirty six dollars and change, there was plenty of food for everyone, and for the most part it was all prepared well.
IHOP is quickly becoming a favorite of mine. They have a great variety of offerings and the price is right.

IHOP on Urbanspoon

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