The first IHOP—the dream of founders Al and Jerry Lapin—opened in 1958 in Toluca Lake, California, and was originally dubbed the International House of Pancakes. Since then, rapid expansion has led to myriad milestones across the company's colorful history, from introducing its modern IHOP acronym in 1973 to its 1,000th restaurant opening in Layton, Utah, in 2001.
Today, the company stands strong with around 1,500 locations across North and Central America, each one an enthusiastic dispenser of pancakes, french toast, and tables constructed entirely out of bacon. Though IHOP is known as a bastion of breakfast, it also stays open during the day and into the evening, delivering lunch and dinner as well.
Add some sepia tone and photo grain, and a snapshot of Hereford House could make it pass for an old Western saloon. But the photo would actually be of a modern steak house that churns out aged steaks, seafood, and ribs—the same fare that put Kansas City meat markets on the map at the turn of the century. In the dinner menu, most everything walks across the grill before being served. The steak oscar entree eschews the barriers that separate land from sea by teaming up a 6-ounce filet mignon with jumbo lump crab pilfered from crustacean birthday parties and pan-seared to perfection. Juicy tenderloin medallions come smothered in red-wine demi glace, and oven-roasted cuts of salmon arrive in pools of garlic herb butter.
The people behind Gambino’s Pizza really love pizza, and they’ll make any pie in the shape of a heart to prove it. Traditional round pies are on the menu, too, in five sizes and three crust options: original, thin, or buttery pan. Specialty pizzas overflow with meats, veggies, and a blend of shredded mozzarella and provolone cheese. Some are even topped with sweet pineapple to round out the food pyramid. Diners can also order oven-baked subs and individual- or family-size pasta dishes that come with garlic bread and napkins folded into tiny togas.
Family owned and operated, Carlo's Copa Room features an expansive dinner menu stocked with authentic, homemade Italian dishes rich in flavor and character. Matronly tastemaker Kathy "Nani" Fiorello's hand-rolled, olive-oil-fried meatballs are a homespun favorite, sidekicked by her savory sugo sauce ($9.99). Also beloved is her piquant balsamic vinaigrette, which arrives drizzled atop the classic house salad ($7.50). Swingin' stomachs croon for the ravioli Sinatra's tomato cream sauce, prosciutto, and mushrooms ($18.99). And tappy tongues perform a daring dairy-dance in anticipation of the fresh romano cheese and rich cream of the penne alfredo ($16.99, with veggies, chicken, or shrimp available for an additional charge). The succulent homemade cheesecake with strawberry sauce ($6.99) and traditional spumoni ($6) ably furnish any leftover stomach space, and Carlo's copious white and red wines satisfy sippers.
Lording over a spicy pantheon of food is Panzon's extensive tequila selection, encompassing more than 100 different varieties, with a large number of premium, super-premium, ultra-premium, and premium-premium tequilas. The colorful interior is a-bristle with folk art from local and Southwestern aesthetes, adding atmosphere to generously apportioned meals such as the chili relleno ($5.59) or grande tamale (starting at $4.29). Knock back plates of santa fe montadas, a layered enchilada with tortillas, black beans, monterey jack cheese, and a tasty heap of grilled chicken with rice and beans ($8.09), or find charm in the extravagant extra-large chimichanga, dandied in a toasty tortilla frock coat with a top hat of sour cream ($9.99).
When it comes to Japanese cuisine, the cooks at Happy Banzai fall into two camps: sushi and hibachi. Along with maki mainstays, such as the classic Philadelphia roll, Happy Banzai's sushi chefs conjure up their own specialties, from the Mexican roll's jalapeno-topped spicy tuna to the troublemaker roll—an avocado-topped, white tuna stuffed version of the California roll. Hibachi-wise, chefs build epic feasts adorned with appetite-stoking soup, salad, and rice dishes and anchored by mains such as beef teriyaki and grilled white fish with garlic butter, the ultimate defense against lactose-intolerant vampires. To create lush flavor profiles, Happy Banzai's bartenders serve white and red wine, an extensive selection of spirits, and nine types of sake—each of which finds its way into some of the steakhouse's 10-plus cocktails, including a margarita made with sake and triple sec.