Mummies and Monster Faces at the International Haunted House of Pancakes

September 29, 2021 —
I don’t like pancakes, Sam-I-Am, even at international houses of them, but the second I heard the marketing angle, “International Haunted House of Pancakes,” I knew my destiny lay in a vinyl booth with a laminated menu sticky from other people’s syrup.

The International House of Pancakes, IHOP, has done Halloween promos before. In 2019, they unveiled an Addams Family menu to promote the animated movie debuting that year. But as much as I dig media tie-ins, they are far less impressive to me than just going all in on the season itself. And this year, IHOP might have more Halloween spirit than Spirit Halloween.

First, let’s look at the menu. Like, really look at it. With our brain-eyes, not just our eyes. It’s frameable. Like maybe there has been a rectangular hole in my Halloween decorations all my life and I’m only realizing it now. This is not pre-approved, vetted art from a mega-corporate movie studio. IHOP is just celebrating Halloween (well, technically trying to extract our cash in exchange for hash by celebrating Halloween, but that’s the corporate equivalent).

We’ve got a IHOP re-envisioned as a haunted restaurant, complete with jack-o’s, ghosts, and bats. It’s next to a graveyard with creepy trees. Bury me by a spooky IHOP, please. We’ve got spooky lettering, which is an art all to itself. They even went so far as to make their hand model where a skeleton glove. And that hand model’s hand was probably well-moisturized with beautifully tapered fingers.

We could have ordered within fifteen seconds of being seated, but I wanted to appreciate that menu longer, gazing deep into its oranges and blacks and yellows with my hand on my chin like I was in an art museum. Finally, we ordered. Definitely the Monster Mummy Burrito. Definitely the Scary Face Pancake. Definitely the pumpkin spice pancakes. I mean, breakfast isn’t usually considered the spookiest meal of the day, but IHOP is certainly making a case for it.

Eventually, our waitress brought out our order…and I steeled myself for the worst.

See, novelty fast food rarely comes out as advertised (regular fast food doesnt't even). It’s often gloppy and ugly and quickly dashed-off. But I don’t blame them much for that. It’s a big leap to believe that food that is professionally and carefully designed and photographed at corporate HQ could be replicated in minutes by exhausted employees over and over again at every franchise across the country.

But I can tell you, that the Nashua, New Hampshire, IHOP is treating that menu like a catechism where the soul of every cook in that place is at stake.


First, let’s talk the Monster Mummy Burrito. I don’t understand the seemingly redundant addition of the word “Monster” in the name, but I think my pure wonder at what was plated in front of me was evident (eh, maybe also the phone in my hand) because my server returned and asked, “Did you take a photo? What do you think?” I stuttered through a compliment. “Great!” she said. “I did the sour cream bandages myself. It’s my favorite part.”

Even better, that mummy tasted delicious. It’s a breakfast scramble. Everything I would have ordered on any given morning, just mixed together and embalmed inside mummy wrappings.

My heart did drop a bit when the Scary Face Pancake was placed on the table. The sadly-not-a-waffle only bore a smiley face of whipped cream. No candy corn teeth. No mini-Oreo eyes. No strawberry nose. But then I saw the condiment cups full of candy and realized that I had been too distracted by the haunted house IHOP on the menu and didn’t read the food description. You’re supposed to build the face yourself.

My youngest had a monster’s ball with that. So much of one that she refused to eat the pancake afterward. Despite it being covered in candy and whipped cream. But I get it. Monet didn’t eat any of his art either.

And then the pumpkin spice pancakes were good too, according to Lindsey, even though they needed a spooky name. As I mentioned, I will not eat them in a haunted house. I will not eat them in any place that rhymes with haunted house.

I don't know if a trip to IHOP could ever go down as one of my favorite moments of any given Halloween Season, but I think it probably just did.

P.S. - Props to the gentleman behind us who was dining alone but still ordered the Monster Mummy Burrito without any shame. We would be friends if I made those kinds of things.