I Am Eating Everything on IHOP’s ‘Wonka’ Menu
The original Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory ends with one of my favorite scenes in any movie. Pure-hearted Charlie Bucket proves himself worthy and Willy Wonka bequeaths him his amazing chocolate factory. After they launch themselves into the sky in the Great Glass Elevator, Gene Wilder‘s Willy pulls Peter Ostrum’s Charlie in close for one final lesson.
“Charlie, don’t forget what happened to the man who got everything he always wanted,” Willy says.
“What happened?” Charlie asks.
“He lived happily ever after,” Willy replies.
Well, I am about to get everything anyone could want ... from the Wonka tie-in menu at IHOP.
(Somehow, I don’t think this is quite what Willy had in mind.)
For those coming in late, here is a refresher about why I do this. I once joked to my old boss after I goofed up the press pass application for Comic-Con that if I didn’t get to cover San Diego that year I would eat the entire Josh Trank Fantastic Four menu at Denny’s as my punishment. To understand just how much of a punishment this was: The menu contained a “Thing burger” drizzled with a generous portion of “Thing sauce.”
I got into Comic-Con, but it didn’t matter — I had already implanted this deranged idea in my boss’ mind. And then when I did eat the entire Fantastic Four menu, it got more attention that pretty much all of our Comic-Con coverage that year.
With that, it was established: Any time a fast-casual dining establishment makes some sort of menu tied to a big blockbuster movie, I have to eat it. All of it. For science.
My previous cinematic culinary escapades can be read here, archived under the accurately titled tag page “Matt Singer Is Stupid.” (The boss is long gone, by the way, possibly because he was concerned he may be held legally responsible if I die of four spontaneous cardiac arrests while eating a plate of purple pancakes.)
This time, the site of my meal is IHOP. And the subject of their pure culinary imagination is Wonka, the new prequel to the classic children’s story featuring Timothée Chalamet as a young Willy Wonka before he built his magnificent and deadly chocolate factory. The mad men and women of the International House of Pancakes have devised no less than seven (!) items connected to Wonka, including chocolate pancake tacos, lemonade with icing on it and, yes, purple (iced!) pancakes.
Willy Wonka believed that a little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men. So if you’re reading this, you can confidently call yourself highly intelligent, because some Grade A nonsense is about to go down.
Since that old boss left for less stomach-churning pastures, I’ve typically done this alone. (And if you ever want to know what it feels like to be looked at like you’re a crazy person, just go to an IHOP by yourself and tell the waiter “I will take one of every item on The Grinch menu. Yes, even the ‘roast beast’ omelette.”) This time, however, I will have company: The great Griffin Newman, co-host of the Blank Check podcast, has decided (against the advice of his doctor, I assume) to join me. Griffin shares my fascination with movie merchandise and cross-promotional items; let’s hope he also shares my masochistic tendencies and iron stomach.
Here’s how this works. As you read this, Griffin and I are currently getting settled in at one of Brooklyn’s finest IHOPs. As we eat, I’ll be updating this live-blog accordingly. I’ll also be posting pictures and videos to social media where applicable.
What happens next? Honestly, there's no earthly way of knowing which direction the food is going ... in or out. So stay tuned.
Come with me... and you’ll be... in a world of pure indigestion.
We’re starting today with a “Daydream Berry Biscuit.” The IHOP menu describes this as
Warm and flaky buttermilk biscuit split and filled with creamy cheesecake mousse a mixed berry topping, topped with purple cream cheese icing and powdered sugar.
Here is what it looks like on the official IHOP website...
And here is how it looked on my plate...
Now Wonka does involve some running gags involving daydreams, but I’m not sure what about this constitutes a “daydream.” Do diabetics ever enter a daydream state if they eat too much sugar? If yes, this is a daydream biscuit because it is one of the sweetest things I have ever eaten in my life — whipped cream and creamy cheesecake mousse and mixed berry topping on this giant biscuit (which, for the record, was warm but not especially flaky). And we didn’t even get the promised purple icing. I did not miss it. (And I think we’ll be getting all of that we can handle very shortly.)
Look, if you want 1000 calories in a single dish, there are theoretically worst ways to eat that? This daydream isn’t necessarily a nightmare, except maybe for a nutitionist. As Griffin said as we were sitting here “As the one sweet thing at the end of a meal, I would enjoy that thoroughly. To eat it as the first dish, made it feel more ominous.” That about sums it up!
So remember two paragraphs ago when I said the Daydream Berry Biscuit was maybe the sweetest thing I’d ever eaten in my life? That record didn’t last long!
