I Am Eating Everything on IHOP’s ‘IF’ Menu

If only IHOP stood for “Imaginary House of Pancakes.” Then I wouldn’t have to eat anything today.

Alas, unlike the magical creatures in John Krasinski’s new kids movie, IHOP is very real. And so is their new themed menu inspired by Krasinski’s IF, which consists of four entrées and two drinks.

Today, I’m going to eat all of it.

Now, you might be wondering: Why would a person with multiple college degrees, two kids, and no evident death wish do such a thing? I ask myself that same question a lot. It all started a few years ago when, looking for a mea culpa to offer my boss after a screwup, I volunteered to eat everything on Denny’s Fantastic Four menu. The live blog capturing my nightmarish descent into the culinary Negative Zone got so much traffic, my boss demanded I repeat it any time a big movie received similar treatment from a chain restaurant.

So let this be a lesson to you, readers: Never volunteer for anything. It only leads to misery. (Have you ever tasted Thing Sauce? Because I have. And sometimes, late at night, I can still taste it.)

Denny’s was the champion of movie tie-in food for a while; they had whole menus inspired by Independence Day: ResurgenceSolo: A Star Wars Story, and other. These days the non-imaginary International House of Pancakes cranks out the weirdest meals connected to Hollywood cinema. At this point they are full-on inventing foods never before found in nature. The last time I was here was back in December for their menu themed to Timothée Chalamet’s Wonka, which contained such bizarre concoctions as purple pancakes, chocolate pancake tacos, and a cotton candy drink served in a glass rimmed with a liquid that would have been more appropriate for a tie-in menu for There’s Something About Mary. 

If the commercial for IHOP’s IF-stravaganza is to be trusted, it doesn’t appear to contain any food items that resemble bodily fluids. Then again, it does include “dazzleberry” pancakes, a sandwich made out of french toast, and a “pizza omlette.” So I’m in for quite a day.

READ MORE: I Ate Everything on IHOP’s Wonka Menu Too

We’ll get into all of it as we journey deeper and deeper into a pit of self-loathing and despair — er, I mean the IHOP IF menu. As I settle into my booth at one of New York’s finest IHOPs and order my first course, I leave you with this question…

What IF … I ate roughly 5,000 calories worth of pancakes, french toast sandwiches, and bomb pop sodas?

Let’s find out, shall we?


Well it’s breakfast time and this is reputedly a house of pancakes (not a house built out of pancakes, mind you, although that sounds like the premise for a deleted scene from IF). So let’s start with some breakfast: Lewis’ Cinna-a-Bear Stack.

The IHOP menu describes it as…

Buttermilk pancakes with cinnamon spread and topped with 3 donut holes, cream cheese icing, whipped topping, and cinnamon sugar. (710 calories)

Here’s the picture on IHOP’s website:

And here is what I was served:

Photo By Author
Photo By Author

(You will note that I only got two pancakes; IHOP actually offers the option to get either two or four flapjacks in a stack. I got two. When you’re eating a six-course tasing menu that’s almost entirely carbs, you need to pace yourself.)

I recognize that most of you have not had the chance to see IF yet, so a brief plot summary may be in order. The film follows a sad 12-year-old girl named Bea (Cailey Fleming) who discovers that she has the ability to talk to the imaginary creatures that children invent when they are little. While all kids eventually outgrow their “IFs” and forget about them, the IFs themselves don’t vanish; they simply become invisible to all but other IFs and a few people like Bea who can see and communicate with them.

One of those IFs is Lewis, an elderly teddy bear who wears suspenders and supposedly created the retirement home for IFs where most of these magical beings who’ve been forgotten by their kids live out the rest of their days.

Already, I sense you might have questions. For example: Why would a child imagine a decrepit bear as their imaginary friend? Why would an old imaginary teddy bear wear suspenders? And what does he have to do with a 700-calorie pile of pancakes, icing, and donuts? Shouldn’t a dish inspired by a bear, imaginary or otherwise, include honey as a key ingredient? Or maybe cocaine?

(I should say here that I flunked high school biology and base all my knowledge of bears on things I see in movies.)

My photograph of Lewis’ Cinna-a-Bear Stack might not capture just how much “cinnamon spread” was on top of these pancakes. The plate was absolutely drenched in this sticky brown goo. As soon as the plate was put in front of me, I was overwhelmed by the intense aroma of cinnamon. It was like an elderly imaginary teddy bear bashed me in the face with a cinnamon stick.

