Breaking Breakfast News Alert: Hop on Over for Some Gluten!

Gluten Free Gigi Pancakes Sunshine

Here’s a timely (and useful!) topic for that weekend breakfast or brunch out.

IHOP (International House of Pancakes) omelets contain “a splash of our famous buttermilk and wheat pancake batter for extra fluffiness”.

What?!?

This may not be big news to some of you, but it was to me. If you dine at IHOP or watch TV with any regularity at all (there are commercials touting this as a benefit!), you’re probably way ahead of the curve on this one. BUT… even if you already know, keep reading because I’ve got the inside scoop on how IHOP handles people like you and me when it comes to these gluten contaminated omelets… and what they’re cooked in!

And, even if you don’t eat at IHOP, this story shows the investigation you can do when it comes to eating at a restaurant and needing to keep it gluten free.

Now, I discovered this gluten-filled morsel of IHOP omelet news from a brand new member of our Gluten Free Gigi Family, Betty. (She actually calls herself a “brand new Honey Bunch”! I love that! :) ).

Welcome, Betty, and everyone else new, or not so new, to the “Daily Gluten Free Fix”. I am delighted to have all of you here! The more Honey Bunches, the better!

Back to this breaking breakfast news…Betty left this note on my website:

“Have you seen the new IHOP commercial? The customers are saying how light and fluffy the Egg dishes are, and the waitress responds by saying it’s because they add a “Splash” of pancake batter to the eggs!! Wow, that could really wreck someone’s day if they thought they were safe, ordering an egg dish [at IHOP]!!”

Pancake batter?! In the eggs?!?

When I overcame my initial feelings of disgust over that tactic to add cheapo filler to a great source of naturally gluten free protein (wheat-based pancake batter is much less expensive than real eggs), I decided I should alert you.

And you know me, I can’t share that sort of info and send you on your way. I did a little research for you.

I looked around online, and then made some calls for legit back-up info straight from IHOP headquarters in Glendale, California.

Here’s what I discovered… And the way this ends up may not be what you expect!

These IHOP folks are a friendly bunch. I’ve never been so accommodated when asking my long line of questions about a restaurant chain’s menu offerings as related to the gluten free special diets community.

The representative at IHOP HQ I initially spoke to provided some basic answers:

* Yes, IHOP’s omelets contain wheat- and dairy-based pancake batter. Turns out, they’ve done this for years, but are only recently promoting it as…a benefit. (Come on, “gasp” with me here.)
* The addition of pancake batter to their omelets is noted at the top of the “Hearty Omelets” section of the IHOP menu (online and in-restaurant versions). It reads: “Made with a splash of our famous buttermilk and wheat pancake batter for extra fluffiness and served with three buttermilk pancakes or fresh fruit.
* In addition to the traditional omelets offered at IHOP (the ones that contain pancake batter), there’s also a “Simple and Fit” omelet. It does not contain pancake batter and is listed at the bottom of the omelet section of the menu. However, “Simple and Fit” omelets (aimed at those wanting a lower calorie dish) are made with egg substitute (the pasteurized egg product from a carton, typically made from egg whites with quite a few additives and colorings to made it look like real egg… just say no.)

Now, before we all go off in a huff and curse IHOP, there’s more

More questions from me, that is.

The super-sweet rep was eager to help, but unable to answer them all. She told me I seem to be “extremely knowledgeable about gluten free eating and how things should be handled”.

That’s when I told her about YOU!

Until that point, I asked questions as an individual wanting to eat an omelet from IHOP without getting sick due to gluten contamination. When I informed her I was calling on behalf of thousands of gluten free individuals reading the “Daily Gluten Free Fix” (that’s YOU!), she was overwhelmed (There’s power in numbers, Honey Bunch!).

She immediately put me through to “someone higher up” (Nice… a chance for REAL answers!).

Mr. Higher Up was incredibly informed about special diets and gluten. He even knew what Celiac disease is!

