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Waffle House Vs IHOP: Everything You Need To Know

Waffle House and IHOP
Waffle House and IHOP - Static Media / Shutterstock / Getty

Fans of diner food have known for decades that two of the best options for finding satisfaction are Waffle House and IHOP. Both provide hearty eats with a nod to classic homestyle dining and have been on the scene long enough to have created an indelible impression on the dining public. This has undoubtedly led to diner diehards declaring one restaurant or the other as their preferred pick.

What is it about each of these eateries that makes them so special and has given them such a long and robust life on the restaurant scene? Does one restaurant come up light and fluffy while the other flops? There are many similarities between the two, but each has a unique personality and has staked its distinctive flag on the dining landscape of America. Here's a rundown of how both restaurants fare and which is the best bet to capture your dining dollars as well as your heart.

Read more: Waiters Reveal What Restaurants Get The Best Tips

Waffle House Has Been Serving Diners Since 1955

vintage Waffle House location
vintage Waffle House location - Slice of Nostalgia / Facebook

There's no excuse for going hungry if you have a Waffle House nearby, no matter what time you saunter in. The glowing yellow sign is your beacon to a diner that's open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Whether you spot it from a midnight freeway on the last leg of a long haul or you spy it on a sunrise drive to the office, you can drop in and order to your heart's content. There are almost 2,000 locations in 25 states and 919 cities around the U.S., largely concentrated in the Midwest, the South, and the East Coast, making it easy for the hungry to hunker down and have hearty, homestyle dishes no matter the hour.

The first Waffle House appeared in 1955 in Georgia, a partnership between Tom Forkner and Joe Rogers, Sr., two entrepreneurs who teamed up to create a neighborhood restaurant locals could enjoy. Through the decades, the humble eatery expanded into a chain that never forgot its patrons, striving to provide a top-rate customer experience for every visitor while treating owners and workers with old-fashioned consideration.

IHOP Has Been Slinging Hash Since 1958

original IHOP
original IHOP - Valley Relics Museum / Facebook

Since making its debut, IHOP has become a standard in the world of American dining, providing dependable fare around the clock while adding goofball terminology like "Rooty Tooty Fresh 'N Fruity" to the domestic vernacular. It's one of the longest-lasting restaurants on the dining scene, with a menu that may add exciting new inventions from time to time, but never strays far from the core goodness that started it all.

Thanks to the smiling, stylized logo and patriotic red, white, and blue color palette, sharp-eyed diners can spot IHOPs in all 50 states and two territories, with almost 1700 locations and counting. This all-American original has been putting filling portions in front of customers for 65 years, all thanks to Al and Jerry Lapin and Al and Trudy Kallis, an enterprising foursome that launched a shared vision in 1958 for a restaurant that favored pancakes. Los Angeles was the site of the inaugural International House of Pancakes, which shortened its name to "IHOP" in 1973 to make marketing easier.

You Won't Find Pancakes On The Waffle House Menu

Waffle House breakfast on table
Waffle House breakfast on table - Waffle House / Facebook

The name says it all: Waffle House serves waffles, sometimes surrounded by other tempting breakfast foods and sometimes sitting solo on the plate. The idea of offering pancakes in a restaurant that puts its main offering on its signs outside is a logical move, if not an inclusive one; think of all the pancake fans being left out in the cold ... or driven to find other chains that will oblige their need for non-waffle short-order goodies.

Purists who are familiar with Waffle House may understand the deal at the restaurant; you come here for waffles surrounded by other breakfast specialties, but pancakes won't be among them. It doesn't seem like a difficult decision to start offering pancakes in addition to waffles -- if only to capture a segment of the dining public that slips back out through the doors when they find out it's a waffles-only situation. As long as Waffle House remains dedicated to the name on the sign, there'll be a space at the counter where pancake fans would have sidled up for an order but beat a hasty retreat when they couldn't find what they were looking for.

IHOP's Menu Includes Waffles As Well As Pancakes

IHOP waffle breakfast
IHOP waffle breakfast - IHOP / Facebook

Pancakes are, of course, the main draw at IHOP, with a trove of buttermilk bliss spun off into a dessert lover's fantasy. Tres leches cake, cinnamon buns, New York cheesecake, and sprinkle-laden cupcakes get the pancake treatment, turning a breakfast staple into an anytime treat. There's even a revolving list of "Pancakes of the Month" flavors that bring sensational spins like Girl Scout Thin Mints and chocolate pancakes piled high with fresh strawberries and whipped cream.

