March 6, 2008


You read that right! International House of Pancakes... not exactly Mecca for Vegans, I agree. But doable in a pinch, especially if the party you're with has already made up their mind that this chain of fatty breakfast food is where they want to eat.

I actually walked in to IHOP this morning with my feathers up and a small container of Tofutti Cream Cheese hidden in my purse. I
was prepared to settle for white toast considering the sickeningly decadent menu that IHOP is famous for.

Credit has to be given immediately to our server: I ordered decaf coffee and then asked if they offered non-dairy creamer. She pointed out that all the creamer on the table was non-dairy but actually said, "you should still read the label, though, because I don't think it's 100% dairy free." I nearly fainted! Can I tell you how many Baristos/as at Starbucks actually tsk when I ask for soy? 10 points to our server right off the bat! Sure enough, the creamer offered was Coffeemate, not 100% dairy free (there is sodium caseinate in it) but in my Vegan World, I will use it when there is no Silk Creamer available.

Between the pancakes, french toast, waffles, crepes, hash and egg variations there was absolutely nothing for vegans (lacto/ovo-vegetarians obviously would be free to eat just about anything they wanted) in plain sight on the menu. There was a small fruit cup listed on the last page. For $2.99 I could eat myself silly through grapes & cantelope. I did ask the server if there were any bagels or English muffins available. She said they had English muffins. I ordered one & again, she was right on top of it: "do you want me to tell them not to put any butter on it?" Of course! I could have hugged her - though she didn't look like she would have appreciated it.

Everyone else at the table (3 of my girlfriends) all ordered hash & eggs, pancakes & eggs, stuffed French toast & eggs...then conversation again turned to my eating "habits." One woman was convinced that I have a food allergy & kept telling me I should just take Lactaid before going out to eat. I explained, as politely as I could without showing my exasperation that being Vegan is an Ethical Choice, not a food allergy. Even if Lactaid theoretically worked, believe me, IHOP is not the place I want to test that theory (and that's even if I felt like putting cow secretions or chicken crap in my body).

My muffin & fruit arrived and out came my soy cream cheese. Everyone was totally fascinated by it and of course needed a taste. Someone remarked that it tasted better than fat-free Philly (to which I agreed) and that it was sweeter than "regular" cream cheese. I think it tastes better, but what do I know? I'm an alien from another planet.

I will never again accept an invitation to IHOP for breakfast in the future. I will continue to feel a bit trapped, though, when it comes to not having any options for breakfast. Then again, it's so rare that I go out to breakfast that I'm not going to lose any sleep over it.


EDIT: 1/11/12

Somewhere in the comment section, people criticized me for using the Coffeemate despite the fact that it has casein. I can only point out that in 2008, when this entry was written, I was only vegan for less than a year & still a little loosey-goosey with the casein. I no longer eat anything containing any dairy, nor do I eat any processed foods unless there is no other option - and even then, only if I can recognize (and pronounce) all ingredients on the label. I am completely animal product free and on a whole foods diet at this time, 4 years later. It's been an incredible journey, and YES, I do have all the followers and readers of the blog to thank for their encouragement, support and information!


Vegan IHOP said...

How awesome that they liked the tofutti cream cheese! It's very comforting to go out and feel accepted by the people around you - even if they have questions.

Juliette said...

I love bringing my tofutti cream cheese to einsteins. I welcome the looks and desire any questions!! Loved ur post. Made me LOL.

craft said...


Ken said...

I've got a wife and daughter who are ovo-lacto vegetarians, so I get dragged to Ihop from time to time. I've found a few loopholes in their menu that allow me to eat vegan there. For breakfast, I usually get hash browns with spinach and mushrooms mixed in. Why they don't offer this option on the menu is beyond me... I think even carnivores would like it. (I don't eat English muffins anymore because I recently read the ingredients on a package of Thomas's and found out they have eggs in them). My daughter loves dinner there, so I finally had to relent when we were rewarding her for something. I ordered the spinach and apple salad, (without the egg, chicken, cheese and bacon it normally comes with), and actually had a pretty good meal. It was a huge bowl of spinach and apples with balsamic vinaigrette dressing, and wasn't bad at all.

The Vegas Vegan said...

Ken, thank you! I haven't been to IHOP since this post, actually. Sadly, since becoming vegan I haven't really had breakfast out at a diner or restaurant. Hm... this is SAD!!

Ramanan said...

Hi Lisa,
I was wondering if there is anything Vegan in IHOP, I have this restaurant behind my longstay hotel. Thanks for your blog, I will try it out.
Any idea on being a vegan in McDonalds? ;)

Lisa S. said...