So there was definitely a lot of cinnamon sauce on these pancakes, and that was on top of the ultra-sweet cream cheese icing. Talk about overkill! It was a bit like putting a hat on a hat on a teddy bear who’s already wearing suspenders.

This whole dish is a real head-scratcher, but I will say: The one part of the plate I did like were the donut holes. I expected a couple of old Entenmann’s donuts tossed on a plate. Nope; they were fresh and warm with a crisp layer of glaze. And they actually worked pretty well with the flavor of the pancakes. Combining these two things was a nutty idea, and it’s still absurdly decadent but … it sort of works?

Okay, clearly my brain is already getting clouded by the potent mixture of sugars and fats I just consumed. I’d better order something more healthy next.

A sandwich made with French toast is healthy, right?


Recently, I watched an interesting documentary on Hulu called The Contestant. It’s about a popular Japanese television show of the late 1990s called Denpa Shonen, which helped pioneer the reality TV genre. During a recurring segment called “A Life in Prizes,” the producers of the series essentially kidnapped a man and forced him to live naked and alone in a tiny apartment with absolutely no creature comforts whatsoever. If the contestant was going to survive, he would have to win food and other essentials by entering magazine sweepstakes. The contestant, an aspiring comedian named Nasubi, did this for over a year.

One of the more interesting wrinkles of this shocking story is that the door to the apartment where Nasubi was living his life of prizes was not locked. At any point, Nasubi could have escaped. He was naked, which could have made a getaway slightly awkward, but nothing was technically stopping him. But living under such extreme deprivation, coupled with the mind games played by the show’s manipulative producer, convinced Nasubi to stay. His psyche became so beaten down by the harsh conditions that he convinced himself he should stay in that room, debasing himself in perpetuity for a national audience.

It really makes you think about the crazy, even dangerous lengths some people will go to for money and attention.

Anyway, next up I ate a French toast sandwich inspired by a John Krasinski movie.

IHOP’s menu describes the “Magnificent French Toast Sandwich” as

Folded omelette-style egg, pork sausage patty, hash browns, American cheese, chipotle mayo on French toast. Served with old-fashioned syrup & choice of side. (2210-2720 calories)

Here’s the official photo from the restaurant:

And here’s what I was served.

Photo By Author
Photo By Author

“Magnificent” is not necessarily the first word I would use to describe this plate of food.

Point of order: Are we sure French toast is good? Not this specific plate of French toast, I mean all French toast. Toast should be toasty; that’s what makes it toast. It’s crisp, it’s got bite, it’s got snap. French toast is mushy, eggy bread. What purpose does it serve? If you want pancakes, eat a pancake! If you want toast, have toast! You don’t need to have both at the same time.

Speaking of both at the same time: the French Toast Sandwich! In typical IHOP fashion, it’s all basically decent breakfast food; the sausage has a nice level of spice, the eggs are properly cooked, the hash browns are crispy. (The French toast is mushy, eggy bread, but that’s French toast for you.)

But, in typical IHOP movie tie-in fashion, all these perfectly fine foods have been thrown together on a single plate in a way that suggests a chef in the midst of a breakdown. But hey: IF’s heroine seem like she’s in the midst of a breakdown too. If your mother died and your father was lying in a hospital room and you were all alone in New York City and you suddenly began seeing invisible monsters everywhere, you might be so emotionally fragile that you’d consider eating a sandwich with sausage, hash browns, and French toast! So … this dish actually makes sense in this context?

Halfway through the main items of this menu, I’m sensing a theme: Hybrid foods combining two different things people like — pancakes and donuts, French toast and breakfast sandwiches — in a way that no sane adult (except the people who work in the IHOP test kitchen) would ever combine. There is a bit of kid-like whimsy to these items which I think is at least in the spirit of IF. It might literally destroy my small intestine from within, but it is faithful to the film at least.

I could really use a break at this point. Maybe two different sodas — one topped with gummy candy and the other with an entire Bomb Pop on top — will wash all this food down? Okay, they definitely won’t. But at least it will give me a little time before I have to eat the blue pancakes and the pizza omelette.


I’m not sure I could eat any more food right now, but I can drink more. So I’m going to have two IF-themed drinks which are also on this special menu.