IHOP also knows how to wrangle cakes from the other side of the grill and proudly offers House-Made Belgian Waffles in addition to its familiar pancake platters. There are so many waffle options, in fact, that the iron-clad breakfast cake has its own section on the menu. Guests can order theirs topped with sweet options like strawberries and cheesecake or savory ingredients like Nashville hot chicken. This slick double-flip lets IHOP provide dishes for Waffle House fans who wander in looking for their favorite breakfast bakes. Waffle House can't say the same for IHOP fans who enter in search of griddle cakes.

Waffle House Sells More Steak Than Any Other Restaurant Worldwide

T-bone steak at Waffle House
T-bone steak at Waffle House - @SteveOlivas / X

It may not seem like the most luxurious locale to enjoy a juicy steak cooked to your liking, but that hasn't stopped diners from making Waffle House the top-selling restaurant for steaks in the entire world. Who could have guessed this highway haunt was such a power player in the high-stakes steak game? At one point, the count was up to 5,760 steaks a day, or around 240 steaks an hour. Being a 24-hour operation makes availability a key factor in moving this much meat across the tabletops.

What kinds of steak can you find behind the yellow sign? A steak and eggs plate comes with USDA Choice sirloin, while the side dish menu offers T-bone for around $10.00 and sirloin for around $6.00 as stand-alone options. Affordable pricing makes it easier to stir the interest of patrons looking for steaks that won't set them back, a tasty surprise for anyone unaware of the opportunities for "steaking" a claim at the classic counter.

IHOP Has A Well-Rounded Menu Of Lunch And Dinner Options

IHOP lunch plates on table
IHOP lunch plates on table - IHOP / Facebook

IHOP knows that it can't be breakfast all the time, even though customers can order their favorite early morning eats whenever it suits them. In addition to pancakes and waffles, the chain makes a broad selection of egg and omelet plates available, too. But if appetites call for lunch, brunch, or even dinner, the IHOP line-up is ready to accommodate those, too. And not in a basic way, either; flip open a menu and you'll find burritos and bowls, old-fashioned burgers and chicken sandwiches, and hand-crafted melts that bring deli vibes to the diner atmosphere.

For lighter dining, the chain compiles its smaller bites into a single section of the menu that includes appetizers, salads, and soups, though there are precious few of each. The entrée section is more welcoming, with turkey, T-bone steak, and salmon plates on the list. All told, there's a dish waiting to be enjoyed no matter what meal is your favorite, and no matter what time of day you like eating it.

Waffle House Nutrition Is Dicey At Best

Waffle House cheesy hash browns
Waffle House cheesy hash browns - Waffle House / Facebook

Let's be real: You're never going to head into a Waffle House because you're looking for a kale smoothie and cacao nibs to munch on. Waffle House customers are on the search for hearty food that fills and satisfies, which means nutrition isn't a top consideration. The most staggeringly unhealthy order on the menu is a toss-up between a T-bone steak or three — yes three — pork chops, served with 2 scrambled eggs and a choice of toast and side. The eggs and meat come in at 1230 calories and over 1000 milligrams of cholesterol; the toast and sides only make matters more mind-boggling.

With numbers like that, cautious eaters should steer clear of questionable combos and stick with the more modest Classic Waffle House Waffle, which is a much more reasonable 410 calories on its own -- though at 50 milligrams of cholesterol and 870 milligrams of sodium, it isn't exactly balanced. Pretty much the whole Waffle House menu is a nutritionist's nightmare, either serving up huge quantities of calories or unreasonable amounts of fat, cholesterol, and sodium -- and sometimes, all four boxes are ticked in the same order. Cautious eaters aren't likely to find options they can feel good about here.

IHOP Nutrition Is Varied And Accommodating For A Variety Of Eaters

IHOP berry and chicken green salad
IHOP berry and chicken green salad - Kat Fry / Facebook

While a restaurant with the word "pancakes" in its name will never be mistaken for a health food bistro, serving more than breakfast dishes lets IHOP provide more nutrition-minded options among all of its selections. You'll find vegetable side dishes, salads, and specialty options like gluten-friendly fare that allow diners with restrictions to get in on the good stuff without worry. Allowing substitutions like fruit or cottage cheese to replace fries lets guests customize their meals to fit their nutritional needs.

IHOP even considers alternative diets, creating nutritional facts for vegetarians and vegans to help guide plant-eaters toward the most favorable orders. This sort of mindful accommodation gives IHOP a clear edge in the contest to capture the interest of all sorts of diners, making it easy for diverse groups to hop in for something suitable to eat without having to scour the menu for too long. There's nothing wrong with a restaurant sticking to an old-fashioned ethos where its specialties are concerned, but IHOP does an admirable job of adapting its offerings for today's consumers.