I only went to IHOP this one time - and just because I was dragged there by friends. It was awful. There was just a fruit cup! I took my chances by ordering an English muffin but brought a small container of Tofutti Cream Cheese with me to spread on top. There was "non-dairy" creamer on the table, but it had casein in it! In my opinion, IHOP is a lost cause (as is breakfast "out") unless you're ok with spending money to buy fruit. I would just visit a corner store & buy bananas cheaper if I had the chance!!

As for McDonald's... I never really ate there before going vegan, but it seems that you should be able to get a salad or something. I believe the french fries are cooked in vegetable oil... but things like the apple pie may have lard in them, and of course there is the chance of cross-contamination from all the meat products cooked there.

In general, I avoid fast food joints because you just never know!

Well, good luck!! I just painted a bleak picture! Sorry!

Paola said...

Hey... I just stumbled upon your blog and am very confused by a statement you made in this entry. The coffee creamer was not vegan, but you still consumed it? Why not just have your coffee black?

Then in the next paragraph you say that for you being vegan is an ethical choice, not a food allergy. Seems to me someone with a food allergy could cheat with sodium caseinate in the creamer, but an ethical vegan shouldn't. Wouldn't you agree?

If not. Your "vegan world" doesn't sound very consistent (or even vegan, for that matter) to me.

Lisa S. said...

This post was written over 2 1/2 years ago. I had only turned vegan months before this blog entry was written, so I was still somewhat flexible in my choices.

I stopped consuming sodium caseinate in the summer of 2008, and now have a zero dairy diet.

I cannot deny what I did back in those days, except to say that now I am strict vegan.

Paola said...

Hi Lisa. Thanks for responding. I am glad you cleared that up. I understand the feeling as I think we are all in a learning journey. Good to know you are fully vegan now.

Lisa Smolen said...

It really is a learning process. And I wasn't able to just go cold turkey with it. I know there are people able to do it, but I wasn't one of them! There are still things I could do at this point, but again, it's a slow process.

I try to emphasize that point when anyone approaches me about advice on going vegan. We all get there by different paths, but as long as our intentions are clear, we usually all make our way there!!

Thanks for commenting, Paola! Hope you swing by to read the new blog as well: The Valley Vegan

Amanda J said...

We just got an IHOP in our area and my daughter is allergic to milk and egg, and I stumbled across this thread. Just want to clear some misconceptions up that you may already know: first, someone mentioned that Lactaid is for people who are allergic to milk--nope, Lactaid is for those who are lactose intolerant, which is a very different condition! Also, someone mentioned that someone with a milk allergy could "cheat" with sodium caseinate--sure, if you want to go into anaphylaxis! Looks like there won't be much to choose from if I take my daughter there. Going to scope things out with my son tomorrow. Ok, thanks for letting me comment! PS we also love Tofutti cream cheese!

Ken said...

Tofutti cream cheese is the best! For some reason, though, they sell two completely different versions of it... one of them is made from trans fats (partially hydrogenated oils) and the other one isn't. The trans fat version is sold in supermarkets, but the healthier kind is harder to find, mainly in natural foods stores.

Lisa Smolen said...

irst, someone mentioned that Lactaid is for people who are allergic to milk

Yes, it was one of the very rude & insensitive people I went to IHOP with. She refused to admit that veganism was a choice, she often called it an "allergy". I realize that Lactaid is for lactose intolerance. This woman was completely ignorant of the details of all 3: veganism, lactose intolerance and allergies.

Also, someone mentioned that someone with a milk allergy could "cheat" with sodium caseinate

No, what had happened was me, the vegan, who does not have a milk allergy, did use the coffee creamer by CHOICE. Again, I don't have a food allergy, this idea was perpetuated by the ignorant woman in my party that day.

For the record, I am no longer friends with this woman. Go figure, right?!

Paola said...

Amanda, it was me who posted about the food allergic person cheating.

I was generalizing and I apologize. I realize now that allergies and lactose intolerance are two different things... my comment was mostly because I do know someone who is lactose intolerant and does cheat eating dairy from time to time... which is really bizarre since it gives her terrible stomach aches and gas, but she does it anyway, with pizza mostly. It is very weird, people would rather have a few seconds of taste even if it is bad for themselves. Oh well :)

Anonymous said...

Hi, Everyone!
My name is Nick and I work at Ihop. I would like to clarify that we actually have a few more options.
First off we have vegetable based cooking spray that you may ask we use. Second the pancakes are a powder that is reconstituted with milk but can be prepared vegan upon request. Third We serve Eggbeaters and Egg+ P.cake batter = crapes so eggbeaters+P.cake batter = Vegan crape. At this point hash-browns and any vegi can be cooked in spray as well as any side can be subbed for fruit. So now you can order most of the combos on the menu vegan. Unfortunately the restaurants percentage of vegan guests is small so it is not so cost effective to print a larger menu but your server is aware of the options. So just tell them how they can meet your needs and be a sweetheart and you will be happy with the results. :)

Ken said...