Here is how the IHOP menu describes the first, Blossom’s Orangesicle:

A blend of orange juice, lemon-lime soda and vanilla syrup. Garnished with whipped topping, Fruity Pebbles and a gummy butterfly.

Blossom is the IF in the film who vaguely looks like a cross between Mickey Mouse and a flapper with butterfly wings. Hence the gummy butterfly. Here’s the official photo:

Here’s my photo:

Photo By Author
Photo By Author

And now the description of the second beverage, the Unbelieva-Blue Soda Pop:

A blend of lemon-lime soda & blue raspberry syrup. Garnished with The Original Bomb Pop that’ll turn your drink purple.

I would have called this the Un-Bea-Lieva-Blue Soda Pop so it was named for Bea and Blue (Steve Carrell’s IF), but what do I know? I choose to eat pizza omelettes for a living.

For some reason, I can’t find an official photo of this one on the IHOP menu (maybe because they don’t offer it for takeout because the bomb pop would melt?) so here is a photo of it in the physical menu.

And here’s what I was served:

Photo By Author
Photo By Author

At my table here at IHOP (an IHOP in Brooklyn that I want to stress is clean and quiet with free wi-fi and extremely polite and helpful servers who are surprisingly chill about a grown man sitting alone for hours on end ordering four different entrées intended for children) there is a little placard in a stand advertising the two IF drinks. It calls them “Beverages Beyond Your Imagination.”

That sounds about right. Although I do not know if I would say they’re beyond my imagination in a good way. A child who really loves sickly sweet drinks might be into them; but they would have to have the sweetest sweet tooth in history. The first soda tastes like an Orangina with the weird aftertaste of Fruity Pebbles; the second is like Sprite drowned in blue raspberry lollipops. Neither one was particularly appealing. I will tell you the truth: I did not finish either one (partly because I want to sleep tonight and I think if I ingested that much sugar in one sitting I would be awake until Sunday.).

That said, of everything I have been served so far these drinks were the closest visually to the official photos on the menu. So kudos to whoever is mixing up the drinks in the kitchen; he or she is on their game. And if you’ve read my review of John Krasinski’s IF you know that I found the film “egregiously saccharine.” The same could very much be said of these two mocktails. They’re so treacly, they’re making my molars hurt. So that’s another point in IHOP’s favor! I hope I never taste either one ever again, but I can’t say IHOP didn’t understand the assignment.

Can you tell I am doing literally anything I can think of to put off eating the pizza omelette. Because I am.

Oh fine, let’s do it.


IHOP, your chefs were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should. And now we have a pizza omelette.

A pizza omelette could go one of two ways. It could be a pizza with traditional omelette ingredients like eggs, sausage and bell peppers as toppings; or it could be an omelette with traditional pizza toppings like pepperoni and tomato sauce as ingredients. IHOP, given their specialization in breakfast food, understandably went with the latter formulation. (Although I would eat an omelette pizza, especially if it was connected to a movie in some way. Maybe Home Alone?)

Here’s how IHOP describes their latest food invention, the “Coney Island Pizza Omelette”:

Pork sausage, green peppers & onions, marinara, crispy pepperoni & four-cheese blend. Served with choice of side. (1460-2090 calories)

And here’s what it’s supposed to look like:

And here is what my IHOP plopped down on my table:

Photo By Author
Photo By Author

Both the omelette itself and the toppings are significantly less substantial than the glamour shot suggests. As this is my third plate of food in about two hours, I’m not necessarily upset about that. But if you were only eating a pizza omelette for breakfast, you might be a little disappointed.

Here we have another example of the IF menu’s theme: Hybrid foods. (What these foods have to do with Coney Island, beyond the fact that several scenes in IF are set in a fantasy version of its boardwalk, is beyond the scope of my comprehension.) And I could see a child thinking that an omelette with pizza toppings would be a great idea.

But this is why parents cook for their children and not the other way around: Because kids are frankly dumb. They don’t know better. They need supervision and guidance from adults. (Not, maybe from me specifically. Look what I eat. But, like, actual responsible adults.)

The big thing that is missing from my omelette is marinara sauce. In the official IHOP photo, this thing is slathered in it. My omelette has one little dribble of sauce on top, and as a result this is a very dry plate of breakfast food. There’s not much inside the omelette either, so it’s this gigantic mound of eggs with a couple of pizza-adjacent foods on top. For my money, this is the worst of the three IF entrées I’ve had so far. I think I’d rather see IF again than eat another one.