It is time for the main attraction of the Wonka IHOP menu: “Wonka’s Perfectly Purple Pancakes.” The menu calls it...
Four purple buttermilk pancakes layered with creamy cheesecake mousse & topped with purple cream cheese icing, whipped topping and gold glitter sugar.
And here is the official beauty shot:
And here’s what it looked like when they served it to us...
I mean... it is purple. It’s so purple it would not surprise me if I suddenly started turning purple, like Violet Beauregarde.
It is also beyond sweet; Willy Wonka himself would look at this and say “Maybe we should ease off a little bit?” But perhaps that actually makes it a well themed item? I must admit: So often I eat these sorts of movie-related foods and I wonder “What does this Gomez Green Chile Omelette have to do with The Addams Family?” And the answer invariably, is “Absolutely nothing.” But in this case, I see the connection. Willy Wonka loves purple, he loves sweets, and he loves weird unexpected candy inventions. This ticks every box. So ... good job, IHOP?
Griffin had this to say about this item, which he agrees is easily the sweetest food ever created (narrowly beating out the previous course): “The amount of creams and icing are so significant that you can barely feel the texture of the pancake in your mouth.” It’s true. You could serve this purple stuff on a grilled cheese and it would still be an impossibly saccharine meal. (Then again, maybe I shouldn’t give IHOP any ideas. They might just try it.)
Okay, so twice so far in this meal I have declared something the sweetest thing I have ever eaten in my entire life. Will it happen again? Let’s find out...
You know that scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory where Charlie and Grandpa Joe drink fizzy lifting drinks and they start floating into the air and then they almost get cut to ribbons, and then they are saved by burping a lot?
That’s me right now. Only I haven’t had any fizzy lifting drinks and haven’t floated into the air. Basically, I’m just burping a lot.
Next up on the Wonka menu is “Willy’s Jr. French Toast Dippers.” IHOP menu speak calls it...
Sliced French toast with a side of strawberries, banana and chocolate dipping sauce.
Here’s what it’s supposed to look like:
And here’s what we were served.
In terms of the ideal versus the execution: This is definitely the closest. It looks relatively close to the beauty shot. And it’s also the closest thing to normal human food we have eaten thus far. This is basically just French Toast sliced up into strips with chocolate dipping sauce. My wife does this at home for my kids, only with syrup to dip instead of chocolate. It’s pretty good diner French toast. So it’s probably the best item and the worst Wonka item if that makes sense. I suspect the next selection will really up the Wonka-factor significantly.
Before we move on to the next item, here are a few of my favorite tweet responses to what’s been happening here today...
You guys are funny. Or maybe you’re not. I’ve had so many calories this morning that everything seems hilarious to me right now. Either way, we move on right now to the “Scrumdiddlyumptious Jr. Strawberry Hot Chocolate.”
Hot chocolate flavored with strawberry syrup, topped with whipped topping, a drizzle of chocolate sauce and gold glitter sugar.
When you order off the menu, this is what you think you’re going to get:
And here is what we got:
Well, it’s close. The gold glitter sugar could use a little more pizzazz, but it’s not too far off. The visual appeal is less of a problem here than the flavor. I’ve never been punched in the face by a strawberry before, but that is how I would describe the experience of this hot chocolate. (Excuse me “hot chocolate flavored” drink, which really makes you feel good about the high-quality ingredients you’re putting into your body.) It is so strawberry forward.
Griffin said the only way to get through this one was to “cut the strawberry with the whipped cream.” When you are using whipped cream to cut the intense sweetness of a beverage, you might be in a little trouble.
Unfortunately for us, we’ve got a whole lot more trouble before we are done.
It’s kind of bizarre that we are five courses into the IHOP Wonka menu, and this is the first chocolate entree. It’s Wonka! Shouldn’t they all be chocolate items?
Anyway, we move on to the “Hoverchoc Pancake Tacos.”
3 silver dollar chocolate pancakes folded & filled with chocolate chips, creamy cheesecake mousse, fresh sliced strawberries & a chocolate drizzle. Served with extra strawberries on the side.
This is the official picture:
This is my picture:
This turned out to be the worst item so far, and by a pretty wide margin — which is kind of nuts because, again, we’re talking about a Wonka menu, and one would think the chocolate item would be the centerpiece that holds the whole thing together.
Not quite. Maybe if you love chocolate you could get behind this, but it is so dense and rich, and then the middle of each “taco” is filled with more of IHOP’s favorite cheesecake mousse, which basically just tastes like cream cheese. Who wants chocolate pancakes with cream cheese on top? Not me.
