There are few fast casual restaurants that are as iconic as IHOP. The International House of Pancakes has been serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner to hungry college students and happy families alike since 1958. Since the establishment of the very first IHOP restaurant in Toluca Lake, the franchise has exploded, with nearly 1,700 locations across all 50 states and beyond. And whether it’s the world-famous pancakes or a juicy burger you’re craving, IHOP has it all.

But while IHOP may offer an impressive range of menu items, they can vary significantly in nutrition, quality, and value for money. Even some of the most well-known IHOP dishes are pretty lacking. And let’s face it, folks: We all want to make sure we’re getting our money’s worth when eating out by not choosing disappointing items. That’s why it’s time, once and for all, to figure out which items you should be avoiding at IHOP.

1. The Original Buttermilk Pancakes may be deceptive

Given that this restaurant chain is quite literally called the "International House Of Pancakes," you’d assume that its pancakes are gonna be pretty top-quality. But one of the most surprising things about IHOP is how often the pancakes can disappoint.

Multiple online reviews have pointed out the poor quality of the Original Buttermilk Pancakes, with one diner observing that when the pancakes arrived, they were vastly different in size and small in number (via Trip Advisor). Another commenter noted that the pancakes are never cooked properly and taste quite doughy (via Reddit). Yikes.

There might be another reason why you want to avoid the pancakes at IHOP. Despite these pancakes usually being a sweet treat, they contain a pretty surprising amount of sodium, with just two pancakes clocking in at almost 1,000 milligrams. This puts them close to half of the daily recommended value for sodium, according to the FDA. Considering the nutritional issues and the sheer lack of quality of these pancakes, you’re probably far better off ordering something else.

2. IHOP’s Steakburgers might be a little underwhelming

The burger market is a competitive field, with virtually every fast-food chain vying for supremacy in terms of patties and buns. So how do IHOPs burgers compare? As it turns out, not well. Unfortunately, IHOP’s Steakburgers may not live up to the hype, as apparent in a review from The Washington Post.

The main issue with IHOP’s Steakburgers, according to the less-than-happy patron, is down to branding. Although these sandwiches are advertised as "Steakburgers," implying a deluxe product with premium steak meat and doneness of your choosing, they’re far from that. Instead, the sandwich that customers end up with when they order a Steakburger is akin to a standard casual dining burger, with a patty cooked on a griddle. The reviewer states that this burger feels like it is missing something.

Of course, that might not be a problem if you’re just looking for a normal burger. If you’re in the market for something a little more in the vein of a steakhouse, however, you’re far better off going somewhere that specializes in serving up high-quality beef sandwiches.

3. The Mega Monster Cheeseburger is pretty unhealthy

Many people are unlikely to fool themselves into thinking that a cheeseburger is the most health-conscious thing on a menu. But when it comes to the Mega Monster Cheeseburger at IHOP, you might be shocked at how unhealthy this mighty burger actually is. This burger delivers a significant 1,090 calories per sandwich, and the majority of these calories are derived from fat.

However, although fat has been demonized in the past, it’s not necessarily bad to consume. It all boils down to the types of fats you’re eating, according to Healthline. And here’s where the Mega Monster Cheeseburger stumbles. The burger has a high proportion of saturated fats, thanks to its dairy content and beef patties. And consuming too much saturated fat can contribute to higher cholesterol levels and increase the likelihood of heart disease.

Additionally, the Mega Monster Cheeseburger contains an enormous 2,110 milligrams of sodium. And somewhat incredibly, if that wasn’t enough, IHOP manages to sneak 10 grams of sugar into its cheeseburger too. This gut-busting burger, while satisfying, should probably be best avoided in favor of the leaner offerings at IHOP.

4. The omelets may not be made with real eggs

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Since IHOP is one of the most prominent fast-food restaurants offering breakfast items, you’d be right to expect its egg dishes to be pretty on-point. But the next time you go to IHOP, make sure you double-check the contents of your omelet with your server. IHOP’s egg meals have a secret of their own, which is that they may not always be made with fresh eggs. IHOP has historically used a packaged egg substitute to make its omelets and scrambled eggs.

It’s useful to remember, though, that egg substitutes are not dangerous or unhealthy (via Dr. Weil). Egg substitutes are often fortified with added vitamins and minerals and are formulated to be as close to the real thing as possible. Understandably, though, some people may feel slightly fooled if they order an egg dish thinking they’re getting something fresh.

That’s why we recommend checking on the day to find out exactly which ingredients are in your omelet. And, if you’re hankering for the real thing, it’s probably best to order a good old-fashioned fried or poached egg, as these will be cracked and cooked fresh to order.

5. IHOP’s Belgian Chocolate Pancake is far from healthy

Anyone ordering a pancake made with chocolate from a fast food joint probably won’t be expecting to feel imbued with health afterward. But it’s still important to point out that IHOP’s Belgian Chocolate Pancake is pretty lacking in nutrition. If you order and eat a stack of four Belgian Chocolate Pancakes, you’ll be consuming roughly 1,070 calories. According to our calculations, that’s about 270 calories per pancake if you’re trying to break it down.

