Artery-clogging cheese blintzes and fried steaks arrived in the heart of Harvard Square yesterday, as the long-awaited International House of Pancakes (IHOP) opened on Eliot Street without much publicity.
Three corporate employees, the local manager, five waiters, and eight others—ranging from busboys to chefs—pampered the few customers who trickled in like maple syrup last evening.
The manager of the restaurant, Hugo Buenavenura, described the day as “steady so far.” The director of operations for the franchise, Walter Salaverria, said that this was not the best week to open, since “90 percent of Harvard students go back to see mom and dad.”
Originally set to open in June, and then rescheduled twice, the opening of IHOP yesterday was unexpected even for the manager. “We weren’t even sure we were going to open,” Buenavenura said. The restaurant received its certificate of occupation from the city at 3:30 p.m. on Monday and opened for a test run half an hour later. During the two-hour test, IHOP invited passers-by inside for free pancakes.
“When we open an IHOP, we bring people from the whole country,” said Salaverria as he sat down with Christie Hice and John McMacken, who came to Cambridge for a three-week employee training. “We want to make Cambridge the Beverly Hills of Boston,” Salaverria said.
Jose Edwards, a student of the Kennedy School of Government, described the service as fast and the prices affordable, but when asked if he would be back, he responded after a long stare at his empty plate: “I don’t like American food.” He’s from Chile.
Salaverria later engaged in a conversation with the Chilean visitor, who added a dash of foreign flavor to the International House.
Salaverria explained that the franchise is very popular in America. More than 1,200 branches have opened across this country and Canada since 1958.
As four Harvard juniors walked into the restaurant, two IHOP employees greeted them with jokes as corny as the bread cakes that come with dinner entrees.
Two waitresses, Alicione and Priscilla, took careful notes as Lillian Ritchie ’08 ordered her Rooty Tooty Fresh’N Fruity Breakfast.
The group of four included IHOP veterans and others for whom it was the very first time.
Elizabeth B. Rose ’08 was a “big IHOP fan,” while Ritchie has only been to an IHOP once before.
“They really need to advertise,” Rose said.
As Elizabeth H. Hunter ’08 indicated with precision, “the other IHOP is 1.7 miles away.” (MapQuest puts the shortest-route distance between the Eliot Street location and the Soldiers Field Road branch at 2.26 miles.) Regardless, having an IHOP in the Square will be much more convenient, Hunter said.
But Rose said she hopes IHOP doesn’t put Leo’s Place, the American food joint on nearby JFK Street, out of business.
“The only competition I see is the hung-over dining hall chicken, the one stuffed with cheese and broccoli,” said Catriona C. Duncan ’08.