Griffin concurred with my assessment, and said that that “the mouthfeel” of this one was particularly unpleasant. We speculated that perhaps the pancakes used for the tacos are deliberately made thicker and denser than a regular pancake for reasons of structural integrity; the light and fluffy texture of a standard pancake is sorely missing here.
It’s just a big thick gloppy mush. If given the choice between falling into Wonka’s chocolate river and getting shot like a cannon out of the intake pipe, or eating this again I think I’d pick the pipe. This might as well be something from the Slugworth theme menu.
Come to think of it: In Wonka, the hoverchoc are literally flying chocolates. They make people float into the air when they eat them. No one is floating anywhere with hoverchoc pancake tacos in their stomach. I might get rushed the emergency room in the next hour, but only by an ambulance.
And we still have a ridiculous burger with hash browns on top to eat...
Right about now I really could use that Wonka T.V. that shrinks anything you put in front of it. Then I wouldn’t have to eat this monstrous burger.
It is officially called the “Fantastical Wonka Burger.” And it contains...
100% USDA Choice Black Angus beef steakburger with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, four-cheese blend, avocado, 2 strips of bacon, fried hash browns, IHOP sauce & a ranch drizzle on a brioche bun.
It is certainly a fantastical amount of stuff on a burger. And here is what it is supposed to look like.
This is what it actually looked like.
This one is a real head-scratcher. (Or maybe I have eaten too much food and I’m just itchy? I don’t know.) As a burger it’s okay. I have no idea why you would put avocado on a burger that already has hash browns and cheese and “IHOP sauce” (shudder). You can’t taste the avocado at all; all it does is make a sandwich that is already enormous more messy and unwieldy.
More importantly, Griffin and I are sitting here trying to think of how this has anything — anything! — to do with Wonka and are coming up empty. (It is, at this moment, the only way in which I feel empty.) A sweet burger is obviously a bad idea, so what else could you do? Stick a little flag with a W in the bun? Make the four-cheese blend out of giraffe’s milk? We noted the total lack of Oompa Loompa representation on this menu, and thought perhaps this was a missed opportunity. Maybe a little orange burger on a bright green bun?
Okay, clearly we are not of sound mind after eating all of this. Let’s wrap this up.
We have reached the end of our journey. Unfortunately, nobody’s going to give us a chocolate factory for surviving to the end of it. (Not that I want more chocolate — or any food — right now. I’m fine never eating again, to be honest.)
As the grand finale, we washed down all this Wonka goodness with some “Dreamy Lemonade.” It is allegedly...
Prickly pear flavored lemonade served with a cream cheese icing rainbow sprinkle rom & topped with a cloud of cotton candy.
This is what it's supposed to look like:
The waitress warned us before we ordered that they were out of cotton candy.
“Do you still want it?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said, letting out the deepest sigh in the universe.
And ... this is what we were served.
I hope this picture captures just how much the icing rim of this drink looks like, um ... well ... how can I write this without getting dinged by Google for inappropriate content? Let me put it this way: It looks like it should be a prop from There’s Something About Mary.
And that’s before you get around to tasting the thing. Prickly pear lemonade? I’ll be honest: I’ve never eaten prickly pear before. So I have nothing to compare this drink to. But in this context, it tastes like someone poured some potpourri into a glass of Minute Maid. It is weird. It’s weird without the icing (I hope it is icing anyway) and sprinkles. Maybe the cotton candy would have tied the whole thing together, but I doubt it.
So how did IHOP do here in turning Wonka into a tie-in menu? In some ways surprisingly good; those purple pancakes, while they gave me 14 simultaneous cavities, definitely captured the spirit of the film. On the other hand, for a menu about a guy who is famous for his chocolates, they kind of biffed both chocolate items. And that burger was a really peculiar choice.
Still, Wonka is a prequel. And this deranged meal will surely be the prequel to a wild and adventurous rest of the day. Now I’ve got a Golden Ticket ... to spend the afternoon in the bathroom. (As for Griffin, here was his final comment on his first tie-in menu marathon: “I feel ... heavy.”)
I will leave you with this, a lesson that perhaps we can all learn from, in the form of a little ditty that would sound great sung by Hugh Grant...
Oompa loompa doompety doo
I've got a tie-in menu for you
Oompa loompa doompety dee
If you are wise you'll listen to me
What do you get eating purple pancakes?
A pain in the gut and a bunch of headaches
Iced lemonade, and cheesecake biscuit
So much food your pants will split
I don't like the look of it
Oompa loompa doompety dop
I cannot bear anymore from IHOP
I will now live in happiness too
Like the Oompa Loompa Doompety do