Here’s what I learned about what we can expect from IHOP and how they will accommodate us on our next visit…

* As a gluten free alternative to their traditional omelets, we can have our omelet prepared with any of the following: pure egg whites, pasteurized Egg Beaters®, or “shell” eggs. Shell eggs are the term IHOP uses to make clear a dish is prepared with real eggs that are cracked just for that dish.

* IHOP is happy to use a clean, unused separate bowl to whip eggs in for a gluten free omelet or other dish like scrambled eggs.

* They are also happy to use a clean, unused pan to cook a special omelet or other egg dish.

For these, or any other special requests, Mr. Higher Up told me we only need to make our server aware and a manager will visit our table to be clear about our special dietary needs. It is then the manager’s responsibility to convey those needs to the kitchen staff and see them through.

Now, I bet you’re wondering what I was wondering…

Since ninety-nine per cent of IHOP restaurants are franchised, how does that work? It’s easy for Mr. Higher Up in sunny California to say we’ll be taken care of, but what about individual locations nationwide?

I asked and he assured me IHOPs nationwide would take care of our special dietary needs.

To begin putting this to the test (oh, you knew this was coming!), I phoned six IHOP restaurants in the greater Atlanta area. I asked how I could expect to be accommodated if I wanted to order an omelet, but needed it to be completely gluten free for medical reasons.

I was astounded! Six out of six times, I received answers that mirrored Mr. Higher Up’s! I didn’t even have to speak to a manager. Good job, IHOP! :)

From the looks of it, IHOP, at least at the corporate level and here in metro Atlanta, can take care of our gluten free needs.

Oh, one more thing I learned… If you’re dairy free like me, you need to know all eggs, regardless of the type or the specific dish, are ordinarily cooked in real butter. The only alternative the six locations in greater Atlanta offer is Pam® spray.

If you have a soy allergy, be aware Pam® contains soy lecithin. For most of us with a soy allergy, that’s not a problem. You can read more about why in my article “The Facts about Soy Lecithin in a Soy Free Special Diet“.

(As for those other ingredients in non-stick cooking sprays, that’s another article… stay tuned!)

So… What’s next? Well, more research! I’m going to embark on the “IHOP Gluten Free Gigi Omelet Adventure”! It’s a risky mission, but nonetheless, we need to know what will happen in the gluten-filled trenches.

I’ll report back to you next week. Meantime, if you visit IHOP or decide to make a call or pay a visit to a location where you are, let me know how special diets are handled. Drop me a line at mailbox@glutenfreegigi.com.

Happy weekend, Honey Bunch!

xo,
Gigi ;)

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  • Lauren

    I was shocked…and angry…when I found out they put batter in their eggs. I thought I was doing great by just getting eggs there, but never could understand why I always felt so bad after. I finally just gave up on IHOP completely when I servers kept getting confused when I tried to explain my gluten intolerance.

    • http://www.glutenfreegigi.com Gluten Free Gigi

      Hi, Lauren.

      I feel your emotion! See… now you have a much-needed answer to your IHOP problem. (Or should I say to the problem IHOP was causing YOU?!)

      I’m happy you found this useful, and I hope it will allow you to be albe to enjoy a breakfast out again if you choose. :)

      xoxo,
      Gigi ;)

  • Yvette

    HI Gigi!!
    I recently ordered the simply fit eggs at IHOP and finished feeling hungry and unsatisfied even with a side of fruit, turkey bacon, and hashbrowns. I really wish that gluten free-soy free pancakes could be added to their menu. Can you pursuade them? I live in Liberty, Mo.
    Thanks!!!!!!

    • http://www.glutenfreegigi.com Gluten Free Gigi

      Yvette,

      I’m guessing if IHOP did add GF, soy-free pancakes to the menu, there would be such a risk of cross-contamination, those flapjacks wouldn’t be safe for any of us to eat. Sad but true.

      Having the special diets pancakes would also mean a separate and dedicated griddle, a dedicated cook for that station and dedicated bowls, utensils, the list goes on.

      Just taking a quick look at what a resto must alter to offer true GF foods to us makes it clear why there are not more doing so in the *right* way. (My idea of a GF menu is NOT telling me I can have all the salad I want, just ask for no croutons, you know?) ;)

      xoxo