Waffle House Prices Are All Over The Place

Waffle House breakfast spread
Waffle House breakfast spread - Lisa Robertson / Facebook

Companies can only use the excuse of inflation for so long before customers wise up and realize that price fluctuation happens as the corporate world decides. With Waffle House prices, customers have noticed wild inconsistencies that make it challenging for frequent diners to get ahold of what they'll pay with each visit, as well as turning off new customers with sticker shock on occasion. TikTok users have even made a trend of calling out inconsistencies in the system the restaurant uses to charge patrons based on location, a capricious method that keeps hungry diners guessing their total every time they drop in. Some attribute the trend to handwritten receipts, a throwback method for calculating diners' bills that could use some updating if Waffle House hopes to keep up.

There are ways to sidestep the unfavorable prices, strategies like ordering the Waffle House All-Star Special, which gets you a well-rounded selection that helps your money go further. Choosing items from the dedicated breakfast menu will also keep costs for individual items in check. But having to do tricky math to prevent overspending sounds like the kind of dining table activity that can make you lose your appetite.

IHOP Prices Are Fairly Favorable

IHOP pancake and breakfast plates
IHOP pancake and breakfast plates - IHOP / Facebook

IHOP presents itself as more of a family-oriented restaurant, and the prices on the menu make it easy for groups on a budget to enjoy a meal out together. The chain provides a Family Feasts to-go menu and generous collections that compile full meals into a single order with prices hovering around the $40.00 mark. Depending on the size of the group, these bagged banquets can feed four or five people, bringing your price-per-person down under $10.00. This is a fantastic deal in any era, but especially in a market where "shrinkflation" has become a common pricing technique.

Specialty customers at either end of the age spectrum can also enjoy reduced-price menus tailored for the young and old. Cheap dining at IHOP abounds for seniors with the eatery's 55+ menu, a gathering of fairly filling fare at a reduced price, as well as a kids' menu that accommodates younger diners with smaller versions of the dishes made for their accompanying adults. Rather than hoping you can find affordable fare at IHOP, guests who qualify can easily jump to these discounted sections to make their selections.

IHOP Has A Frequent Diner Reward Program That's More Modern Than Waffle House

Waffle House platters
Waffle House platters - @DawnMarieBailey / X

Anyone who eats at Waffle House on a regular basis should be aware of the restaurant's Regulars Club, a program that rewards frequent visitors with discounts and free food from time to time. Members receive emails reporting Waffle House news hot from the griddle, and anyone who joins gets a free order of hash browns as a thank-you gift. Though you may receive digital coupons for exciting offers, Reddit users report Waffle House offers must be printed to be redeemed; in true vintage fashion, the company doesn't accept electronic redemptions.

Keeping up with the discount trend, IHOP also offers a rewards program whimsically called the International Bank of Pancakes. For every $5.00 spent, members receive one PanCoin, something the chain refers to as a "crypto-pancake." Once you've acquired a three-PanCoin stack, you can redeem them for a triple-stack of famous IHOP pancakes and other rewards. Additional perks include free pancakes to celebrate your birthday, special access to secret menu items, and the ability to use the IHOP app for digital payments at the restaurant. For a company bumping up on more than 66 years in operation, that's a highly contemporary move — one that makes them more competitive than Waffle House.

Winner: IHOP Is The Better Choice, For More Than Just Its Pancakes.

IHOP Restaurant sign
IHOP Restaurant sign - Valerie Loiseleux/Getty Images

There are no two ways about it: when it comes to diner-style eating at these two giants, IHOP tops the stack. With a more expansive menu, better prices, and locations found throughout the U.S., this chain knows how to please its target audience and make things attractive for new visitors. This cherished chain may have shown up on the scene three years after Waffle House, but it played catch-up pretty quickly and stayed on top of its game the whole way through. While highway riders may always be grateful to find exits marked with the lemon-lighted Waffle House banner, a broader audience can find food that suits their sensibilities at IHOP, even if it means driving a little further to find one.

IHOP's presence in a wider swath of the U.S. also makes it easy for diners across the country to find locations nearby. With a frequent diner program that turns every dollar spent into food, IHOP makes an enticing argument for hungry guests to stop in regularly to make their money go further, an enticement Waffle House doesn't seem as able to offer. Though both restaurants make efforts to satisfy their clientele, IHOP comes out ahead of Waffle House by leaps and bounds.

Read the original article on Mashed.