Calories in and of themselves aren’t bad, though, although excess calories can lead to weight gain (via NHS). The calories in IHOP’s Belgian Chocolate Pancakes, however, stem primarily from sugar and fat. Our eyebrows also shot up when we noticed that this super-sweet treat somehow contains 1,050 milligrams of sodium.

There is a saving grace to all of this, however, which is that the Belgian Chocolate Pancakes do contain a decent amount of fiber. These pancakes will provide you with 10 grams of fiber, a vital nutrient required to maintain digestive health, according to the Mayo Clinic. That may not be enough to offset the rest of the ingredients, though.

6. Avoid the syrup like your life depends on it

Pancakes can be a little disappointing without a squirt of your favorite syrup. When it comes to IHOP, though, that squirt of syrup might be a little bit dangerous. Syrup might seem innocuous, but how it’s stored in some IHOP locations can be a health hazard, as apparent in a report by Pacific Standard Magazine.

One IHOP location in Amarillo, Texas, faced repeated closures thanks to improper storage of the syrup resulting in an outbreak of salmonella. Investigators looking into the outbreak couldn’t figure out where the salmonella was coming from at first.

They used a process of elimination and eventually narrowed it down to the hot water baths that the syrup bottles were kept in, which were deeply unsanitary environments in which salmonella can thrive effectively (via Welsh Government).

Although this incident is isolated to one IHOP, it’s important to remember that standards can vary from branch to branch. If you’re in any doubt whatsoever about the safety of your food, pay a close eye to how it’s being prepared. And remember, it’s always far better to ask to leave the syrup off than to take the plunge.

7. The Sirloin Steak Tips may not be great for certain diets

For people following a keto diet, it’s important to try and limit carbs as much as possible. Ketosis, the process by which fat is burned when you eat fewer carbs, can only occur when your carbohydrate intake is super-low, which is less than 20 grams a day for some people (via Healthline).

If you’re dining at IHOP, you might assume that avoiding the pancakes and sandwiches and opting for a plate of meat is a safe choice; however, you’d be wrong in doing so. The Sirloin Steak Tips, which at first glance look like a portion of pure beef, are surprisingly high in carbs.

The Sirloin Steak Tips contain 79 grams of carbohydrates and 25 grams of pure sugar. That could be enough to push your body out of ketosis in just one meal. And that’s before you take into account any sides you have with them.

While the reason for the sugar content in these steak tips is a little unclear, it could be due to a marinade that is used to imbue them with flavor. Instead of ordering the Sirloin Steak Tips, opt for something that is virtually carb-free, like scrambled eggs with a side of bacon.

8. The Waffle Sandwich may be heftier than you think

It should come as no surprise that the Ultimate Waffle Sandwich is a serious meal. This dish, which sandwiches breakfast items between two massive waffles, is hardly the lightest thing on their menu. But if you’re ordering it, you should keep in mind exactly how impactful it might be.

According to registered dietitian Joelle Malinowski, the Ultimate Waffle Sandwich ranks the worst choice nutritionally in the IHOP Creations section of the menu (via Eat This, Not That!). This is because of its high sodium, fat, and calorie levels. According to Malinowski, there’s also the issue of the high protein content of this dish. The Ultimate Waffle Sandwich contains approximately 40 grams of protein.

This might not seem like a problem at first, especially if you’re trying to build some muscle, which protein can enable (via Medical News Today). But eating too much protein can impact your kidneys, especially if you already experience kidney concerns (via Mayo Clinic).

Additionally, excess protein can contribute to your risk of developing heart disease, and it can also affect your blood health. Eating this sandwich just once likely won’t create issues, but it’s probably good not to make a habit of it.

9. The tilapia will leave you disappointed

If you’re in the mood for a lighter meal, IHOP can be a tricky place to dine. But wait: The Tilapia Florentine is there on the menu, glistening oh-so seductively. Wholesome, healthy fillets of fish, served with greens and a side of mashed potatoes or your choice of carb (and Alfredo sauce, for good measure). What could be wrong with that?

Well, unfortunately, it could be the case that it’s just not that good. One customer who ordered the Tilapia Florentine was so struck by its poor quality that they were driven to write a Trip Advisor review. According to one customer, the filet is so thin that it tastes like shoe leather.

And that wasn’t the only problem with the meal. The mashed potatoes, unfortunately, had been kept warm for too long a stint. The spinach, meanwhile, was merely just average, according to the diner: Talk about damning with faint praise.

This is somewhat disappointing as when tilapia is prepared well, it is not just delicious, but it also serves as a healthy source of protein that is rich in vital nutrients (via WebMD). You might want to get your tilapia fix somewhere other than IHOP, though.

