IHOP, the restaurant formerly known as the International House of Pancakes, is trying to help you monitor your calorie intake.
I, for one, appreciate this. Because I dine out so frequently, I find it difficult to keep track of the amount of carbohydrates, fats and proteins I consume on a daily basis.
Every item on IHOP’s extensive breakfast, lunch and dinner menu is listed with its estimated calorie count immediately after the price. Double blueberry pancakes ($7.29, 800 calories). Steak fajita quesadilla ($7.59, 1,060 calories). Thick-cut bone-in ham dinner ($10.99, 680 calories).
Now, the mere process of counting calories won’t help a person to lose weight. But it can be a first step.
Central Oregon’s lone IHOP is on the north side of Bend, in the ShopKo complex on Bend River Mall Drive. It is one of more than 1,500 IHOP restaurants across North America. The group was founded in the Los Angeles area in 1958.
In atmosphere and menu, the Bend IHOP is much the same as the other six Oregon IHOP restaurants, all of them in the Willamette Valley. The restaurant is well-lit and spacious, with four separate dining rooms seating more than 170 patrons. Framed corporate memorabilia hang on some of the otherwise-unadorned walls, and light classic rock music plays in the background.
But service was inconsistent, and I found the food to be a mixed bag.
‘Simple & Fit’ dinner
On every IHOP table, regardless of the hour of day or night, patrons are greeted by a carafe of coffee and a selection of four syrups. That said, IHOP is not just about pancakes.
Arriving one evening for a solo dinner, I was greeted by a very enthusiastic server, who showed me to a window table and promptly brought me water and a menu.
The IHOP menu features more than a dozen signature “Simple & Fit” menu items, all of them gauged at fewer than 600 calories. I wondered if they had any flavor.
My grilled balsamic-glazed chicken ($9.29, 440 calories) met the test.
I was not thrilled with the accompanying house salad served prior to my entree. It consisted merely of fresh iceberg lettuce with a little red cabbage, thick slices of beefsteak tomato and red onion, and a packet — yes, it was served in the packet — of Kraft-brand reduced-fat Italian dressing. I was disappointed that the kitchen couldn’t have assembled its own oil-and-vinegar dressing.
The main course was excellent. Tender, lightly peppered chicken breast was topped with chopped mushrooms, onions and tomatoes, sauteed together in a balsamic sauce with just enough bite to be interesting. A generous serving of perfectly steamed broccoli accompanied the dish.
A forgettable lunch
My lunchtime server was nowhere near as efficient as my dinner server had been. Not only did I wait an extended time to be seated and served, but she immediately confused my first order and brought me iced tea instead of Diet Coke.
Midday sandwiches are served with a choice of soup, salad, fries, onion rings or fresh fruit. I opted for a cup of the soup of the day, a house-made minestrone.
The cooks emptied the proverbial kitchen sink into this peppery stew. Potatoes, spinach, carrots, zucchini, onions, celery, yellow peppers, green beans, white beans, pasta and thyme were all represented in this slightly thickened, tomato-based broth. Yet the flavor was mundane at best, and the saltines served with the soup didn’t add a sense of sophistication.
My sandwich was a Philly cheese-steak stacker ($9.29, 820 calories). Even though it came as described on the menu — “grilled ribeye steak and onions topped with melted American cheese on a grilled roll” — I found myself yearning for a more authentic Philly.
The bread was entirely undressed. The meat was good, but I found the sandwich boring without additional ingredients, such as the mushrooms and green peppers sometimes found in Phillies. And a slice of processed American cheese could easily be one-upped by Swiss cheese.
Still, IHOP has always been, first and foremost, a breakfast restaurant. It wouldn’t be fair to appraise a restaurant without indulging in its strength.
On this visit, my companion and I were greeted by a gregarious server who was in the habit of calling each of her customers “dear.” It didn’t seem to matter how well she knew them, if at all. “Welcome, dears!” she exclaimed as we arrived. “Would you like some coffee, dears?”
She wasn’t especially speedy. We had to ask twice for a couple of condiments. But, then, she was entertaining other tables as well as our own.
I ordered a spinach-and-mushroom omelet ($10.29, 910 calories). Small button mushrooms — the kind that come from an industrial-size can, not the freshly chopped sort — were rolled inside a crepe-thin sheet of egg. Fresh spinach was layered on the outside of the wrap. The omelet was garnished with chopped tomatoes and onions, and cloaked in Hollandaise sauce.
Although it was not what I’d call a traditional omelet, and while I do prefer my mushrooms fresh, I enjoyed it.
My companion was delighted with her pancakes. I should have expected nothing less at a pancake house.
She ordered the “Simple & Fit Blueberry Harvest Grain ‘n Nut” combo ($7.29, 560 calories). Fresh blueberries were stuffed within a pair of pancakes, with sliced bananas on top, and scrambled egg substitute on the side. “I’m very happy with this order,” she told me.
In case you’re wondering, IHOP doesn’t just feed its patrons diet-conscious food.
If you have a carefree attitude about breakfast foods, you can get country-fried steak and eggs ($10.59, 1570 calories): an 8-ounce steak smothered with country gravy, served with two eggs, hash-brown potatoes and two buttermilk pancakes.
Pilot Butte Drive-In has opened a new west-side Bend restaurant in the Safeway plaza location previously occupied by Tony’s Delicatessen. The new store complements the original Pilot Butte Drive-In at 917 N.E. Greenwood Ave. Both serve a menu that features mainly a variety of hamburgers, including the 18-ounce Pilot Butte burger for $17.45 (without cheese). Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day. 320 S.W. Century Drive, Bend; www.pilot butte.com or 541-323-3272.
Farewell, Mio Sushi; hello, Shinsei Sushi . Announcing a focus on fresh ingredients, the former owner of the Mio Sushi franchise in the Cascade Village Shopping Center has declared independence from the parent company. The chefs and staff remain the same. Mio Sushi’s plans to open an outlet in Bend’s Old Mill District in July are still on track. Shinsei Sushi: Lunch 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday to Friday, noon to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; dinner 4 p.m. to close Monday to Thursday, 5 p.m. to close Friday to Sunday. 63455 N. U.S. Highway 97, Bend; www.shinseibend.com or 541-306-3486.
Scanlon’s , the restaurant at the Athletic Club of Bend, planned to reopen at 5 p.m. Saturday after being closed since April. During the closure the restaurant refreshed its dining room and created a new menu focused on healthful options. Dinner 5-9 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday; brunch 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. Lounge menu 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. 61615 Athletic Club Drive, Bend; www.athleticclubofbend .com or 541-382-8769.
Hola! (B+): Extending over the Deschutes River, there are few more beautiful places to dine in Central Oregon. The newest of the locally owned Mexican-Peruvian chain has held back on its creative menu to satisfy clientele more interested in traditional fare. Breakfast 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday to Sunday; lunch and dinner 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day. 57235 River Road (access from Circle 3), Sunriver; www.hola- restaurants.com or 541-593-8880.
Greg’s Grill (A-): Occupying a large, elegant lodge beside the Deschutes River, Greg’s has made giant steps since opening in 2007. Its professional staff now serves excellent steak and seafood meals at competitive prices. Open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. 395 S.W. Powerhouse Drive (the Old Mill District), Bend; www.gregsgrill .com or 541-382-2200.