Lawrence becomes first location in U.S. for new Flip’d breakfast restaurant by IHOP
photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo
I thought I had tried every type of breakfast first. (I now begrudgingly admit using Cap’n Crunch as an omelet filling isn’t going to get you promoted to admiral anytime soon.) But today, I added a new first: I ate in the first Flip’d restaurant in America, and yes, it is in Lawrence.
We reported back in June that the longtime breakfast restaurant IHOP had chosen Lawrence as one of its first markets for a new quicker service type of restaurant called Flip’d. We reported it was going into the old Zaxby’s chicken restaurant on West Sixth Street. At the time, though, IHOP was saying that its first Flip’d restaurant would open in New York City.
Something, though, changed and Lawrence ended up beating New York. (I would lose my appetite too if I had to watch the Jets and the Giants.) Lawrence’s Flip’d restaurant — 4661 Bauer Farm Drive, near Sixth and Wakarusa — held a soft opening late last week to officially become the first ever of what IHOP leaders hope will be hundreds, if not a thousand or more such restaurants in the future.
“How do we make IHOP more convenient?” Scott Randolph, the head chef — or technically vice president of culinary innovations for IHOP — said while in Lawrence Tuesday to oversee the opening of Flip’d.
The answer is everything from breakfast sandwiches to burritos to something called a pancake bowl. While there originally was some thought that IHOP was going to create a pancake that could be used as a bowl, that’s not the concept. Instead, pancakes are served in a bowl, which makes them much more portable for containing syrup and other toppings.
“We knew we had to make breakfast more portable,” Randolph said.
But the thing to know about pancake bowls is really what else can go into the bowl besides pancakes. Each bowl starts with four buttermilk pancakes. Customers can choose from three add-ins — blueberries, bananas and chocolate chips — that are mixed in with the batter. Then you can play pancake Picasso, if you want, by mixing and matching about 15 toppings that can go on the pancakes. Those include the traditional, such as strawberries and blueberries, and other toppings that you might think are more likely in an ice cream shop, such as caramel and chocolate sauces, Oreo cookie pieces and rainbow sprinkles.
“If you want to feel like a kid today, you can,” Randolph said, noting pancake combinations that are heavy on the sprinkles, powdered sugar, brown sugar, whipped topping and plenty of other confections to get you hopping.
photo by: Courtesy: IHOP
If pancakes aren’t your thing, you can take advantage of the bowl concept along with all the toppings and simply replace the pancakes with either steel cut oatmeal or Greek yogurt.
More savory bowls also are a big part of the menu. They skip the pancakes and use eggs as a base. One highlights bacon — a bowl with bacon, eggs, crispy potatoes, cheddar cheese and roasted tomatoes with zesty hollandaise sauce. Another features spice. The Zesty Fajita bowl includes the eggs and the cheese but throws in some chicken with sauteéd serrano peppers and poblano salsa. All the bowls can also be made into a burrito.
Bowls have been popular thus far in the first few days of operation, but Randolph said sandwiches have been some of the best sellers. The menu features three breakfast sandwiches that have egg as their base, plus three similar sandwiches that replace the egg with a choice of sirloin hamburger patty or grilled or fried chicken. Toppings include a “jalapeño kick” version that features a sauteéd mix of jalapeños, serranos and onion, while another version goes California-style with two types of avocado — big slices of it, plus an avocado cream.
In all, the menu took about a year to develop, and there are only a couple of dishes on the Flip’d menu that you also can find at a traditional IHOP. But, many of the basic ingredients are the same. For instance, the bacon and sausage recipes are the same, both restaurants use cracked eggs rather than an egg product, and, of course, the pancake batter is the same.
As you might guess, IHOP doesn’t mess around with pancakes.
“People expect great pancakes from us,” Randolph said, noting that the people who cook the pancakes actually have to go through a two-week training school before they can begin that kitchen task.
One difference between the two restaurants is the hashbrowns. At a traditional IHOP, they are shredded, while they are chunked at Flip’d. The reason is the chunked version stays hotter longer and thus is better for food on the go.
“There was a lot of work involved in hashbrowns,” Randolph said.
Flip’d doesn’t have a true drive-thru, but rather has a pick-up window that will open in the coming days, Randolph said. People will order ahead through an online system, which also is being developed.
The company is betting the pick-up window will be popular with the coffee crowd, which is part of the company’s strategy of converting more of its customer base from once-a-week customers to customers who stop by multiple times a week. The coffee menu features a couple of roast varieties, plus several espresso drinks and nitro cold brew coffee.
As for why the company is betting on Lawrence, and how it became the first location in the country, IHOP wants to test several different markets, including a student-oriented market. Lawrence, and this particular location, fit the bill on two fronts with not only college students, but lots of students at Free State High, which is basically out the back door of the restaurant.
In terms of how Lawrence beat other stores to opening — the company is still working on one in New York — Candice Jacobson, director of communications for IHOP, said the location helped there, as well. The fact that the company was able to retrofit an existing restaurant put Lawrence ahead of some other projects; plus, the company found an enthusiastic franchise operator who kept the project moving.
The project has ensured that Lawrence has a special place in the IHOP organization. Some of the most important eyes in the company are now on the city, and Jacobson said the president of IHOP would be coming to Lawrence soon for a formal grand opening.
“We’re very excited,” she said. “It is a big new business venture for us.”
photo by: Courtesy: IHOP