Thanks for the info, but I'm pretty sure the pancake mix has eggs in it already, and egg beaters are not vegan, they are made from egg whites. It makes me nuts that they call egg beaters an "egg substitute" because they ARE eggs. It's like having a "milk substitute" made with casein.


Lisa S. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lisa S. said...

Thanks Ken! You beat me to the point about egg-beaters!!

There are only 2 egg "substitutes" that I know of to use in homemade pancakes: ground flax seed and Energ-G. Depending on your baking project, you can also use other ingredients like vinegar+baking soda, bananas, applesauce, etc. I'm assuming, as you said, that pancake "mixes" consist of buttermilk and/or egg.

As far as I'm concerned, IHOP is a place to avoid if at all possible, because the only "safe" things to eat are fruit and black coffee.

The potatoes... I might take my chances with but ONLY if I could be reassured that they are not cooked on a surface that is shared by meat or eggs.

So just tell them how they can meet your needs and be a sweetheart and you will be happy with the results. :)

As a woman, I take high offense at this statement.

Ken said...

I think the thing I found disturbing is that Nick is implying that the hash browns are cooked in butter and not vegetable oil... I've asked about this a few times and I've been told it's not butter... ah well. You can't trust servers in restaurants to tell you the truth. I'm sure I've eaten lots of chicken broth because of that.

Lisa S. said...

Oh, I'm sure!! I once had a horrible incident involving parmesan cheese thanks to a server that didn't know the full ingredient list. Sometimes, it's easy to tell a well-informed/educated/interested server vs. one who tows the party line - or is disinterested in asking the chef your questions.

Josh said...

Awesome post. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Question for Vegans. I am not one although I do enjoy a good Smart soy hotdog over a real one and do not eat red meat. However I was wondering about the eggs and why they aren't eaten? I had chickens as pets, they were free roaming and were like part of my family. They did lay eggs so without a rooster they were edible. We ate them like crazy because I had 6 chickens at the time so everyday 6 eggs. I watched them lay these eggs and it did look painful, but there was nothing that stopped it, it was natural for them to lay daily. I guess my thoughts are why waste them? I mean they went through all that to lay them I would feel horrible tossing them away. ? Just a question. Laying eggs is something chickens do naturally. Yes I understand store eggs come from caged chickens and their treatment is horrible, but mine were happy, healthy and could run and be free.

The Valley Vegan said...

Regarding your egg question:

1) I personally don't eat eggs because I don't like them. I stopped eating eggs in my early teens because I disliked the flavor and texture. I don't bake with them because the thought of the mucous-y egg in my baked goods is repulsive to me.

2) The majority of other vegans, though, do not eat eggs because of the factory farming process. Often, chickens are crammed in tiny cages, kept in inadequately ventilated sheds, stacked on top of each other. There are a myriad of issues involved with farming of chickens.

Check out this link for more information:

That said, raising chickens for eggs in your backyard is obviously a humane & reasonable alternative. Very few people (vegans included) will dispute the differences in the processes.

The Valley Vegan said...

Easier to click this link:


Ken said...

I actually stopped eating eggs after visiting the Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, NY and learning more about how they are treated in modern agriculture. Battery farms are pure evil. Terrible for the environment, the birds and the people who work in them. Plus I started really being grossed out by the texture of them too, and the fact that they come out the same place as a chicken's poop. But, sure, if you treat the chickens well and aren't grossed out by them, by all means enjoy them.

Ramanan said...

Accepted that free roaming hens' eggs may be ethically ok and harmless. But not everyone can raise hens for that purpose and there is no way to ensure that the ones you buy in market are free raised ones.

As far as I am concerned, I don't want to eat a product that comes out of a$$ (ok agreed somewhere close to that) of an animal. :-)

The Valley Vegan said...

The way I feel about it: everyone has the free will to make their own choices in their lives. I choose not to eat eggs. Many people choose not to eat them. Some people choose (and are able) to raise their own chickens. Some people ignore the situation all together & eat eggs from the grocery store.

My purpose is to bring to light what the alternatives are, but I have never felt that it is my duty to change people. Information is power. It's how we choose to use it that makes the difference in this world.

Thanks everyone for your respectful and thoughtful comments!

Justin said...

