Despite its name, the International House of Pancakes is a decidedly American institution. Since its debut in 1958, the chain has brought breakfast to towns all over the US -- and if it happens to be National Pancake Day, that meal is even comped. You're well-aware of the free short stacks, though, so allow us to tell you some stuff you don't know about the restaurant, like the scattered coffee bars, singing waitresses, or lone location with 100% authentic maple syrup. Tuck a napkin in your shirt, load up your pancakes, and let's get into it:
1. The co-founder started with a coffee cart empire
Brothers Al and Jerry Lapin opened the first IHOP in Los Angeles in 1958. This wasn't their first brush with the food service industry, though. Prior to the IHOP launch, Al ran Coffee Time, a network of coffee carts that fueled sleepy office workers. He gave it all up to start the restaurant chain with Jerry, using just $25,000 in pooled capital.
2. Another co-founder designed B-movie posters
The brothers Lapin are most widely credited as the founders of IHOP, but the restaurant might've tanked without two more people: Al and Trudy Kallis. The couple is credited as "early investors" on the IHOP official site, but Al calls himself a co-founder in his biography. We'll let you figure out the appropriate terms, but while you're deciding those, you should check out some of Al Kallis's other work. The man is an illustrator who created movie posters for all sorts of studios, but you should start with his sublime prints for American International Pictures. The studio released a slew of B-movies ranging from The Attack of Crab Monsters to The Astounding She Monster. As you can imagine, Kallis's accompanying art is bizarre, in the best possible way.
3. The Lapins hired a Cordon Bleu chef to make crazy pancakes
According to The L.A. Times, the Lapins hired a very legit Le Cordon Bleu-schooled chef to create unusual short stacks for the original restaurant. The offerings included Tahitian Orange Pineapple and Kauai Coconut pancakes. Sadly, neither lived to see the current menu, but you can bet they inspired stunty staples like the New York Cheesecake Pancakes.
4. The Vermont IHOP is the only one with real maple syrup
IHOP has long been known for its roster of flavored syrups, but none of them -- not even the "old-fashioned" -- are actual maple syrup. When the company opened its first location in Vermont, Sam Handy, the franchisee, took issue with this practice. In order to avoid rampant customer rioting, he asked the corporation for permission to serve the real stuff. He got it, with two caveats: it would be served on the side and cost an extra $0.99. That worked for Handy and for his syrup truther customer base. The South Burlington location thus became the only IHOP with authentic maple syrup, although Chuck Schumer is working tirelessly to change that.
7. Free Pancake Day has raised almost $16 million for charity
IHOP held its first National Pancake Day back in 2006. Because people will never say no to a free short stack, the promo has returned every year since. IHOP has always asked customers to consider a donation to the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals or a designated local charity in exchange for the free breakfast, and its efforts have led to nearly $16 million total in philanthropic funds. Good work, team.
8. IHOP owns Applebee's
In 2007, DineEquity (IHOP's parent company, which was created out of IHOP Corp) acquired Applebee's for $2.1 billion. The merger hasn't yet lead to any crossover pancake burgers, but give it time.
9. Matt Stonie's demolished 66 IHOP pancakes
Never one to back down from a challenge, competitive eater Matt "Megatoad" Stonie entered the IHOP arena in 2011 ready to do some damage. The Santa Clara location he visited had a house record of 65 pancakes eaten in one sitting. He nudged past with 66, and somehow did not promptly puke in the parking lot.
10. It is sometimes confused with an Evangelical church
Look up "IHOP" on YouTube and you'll be confronted with a surprising amount of hymns and streams from a "prayer room." But that's not the work of the International House of Pancakes -- it's all coming from the International House of Prayer, which also goes by IHOP. Seeing as the church is younger than the restaurant chain, the OG IHOP sued its counterpart in 2010 for swiping the acronym. The company later decided to settle out of court, marking the end of at least one of the Kansas City church's many legal scuttles.
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Kristin Hunt is a staff writer for Thrillist, and would like a coffee table book of Albert Kallis' movie posters, please. Follow her to the IHOP blueberry syrup at @kristin_hunt.