110 Kate G Lane
It was Angel's first family sit-down meal at a restaurant in nearly six weeks, so she picked the place.
Oh, haven't I mentioned Angel's situation? She's been whining for a year or more about aches and pains everywhere from her back, to her hip, to her toes. Constant, shrill whining. Test after expensive test revealed nothing conclusive. Finally she came across a doctor that figured it all out. Her foot was damaged internally, causing her to sub-conscientiously compensate with other body parts to maintain balance while walking/standing upright. This is why the pain moved from place to place.
It turns out that she had a ruptured ligament/tendon, a torn ligament/tendon, topped off with some bone shrapnel inflaming a foot joint.
Wow! Right? I bet that did hurt!
Back in July she went in for surgery. It only took a couple of hours, but she came out with a massive splint/cast. That was replaced a couple of weeks later with a slightly smaller cast. Then finally, last week, she had that one removed and was sent packing with a complicated, but removable 'boot'.
So for several weeks, she was basically confined to her recliner, or wherever else she could move about on her knee scooter.
On the day of her cast removal, I took her to a Chinese Buffet on the way home. She was still scooting, I had to fill her plate as she rolled down the line.
By Sunday she was taking a few very slow steps, with and without the use of a standard crutch. She also took her SUV out for a spin earlier in the day. Progress. Slow but, certainly tangible progress.
IHOP it was. Adam happily joined us at Gravois Bluffs in Fenton. Gravois Bluffs is a multi-acre shopping center, surrounded by other shopping centers. Big box, medium box, most every department and discount store you've heard of is located either in or around Gravois Bluffs. I drove the SUV, Angel wasn't quite ready for a longer drive herself. That booted leg doesn't have a lot of wiggle room under the dashboard, so it gets cramped up in no time.
I didn't bother looking at a menu ahead of time, with a name like 'International House of Pancakes', even an idiot could probably surmise the potential offerings.
On the way to the bluffs I asked Angel if he thought IHOP offered hot dogs. She just looked at me with that adoring, down her nose, squinting glare that she uses frequently when I am talking.
Adam was already there. We hobbled into the joint, Adam and I took turns opening the doors for Angel. We're both old school gentlemen that way.
The place, like other 'breakfast' venues, smelled heavily of maple syrup. I find that aroma quite sickening. It was not overpowering at IHOP, but it was definitely there. My brain responds to the smell of maple syrup much the same way it responds to that of decaying flesh, rotting eggs, or children in general. Revulsion.
The place was certainly bigger than a Waffle House. Tables and booths all over the place, a full sized restaurant. It was neat and clean and appeared to be well staffed. It wasn't crowded either.
The multi-page laminated menu was all about pancakes, waffles, eggs, toast and powdered sugar. I don't get that last item. They put it on pancakes, waffles, French toast, crepes, etc. They also seem to push breakfast food as dessert. I don't even add a pinch of sugar to the batter for pancakes, waffles, or French toast when I make them at home. I prefer savory, not pastry.
I asked the young man for coffee, Angel wanted sweet tea, Adam, of course, wanted a Pepsi. We asked for and were allowed a little more time to make our selections. A lot of it looked good, it was a tough choice narrowing it down.
That extra time lured me into making a rookie mistake. Idle time conjured up the will to stretch, experiment, order something I would not normally ask for.
I scanned the entire menu, sure enough, no hot dogs. They had burgers and fried chicken but no hot
Angel predictably ordered the Country Fried Steak. The server asked if she wanted gravy on it. . . we laughed and laughed. The young man got the message and smiled. "Would you like some mashed potato on your gravy?"
I'd thought about ordering the same thing, but the only veggie side option was broccoli. You know about me and broccoli, don't you? I could have asked them to leave the nasty greenery off the plate, but then there would be that void, the place where broccoli would have been, and that's too much like actually being served broccoli.
Adam was also predictable, chicken and waffles. Adam only eats like seven or eight things, those are two of them.
Now to mix it up.
Two eggs, over medium, crispy bacon, hash-browns and French toast.
The shock and gasps were palpable. My family knows I like French toast, the way I make it anyhow, but that I can recall, I've never ordered it at a restaurant.
The reason is quite simple. Go to one of these places. Order French toast without further description. What you'll probably get is barely battered toast, glopped with cinnamon, powdered sugar and maybe even syrup.
I thought I'd be clever though. "Is the French toast sweet?" I asked the dashing young man.
"I don't think so." He replied. Here's my mistake. I assumed that meant it wouldn't be coated in a cloud of powdered sugar.
But it was. Sure I thumped most of it off, but by the time it hit the table, the golf ball sized butter ball was already melting and acting as contact adhesive to the dusty stuff. I spent a few minutes knocking off as much as I could. Then I re-piled the stack and dived in. The first bite was even more disappointing. There was indeed a residual sweetness, but the real abomination was the cinnamon. Almost enough to qualify as a sticky bun. I don't mind a little, but the sugar and the spice had turned the thing into a thing just short of a bear claw.
This was not IHOP's error, it was entirely my own.
When I make French toast at home, a thing I learned to do as a kid, I use exactly three ingredients, bread, egg, milk, and not very much of the latter. Then I top it off with. . . nothing. If I want a sweet pastry, I'll make donuts. Yeah I can do that too. I hardly ever make donuts, I hardly ever eat cake. I'm just not a big sweet pastry guy. I'd make a lousy cop I guess. I can walk right past a sheet cake or pile of free donuts at work with no more temptation than if they were a golf course, fabric store, or fitness center.
What I want when I want French toast is simply egg drenched bread, fried in butter. I've even taken the resulting toast and made grilled cheese sandwiches with it. Boy howdy, that's good eats!
But that's just me.
The origin of French toast is a little murky. There are versions of the egg-soaked bread going back to the days of the Roman Empire, which, as I recall, was a very long time ago, perhaps dozens of years. What we do know for sure is that it did not originate in France. We are also pretty sure that extravagances like cinnamon, sugar and maple syrup were not part of the original design. "Pain perdu", or 'lost bread' is what the French call it. Named so since the idea was that it was a way to rehydrate and thus extend the lifespan of leftover bread that was a day away from being tossed out. The British call it 'eggy bread' since they lack imagination, they also tend to top it with ketchup since they, as a culture, also have no discernible food dignity. A 14th century German recipe calls it 'Arme Ritter' or 'poor knights' because. . . well, who the hell knows why the Germans do anything the way they do.
The bottom line is, as far as French toast goes, IHOP made it their way, not my way. I knew better. I cannot criticize them for this.
As far as the rest of the meal, the two eggs, over medium were cooked perfectly, the bacon was indeed crispy and the hash browns, as they are supposed to be, crispy golden on the edges. No complaints, at all.
Adam ate all his chicken and waffles, he must have really liked them a lot since when asked about it he replied "Fine".
It was Angel that proved to be the chief complainant this time. I looked down on her plate when we were finished. Remarkably there was still a third of the CFS remaining. Her fork was down. "Too salty." she said. "Except for the broccoli, I had to add salt to that."
Discounting my mistake in ordering, I'd have to say I was quite satisfied with my food. Adam's cryptic, one word response was a little less clear. Angel was a slight thumbs down.
In other words, 'Meh'.
We can get just as good at a couple of places closer than Fenton. Waffle House, Huddle Hut, etc. So for us there's no wow factor at IHOP. Nothing pulling at us to go back very often. Of course it specializes not in fancy food, but comfort food. People don't go there to be wowed, they go to get good breakfast type meals. Simple, predictable, cozy comfort food.
It's a fine place for what it is, with a deeper menu than Waffle House. So go ahead, enjoy!