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For the Sake of Pancakes

Columns Order of the Day

February 20, 2011

Story By: Dining Out Team |

IHOP to offer free buttermilk pancakes in an effort to raise funds, awareness for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. When Sarah Espino was a little girl, she dreamed of owning a restaurant.

  • Original Buttermilk Pancakes with authentic country flavor ($9.40).
  • Strawberry Banana Pancakes ($13.50)
  • Big Steak Omelette ($16.99)
  • Local Favorite: fried rice, Portuguese sausage, two eggs ($7.99)
  • Sarah Espino, president of IHOP-Hawaii, with the Local Favorite breakfast dish.
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“My afternoons were spent playing with my neighbors; I had clay pots and water and leaves, and I’d invite them to my ‘restaurant,'” she remembers. “I shared that dream with my husband, and he said, ‘Do you want to pursue it?'”

Espino and her husband, Vince, who lived in San Francisco at the time, had come to Oahu for a vacation when they noticed the absence of one of their favorite Mainland eateries. “We realized there were no IHOPs on the island of Oahu. I was always brought up to believe breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It was an opportunity we wanted to look into.”

As it turned out, the 52-year-old restaurant chain, based in Glendale, Calif., was searching for a new Hawaii franchisee. “We were in the right place at the time,” Espino says. After about a year of planning and negotiation, and another year of construction, the couple’s first IHOP opened in June 2006 at the Ohana Malia Hotel on Kuhio Avenue in Waikiki. New locations have followed rapidly: in Kaneohe’s Windward Mall, Hilo on the Big Island, Pearl City’s Times Plaza, and on Ala Moana Boulevard in the Aqua Palms Hotel.

“We’re turning five in June — five years!” comments Espino, chuckling a bit. “That’s a milestone we need to celebrate.”

First things first: National Pancake Day is just around the corner. On March 1, from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., IHOP will celebrate National Pancake Day by offering free buttermilk pancakes to raise awareness and funds for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. “From the time we open till the time we close, we give out a short stack to anybody who wants one,” she says. “In return, we ask people to donate something to the Children’s Miracle Network.”

Culturally, the tradition of Pancake Day dates back to 1000 A.D., when Christians began preparing for ritual fasting on the day before the Lenten season by using up rich foods like eggs, milk and butter — all primary pancake ingredients. The day became known as Shrove Tuesday (to “shrive” means to seek forgiveness for one’s sins through penance or confession), and eventually, in the United Kingdom and other countries, as Pancake Day.

IHOP began celebrating National Pancake Day in 2006, and has now served more than 10.1 million free flapjacks as part of the event. Nationally, the goal for this year’s event is $2.3 million, for a total of $7.65 million since 2006. Donations made on Oahu will benefit Children’s Miracle Network programs at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children. “It’s one day of the year we give back to the community, and that’s a big thing for us,” notes Espino.

Pancake lovers who cannot wait for March 1 will be delighted to hear about IHOP’s All-You-Can-Eat Pancake special, available until the end of this month. For $4.99, servers will deliver buttermilk pancakes in stacks of three at a time until diners are satisfied. Servings of eggs, hash browns and sausage, bacon or ham may be added for an additional charge, up to $8.99.

“We have the world’s greatest pancakes,” Espino says with pride. “They’re soft, they’re fluffy, they’re delicious! I’ve tried many times to make them myself at home from scratch, but I could never do it.”

Although pancakes are the star at IHOP, the restaurant features a variety of other plates, from appetizers to dinner entrees. “We have everything from chicken to fish, from steak to shrimp,” Espino says. “A lot of folks really like our Chicken Crepes, our Country Fried Steak and our famous Bacon & Burger, where the bacon is inside the hamburger patty. And we have a lot of items that are less than 600 calories.”

Those desiring a bit of local flavor will enjoy one of the restaurant’s newest offerings, a dish only available at IHOP Hawaii: Fried Rice with Portuguese Sausage and Eggs ($7.99).

Omelets include tempting varieties such as Spinach & Mushroom, Chicken Fajita and the Colorado (a carnivore’s dream breakfast stuffed with bacon, pork sausage, shredded beef, and ham). The popular Create-Your-Own Omelette is custom-made with the guest’s choice of a long list of fillings that includes five different cheeses, oven-roasted tomatoes, and fresh spinach — or even turkey bacon and broccoli.

“Basically, whatever’s on the menu. If you want it in your omelet, you can have it,” says Espino cheerfully. “If you’d like to have breakfast for lunch, or breakfast for dinner, you can visit IHOP!”

IHOP Hawaii

  • Where
    • 1850 Ala Moana Boulevard
    • Honolulu, HI 96815
  • Call
    • (808) 949-4467
  • Hours
    • 6 a.m. – 10 p.m.
    • Sunday – Thursday
    • 6 a.m. – midnight
    • Fridays and Saturdays
  • Notes
    • Other locations include Waikiki, Pearl City and Kaneohe.