As you probably know by now — especially because it was all over Twitter on Monday — IHOP changed its name this week to "IHOb," aka International House of Burgers.
The reaction was, well, snarky. Whataburger and Wendy's got off some pretty good tweets. Burger King went as far as to change its Twitter handle to @PancakeKing although, lest too many people become confused, it's back to plain ol' @BurgerKing today.
It is, of course, a big publicity stunt — don't expect "IHOb" to become permanent — to hype a menu of seven "Steakburgers" the chain is rolling out. A stunt that successfully got a lot of attention, even if some of that attention came in the form of "I've never gone to IHOP for a burger."
Well, we did. Go to IHOP — which is what the sign still says on the University Drive location in Fort Worth — for a burger, that is. "We" being me and Star-Telegram contributors Anna Caplan and Malcolm Mayhew, all of whom were judges in the most recent Star-Telegram Burger Battle.
The results were .... mixed.
OK, first of all, we didn't try all seven burgers. We're not that nuts, although Malcolm ordered his with a side of pancakes (that's an option, by the way, if you don't want fries — but fries came with his order anyway). But we did try the "Big Brunch,""Cowboy BBQ" and "Jalapeño Kick" burgers. Obviously, we're not purists.
First, the good news: The Jalapeño Kick was pretty good. Not anything to set your tongue on fire or to replace the chipotle-topped Diablo at Fred's Texas Cafe or the habanero/Fresno pepper-spiked Hot Bastard at Rodeo Goat or the Five Pepper Burger at Pouring Glory or the Project X at CharleysOldFashionedHamburgers in our hearts (and heartburns). But spicy enough with its jalapeño-serrano-onion blend to make up for some flaws. Veg (tomato and lettuce) was impressively fresh. Bacon was crisp. I'm not ordinarily a mayo guy when it comes to burgers, but the jalapeño mayo on this added something (even if that something didn't have that much jalapeño flavor).
The chief flaw was in the patty: Cooked beyond the requested medium and underseasoned. But that was only a problem when bits of patty were tasted separately. As a composed sandwich, it all worked. (And "IHOb" isn't having the bun problems that Whataburger and Texas In-N-Out Burgers have been having. Maybe it should consider rebranding to International House of Buns. No, wait, that doesn't sound right ....)
Fine print on the menu says that the patties are cooked to a minimum 158 degrees Fahrenheit. Nothing too unusual about that except for noticing it in the fine print on the menu. When Malcolm ordered his Cowboy BBQ burger medium-rare, I suspected he wouldn't get what he asked for. He didn't — it was cooked beyond medium to the point of dryness. Of course, he didn't ask for fries either, and he did get those, plus pancakes, so it kind of evens out.
The Cowboy BBQ patty is topped with BBQ sauce, American cheese, bacon and two onion rings, with lettuce and tomato smartly placed on the bottom patty. The sauce was likable, sweet but not cloying, and not overdone, like it can be on some "barbecue" burgers. Bacon and rings added a nice blast of salt — which, once again, the burger needed because the patty was underseasoned.
Which leaves the "Big Brunch" burger: a patty topped with American cheese, fried egg and bacon resting atop a hashbrown-esque potato and "Signature IHOP sauce" (they didn't change the name for the sauce).
You'd think a place known for its pancakes and breakfasts would hit it out of the park with a brunch burger (and I'm still disappointed that it doesn't use pancakes for buns). But it was the big whiff: Other than the potato, which was nice and crispy, it was a disappointment, from the rubber over-easy egg to the (stop us if you've heard this) underseasoned patty.
Sounds like a misfire, right? Maybe. But it got all three of us into an IHOP, where none of us had been in years. And there are four other burgers on the menu, most of them pretty straightforward: The classic (cheeseburger, lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions and that "IHOP sauce"); the classic with bacon; a mushroom-Swiss burger. The double-patty Mega Monster (which also includes white cheddar as well as American cheese but is otherwise a double-patty classic) is about as extreme as it gets. And the burgers range from $6.99 to $9.59 — including fries (or another side) and a drink.
And once you're in the door and a table, you're going to notice things like Tres Leches pancakes and Belgian Dark Chocolate Mousse pancakes, for an inexpensive $4.99 apiece. Those will probably bring me back. When you have evil genius like that behind your pancakes, why mess with burgers?
Star-Telegram correspondents Anna Caplan and Malcolm Mayhew contributed to this report.