Ah, but I do have to eat one more menu item before I’m done. And this one has blue pancakes. Have I saved the best for last? God, I hope so.


We arrive at the main event: IHOP’s boldest creation to date, blue pancakes. Or, as they refer to them, “Blue’s Dazzleberry Pancakes.” The menu says they consist of…

Blue raspberry flavored pancakes, topped with vanilla mousse, whipped topping and Fruity Pebbles. (500 calories)

Here is the IHOP website photo of said dazzleberry pancakes.

And here’s what I was served.

Photo By Author
Photo By Author

Okay, credit where credit is due: This actually looks like the menu photo. A lot. I don’t know if it looks appetizing, but remember: I just ate a pizza omelette. Right now nothing looks appetizing to me. An all-expenses-paid trip to Per Se sounds like a nightmare at this moment. But these pancakes do look like they’re supposed to look.

I mean just look at how blue these pancakes are on the inside. LOOK AT IT.

Photo By Author
Photo By Author

Granted, the color here is a little weird, and not just because that shade of iridescent blue is rarely seen on a dinner plate. Yes, Steve Carell’s IF is named Blue. But he’s fuzzy and purple. (The kid who created him was color blind. Tee hee.)

I’ve seen Blue referred to as “off-brand Grimace.” He’s not literally blue. He’s also not a fan of Fruity Pebbles, at least as far as I’m aware. And nobody in IF eats or even mentions dazzleberries. Also: What the f— is a dazzleberry?

I Googled this assuming it would return zero hits outside the context of articles about the IHOP IF menu. But in fact you can find lots of websites about dazzleberry — but they’re not about food. Dazzleberry, I just learned, is actually a “groundcover” plant “of smoky blue-grey foliage topped with giant 6-8″ vibrant raspberry-colored flowers. The flowers completely cover the foliage from late summer through early fall. They provide color in the landscape for over seven weeks!”

This makes sense. If there’s one thing kids love to eat, it’s low-growing shrubs. I can’t even tell you the number of times I have had to swat my children with a rolled up newspaper when they tried to yank some sprigs of dogwood from a neighbor’s garden. “Not again!” I cry as they scurry for cover. “I told you! You’ll eat some Muesli when we get home and like it!”

Where was I? Oh right: IHOP’s dazzleberry pancakes. Yeah, they’re fine. The “blue raspberry flavor” is pretty mild — milder, at least, than that Bomb Pop soda, which was like someone had forcibly coated my mouth with blue raspberry Jolly Ranchers. Here the Fruity Pebbles on top overpower any other flavor in the dish. So if you love Fruity Pebbles, this might be something you want to try. (I’ve always been more of a Cocoa Pebbles man myself.)

As I was winding things down here at IHOP, I got a few questions about the experience over on Twitter…

I’m not sure I “hope” any movie does this, because then I have to eat it, but I do think the Dune popcorn bucket proved a lot of fun could have been had with a Dune tie-in menu. (Wouldn’t you want to eat Buffalo Wild Wings party platter coated in “spice?” Okay, maybe not.)The movie I fear getting a tie-in menu is Furiosa, because they could do it at literally any chain restaurant, provided the food gives you gas.

I will not be putting anything in my mouth for a long, long time.

In total, I think IHOP did a reasonably good job taking the ideas in IF about holding on to the magic of childhood and turning them into highly corporate food. In some ways, they did a better job of embodying those ideas than the film itself, which had a lot of monologues about the importance of joy and wonder in the world, but very little actual joy or wonder. While I did not like most of the food I ate, I absolutely see how it evokes a film where children invent weird-looking stuff. In that regard, IHOP hit the bullseye. If you want to eat a bunch of weird-looking stuff, the IHOP IF menu is for you. How’s that for an endorsement?

Meanwhile, I have hit my wall. I am going to go lie down, at least until the Furiosa menu at Jack in the Box.

IHOP IF Items Ranked From Almost Real Food to Unholiest Creation:

  1. Lewis’ Cinn-a-Bear Stack
  2. Magnificent French Toast Sandwich
  3. Blue’s Dazzleberry Pancakes
  4. Blossom’s Orangesicle
  5. Coney Island Pizza Omelette
  6. Unbelieva-Blue Soda Pop
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