IHOP’s holiday menu could use some revamping

Ellie McDowell

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April 19, 2023

Ellie McDowell

The different items on the IHOP holiday menu

Sitting at a table with four plates of food and a holiday drink in front of you is daunting. When these plates of food in front of you are a variety of colors such as blue or orange, some of which are not usually seen on a pancake, that’s even scarier.

IHOP has put their holiday menu out, and I couldn’t wait to try it. Anything holiday-themed—from coffee to pie—is my favorite. The winter holidays bring me a lot of joy, and I look forward to them every year. When I heard that IHOP’s holiday menu was released, I planned a trip immediately.

The holiday menu consists of five things: a frozen hot chocolate milkshake, Winter Wonderland Pancakes, Pumpkin Spice Pancakes, Cranberry Vanilla PAancakes, and a Cali Roasted Turkey Melt. I enter the restaurant with an empty stomach, prepared to try all five items. 

The frozen hot chocolate milkshake tastes amazing. It is your usual chocolate milkshake, but instead of the chocolate syrup one would normally use to make a milkshake, it is made with vanilla ice cream, milk, and hot chocolate mix. The cup was lined with a chocolate drizzle, and the drink was topped with a mountain of whipped cream and a scattering of marshmallows.

The first sip of this milkshake flooded me with feelings of nostalgia, giving me flashbacks to when I was younger. During the winter, we spent a lot of time outside as kids, and when we came in, the first thing we did—after taking off our snow gear—was make hot chocolate. 

I was a kid who got distracted easily, thus leaving my half-full mug of hot chocolate to cool down. I would find it hours later and take a sip. The temperature of the once warm drink shocked me, and I would pour the rest of the mug into the sink. 

The first sip of this milkshake flooded me with the feelings of nostalgia, giving me flashbacks to when I was younger.

I will say, however, that when you are expecting the cold temperature of a drink, it tastes a lot better. 

The Cali Roasted Turkey melt had a slightly less pleasing effect.

It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the sandwich; out of the five things, it was definitely top three. It did, however, have very little flavor. All I could taste was the bacon and roasted tomatoes, and every once and a while, a lot of avocado.

IHOP chose to use chunks of avocado for this sandwich. I am not the biggest fan of avocado, but I do like it. Every so often, I would take a bite, and the flavor was almost entirely of avocado and bread, which was not up to par. My suggestion would be to use some sort of avocado spread instead of chunks, that way the amount is more evenly distributed.

The bread was definitely my favorite part of the sandwich. It was deliciously crispy, and whatever seasoning topped it was perfect. Every time I took a bite, the crunch of the bread released crumbs and the entirety of the flavor in the sandwich.

The pairing of the sandwich was my favorite part of the entire experience: the fries. The perfectly seasoned fries sat there, staring up at my face. Those fries were essentially normal restaurant fries, except the seasoning gave them a little bit of a smokey flavor. The fries ended up being the only thing I finished.

The Pumpkin Spice Pancakes were probably my least favorite, but IHOP is not entirely to blame. They tasted like pumpkin pie, a pie I don’t like. 

For pumpkin-flavored pancakes, I would give them a ten out of ten. These pancakes, just like your regular slice of pumpkin pie, were topped with a dollop of whipped cream, but instead of a piece of pie, you were enjoying fluffy pancakes. They had quite a bit of pumpkin flavor, and the whipped cream on top added a perfect balance. I may not be a huge pumpkin fan, but I’m sure any pumpkin fanatic would thoroughly enjoy these pancakes.

The Cranberry Vanilla Pancakes were, by far, my favorite item off the holiday menu. They had so much flavor, and the cranberry sauce—which contained whole cranberries—on top was the perfect mixture of sweet and a little bit of tartness. I was shocked that the pancakes weren’t too sweet, seeing as they were drowning in quite a bit of sugar. 

With every bite I took, I could taste each flavor of each of the pancake’s components as if it were the only one. The cranberry and vanilla sauces on top were evenly distributed to make sure that some got into every bite, and they complimented each other perfectly together. 

These pancakes were, quite honestly, some of the best pancakes I’ve had in my life.

Unlike the delight I felt when taking a bite of the Cranberry Vanilla Pancakes, the Winter Wonderland ones were way less pleasing. IHOP drowned the pancakes in a blue and white iridescent white chocolate sauce and topped the tower of pancakes with powdered sugar and marshmallows.

It tasted as though I was eating straight-up sugar. The blue sauce, although very pretty with its edible glitter, was so sweet. My mouth, after taking a couple of bites, is now stained blue from the coloring used in the sauce.

Overall, I am a little bit disappointed with IHOP’s holiday menu. There were a few aspects of it that I thoroughly enjoyed, but for the most part, I am disappointed. The flavors were strong, but not strong enough for me to want to order the meals again.

I went into this visit with a lot of hope for these colorful pancakes, but I have come out of it wondering if it would have been better if I just made them at home.