I went to IHOP and had a bowl of fruit, hashbrowns, toast and a bowl of oatmeal without milk. Oatmeal is not on the menu, but you can still order it and they can prepare it without milk. Just put some of the yummy syrups on it.

Lisa F. said...

Thanks for the tip, Justin!

Anonymous said...

This right here is why I don't call myself vegan, and many people are turned off and think all vegans are self-righteous jerks. Always judging. This person was making the best out of a bad situation, and I give them credit for continuing to be vegan and try to positively influence others.

The Valley Vegan said...

Yeah, it is a difficult "label" to wear. Normally, I don't even bring up the word unless someone notices that I'm not eating meat. I find that it's other people who say "Lisa is a vegan" in situations where I wouldn't normally even say it. I don't go around saying "Betty is a diabetic" in similar situations! That's her business, but because it's a medical condition, people have very different manners regarding the handling of that information.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a vegan nor a vegetarian, however I have made several changes in my diet over the past year, which happens to exclude dairy, red meat, and gluten. You just feel healthier, which, in turn, makes you feel happier. I laughed out loud at your "alien from another planet" comment. People can be ignorant sometimes, but keep doing what your doing! Your body will thank you! I found your blog through a search on ihop's egg substitutes. I only choose to eat egg whites as the yolks sometimes makes me sick.

Lisa F. said...

Thank you! I actually have been vegetarian since 1990, and went vegan in late 2007. It's been close to 5 years now and yes, the changes in my body have been HUGE, not to mention the benefits to my overall health.

I am actually reading a book now by ultramarathoner Scott Jurek called "Eat & Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness" filled with great stories of success, health and of course plenty of recipes! I was happy to see recipes for different milks, something I haven't delved into yet, but feeling very inspired.

I have been active my entire life: running, cycling, yoga, horseback riding, but have been focusing solely on running for the last 6 months. "Eating to live" has become my mantra, fueling my body and paying attention to its cues. Recently, I noticed some changes in my body that pointed to a protein deficiency. Increased activity & muscle growth *needs* protein! So, I increased my protein by adding in more quinoa & black beans. I also have IBS, so changes have to be made slowly & thoughtfully, but they eventually get made!

Thanks for reading! And I hope you continue to read! I have moved to Los Angeles & continued the blog over there:

filipino singles said...

Great Place and Awesome FOOD! I was pleasantly surprised by the atmosphere and decors of this place! We came here for our friendship "barkada" anniversary with my filipino friends & enjoyed this dining place in town. Lovely food with excellent service always attentive without being intrusive. We Love IHOP!

Anna Nabil said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anna Nabil said...

Allow me to explain why eggs are not Vegan/Ethical....

All laying hens are a product of mass killings of male baby chicks. In order for the egg industry (even small and local) to exist, we need hens to be separated from the males who have no use. Those males die all so that we can have breakfast scramble. Funding the consumption of eggs enables these mass killings. We ignore the absurdity of eating the menstruation (or uninseminated fertilization) of another species & call it "food". We allow the exploitation of these hens & pretend we are invested in their well-being. But the truth is if we had any true interest in their needs, we wouldn't force them into unnatural behavior. The hens are expected to lay once a day & are genetically bred that way. In the wild, they wouldn't lay more than 15 a year.

Their menstruation cycle is similar to ours. If we were expected to release our own uninseminated eggs at the same rate, we'd have an iron deficiency. These hens experience a calcium deficiency. In places where exploitation is non-existent (like farm sanctuaries), they peck at the shell & the contents in order to restore any lost nutrients. I'd hate to imagine that because I was bred to menstruate everyday, that I'd have to consume it, or otherwise end up malnourished. So what would happen to these chickens once they can no longer lay (menopausal), are they kept as pets? Can you honestly say these farmers would invest in that kind of expense, whilst bringing on more laying hens who may also eventually become obsolete?

The truth is that when an animal becomes a commodity, the interests of profit will always outweigh the interests of the animal. Always. Once an animal is reduced to an exploitative entity, its value is measured quantitatively rather than qualitatively. It becomes a product or property, rather than a being of rights and free will. So how can you reconcile this "backyard" option when it has even less regulation than an industrial farm? How can we suggest its even sustainable on a mass consumption level? How do we protect male babies from death, or female hens from exhaustive labor & eventual butchering? What realistic solutions do we have for this option other than the presumptive reassurances we're told? Let's have an honest discussion, rather than giving into the idealism of "humane" or "free-range".

Lisa Febre said...

Thanks for the concentrated information on eggs. I try to pass this information on to folks asking about eggs and egg production, so this gives me a direct link.

I wish I could get everyone to stop eating eggs, but in the meantime I suppose I'm doomed to watch them.