10. The Red Velvet Pancakes are way too sweet

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Red velvet cake is a modern marvel. It has a sweet, tangy sensation with a delicate yet shock-red crumb … it’s heaven, guys. But as with any cake, getting red velvet cake right is a delicate balance, and occasionally, it can dip over into being too sweet, and that’s where IHOP stumbled with its Red Velvet Pancakes, which are no longer available on the IHOP menu, and for good reason.

According to staffers at My Recipes, the red velvet-pancake mash-up is overly sweet and can be difficult to get through. This is largely due to the cream cheese frosting, which skews the pancakes into the too-sugary territory. There’s also the color to consider.

The My Recipes staff, who took on the task of ranking all of the IHOP pancakes via a taste test, found that the Red Velvet Pancakes were not red at all but browner in tone. For all of these reasons, these pancakes were voted at the bottom of the stack in IHOP’s offerings. Their Double Blueberry, New York Cheesecake, and Original pancakes, meanwhile, fared far better.

11. The Cheeseburger Omelette is a step too far

Look, everyone loves a wild culinary mash-up now and again. But in this modern world, where recipe creators are endlessly grasping for new ideas, things can sometimes go a little too far. IHOP is as guilty of this as anyone else, and the Cheeseburger Omelette is, unfortunately, an idea that should have been left on the shelf.

The Cheeseburger Omelette is such a poorly thought-out offering that it was featured by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which gave it a spot on the Xtreme Eating report, which collates particularly bad ideas from fast food chains.

And it makes sense, too. This creation takes a perfectly good omelet and slashers it in hamburger crumbles, ketchup, American cheese, and hash browns to boot. As far as breakfasts go, there are far better choices to be made out there.

The Cheeseburger Omelette isn’t just hard to stomach on a theoretical level, but it’s also hard to stomach when eating. This omelet contains over 1,300 calories, with a whopping 96 grams of fat, 36 grams of saturated fat, 3,220 milligrams of sodium, and 72 grams of protein. This omelet is a gut-buster that’s best left on the menu and not on your table.

12. Don’t be fooled by the Banana Crepes with Nutella

Considering the slew of high-fat, low-fiber options on the IHOP menu, the presence of something as nutritious as a banana is very welcome. These peelable fruits are rich in potassium and fiber: They can boost your gut health and keep you going for hours. And so, if you’re on the hunt for a little health, the Banana Crepes with Nutella might seem like a good choice. Sure, they have Nutella on them, but it’s probably just a little bit, right?

Unfortunately not. In this dish, slices of banana are adorned and placed on top of an already loaded plate. Thanks to the buttery crepes, the generous drizzle of Nutella, and a squirt of whipped cream, this dish contains well over 1,000 calories.

The Banana Crepes with Nutella also deliver roughly 120 grams of carbohydrates per serving. If you’re following a 2,000-calorie diet, this menu item could make up an enormous proportion of your daily recommended intake (via Mayo Clinic). These crepes are great if you’re trying to stock up on carbs but not so ideal if you’re trying to eat healthily.

13. The Stuffed French Toast won’t do you any favors

Everyone deserves a little treat now and again. And for some folks, the idea of a loaded plate of french toast might scream pure, unadulterated joy. While that’s understandable, it’s useful to bear in mind that you can have too much of a good thing, and IHOP’s Stuffed French Toast tips the scales the wrong way.

According to registered dietitian Joelle Malinowski, this dish contains little protein and large amounts of fat and sodium (via Eat This, Not That!). At first glance, the sodium level doesn’t look too bad: The dish contains 760 milligrams per serving. But when you remember that this is meant to be a sweet dish, it suddenly seems a little excessive.

The Stuffed French Toast also contains a whopping 59 grams of sugar, and over a third of its calories come from fat, with a high saturated fat content. And somewhat incredibly, this dish has the lowest protein count out of all IHOP’s french toast options, despite being the highest in calories.

14. The Onion Rings are quite heavy

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When dining at a fast food restaurant, sides and appetizers are pretty essential. After all, what is a burger without a plate of fries to accompany it? After gloriously fried slices of fried potato, onion rings take second place as essential sides and appetizers. However, onion rings can be pretty unhealthy at some restaurants, and IHOP is one of them.

If you’re ordering the Onion Rings as an appetizer, keep in mind that they clock in at nearly 1,000 calories per serving. This isn’t so bad if you’re planning on eating them with a few friends, but if you’re planning to eat them by yourself, that’s roughly half of some people’s recommended daily intake, according to the NHS. Additionally, each serving contains over 50 grams of fat and a huge 112 grams of carbs.

You’re far better off getting the Onion Rings as a side dish, which cuts the calorie and fat count in half. But, if you consider that you might be eating them alongside a burger or sandwich that has well over 1,000 calories, your meal could quickly spiral into an overly heavy meal. The sides may be essential to your meal or dining experience, but it could be a good idea to share them with your buds