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Today's word on journalism

Monday, January 29, 2007

Words as weapons:

"When he had a pen in his hand it was like giving a kid a machine gun."

--Peter Hall, theater director, on "Angry Young Man" playwright John Osborne (1929-1994)

Where's the better breakfast? Local Angie's or international IHOP?

By Melanie Nelson

December 15, 2006 | Some people wonder what makes the difference between certain national food chains and local restaurants. I have often wondered this myself and decided to evaluate two restaurants specializing in their breakfast menu. I scheduled two different days to go sample food from International House of Pancakes, otherwise known as IHOP., and Logan's Angie's. I had heard good things about both eating establishments, but decided to see for myself.

Nov. 27 was my IHOP visit. The overall service was average. I asked my roommate, Lacey Hale, to keep me company and eat, as well she could serve a second opinion. The only time we were able to go was at 7 p.m. due to having classes during the day. We pulled into a parking spot on the front row, as there were very few cars in the parking lot. Lacy and I experienced prompt service as we were seated right away. The host who escorted us to our table was also our server, Peter Johnson. Johnson was very kind and personable; however, he might as well have sat down and eaten with us. Too much service can be bad service. I did ask him what his favorite breakfast dish was and what he recommended.

"I love the new corn bread pancakes," he said. "They're fluffy and have a great flavor. Our seasonal pumpkin pancakes are amazing too." His response and verbal communication did not stop there. He checked on us every five minutes whether we were eating or not. Eventually, I avoided eye contact all together and would immediately tell him we were fine. He would stay at the table, fumble for more words, and ask at least two more reassuring questions.

I ordered the international passport for my meal, along with chocolate milk. The passport includes: your choice of three different kinds of crepes, your choice of eggs, and your choice of bacon or sausage. I chose the Swedish crepes with lingonberries and lingonberry butter on top of them. I got half bacon, half sausage and over-easy eggs. When the food arrived, my chocolate milk was gone and our server asked if I would like another one. The chocolate milk was solely milk with Hershey's syrup stirred in. This was not what I was expecting and asked if I could just get something else instead, such as a juice or soda; both lower in price than the chocolate milk.

Johnson explained I did not have that option and brought me another chocolate milk. I was very surprised.

Such a simple way to boost a tip and earn customer service points was so easily rejected. On the other hand, the food was delicious. I had never heard of, or eaten, lingonberries. They were delectable. The crepes were warm, my eggs were cooked perfectly, and the meat portion of my dish was very satisfying.

Our server asked both of us what we thought of our food. I nodded my head in favor of my meal without saying anything, hoping that would encourage Johnson not to hang around too long.

Lacey said, "You guys have the best pancakes. I don't even try any special kinds of pancakes here, because I just love the originals."

Angie's won our lucky day of Thursday, Dec. 7. I have never eaten at two restaurants in the same genre that were so easily compared and contrasted. I asked my friend Leslie Catmull to accompany me to breakfast. She happily agreed to come, as it was her first time at Angie's as well.

The service at Angie's was much less personal than IHOP, unless you were a regular. However, I found it to be just about right. A man who seemed like a manager directed us to a booth very quickly, didn't say anything, and just put the two menus in a stack on the table. Our server, Emily, came over when we looked like we were ready to order. I ordered a French toast breakfast with orange juice, over easy eggs, and half bacon, half sausage.

I tested the accommodating skills of the service and asked if I could have the berries and whipped cream over my French toast. This was absolutely no problem, and Emily simply asked me what kind of berries I preferred. I then asked her if I could have two out of the three. I wanted both blueberries and strawberries. Again, this was no problem.

Leslie slightly modified her meal as well. She asked if she could have hash browns instead of the bacon or sausage.

Our server did not even think twice to quickly write down the order.

Many other people found the service to be about the same, and rated this restaurant as a whole at this Web site.

Leslie and I went to breakfast at Angie's at 8 a.m. This made quite the difference from IHOP as it was actually very busy for breakfast. With the large amount of people, our food came out in a very timely manner.

The tastes were not as pleasing as the service, or the small-town atmosphere. My French toast was very thick and a little dry. I asked Leslie hour her food was and what she thought.

"Um, these pancakes are huge, and kind of have a grainy texture," she said. "They're not very fluffy."

The pancakes were about eight inches in diameter and she only ate half of one.

My overall experience at both restaurants would place IHOP above Angie's. Service doesn't mean much if the food isn't good. The food quality is the motivation of eating out. If you don't have that, you don't have much. It's also good to try new things. This is much easier when you have a large variety to choose from.

The International House of Pancakes has a much bigger breakfast menu than Angie's does. They also have seasonal specials and fun, user friendly menus, which you can find on their Web site, along with all of the locations.

Angie's menus had about one page of breakfast choices and no pictures, where you can find at this Web site.


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