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Free pancakes at IHOP: everything you need to know (+video)

Free pancakes at IHOP are being given away all day for the chain's eighth annual National Pancake Day, in exchange for a suggested charitable donation. IHOP will donate the proceeds from National Pancake Day to Children's Miracle Network and other children's charities. 

IHOP gives away free pancakes for charity.
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Free pancakes at IHOP are back. 

IHOP’s eighth annual National Pancake Day is underway at the California-based restaurant chain’s 1550-plus locations across the United States. From 7 am to 10 pm, IHOP is offering diners a complimentary pancake shortsack (that’s two to three pancakes, in pancake-speak; IHOP’s has three).  In return, it is requesting a charitable donation. Most of the money raised will go to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals; in pockets of the country where there aren’t Children’s Network Hospitals, like Texas, it will go to an alternative children’s charity.

IHOP restaurants are mostly owned by franchisees, so the chain does its best to keep the money local. Here’s the company statement on National Pancake Day:

“Since beginning its National Pancake Day celebration in 2006, IHOP has raised more than $10 million to support charities in the communities in which it operates. On February 5, 2013, guests from around the country will once again celebrate National Pancake Day at IHOP and enjoy a free short stack of Buttermilk pancakes. In return for the free pancakes, guests will be asked to consider leaving a donation for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals or other designated local charities.”

Last year, IHOP served 4 million pancakes total and raised $3 million for charity, according to a press release.  It’s a high-traffic day for the restaurant, so choose your mealtime wisely: last year, IHOP spokesman Patrick Lenow told the Monitor that attendance was usually “double or triple” the level of a normal day, and recommended going mid-afternoon between the lunch and dinner rush to avoid the heaviest crowds.

National Pancake Day is only eight years old at IHOP, but it has historical roots: coinciding with Mardi Gras, the original Pancake Day (aka Shrove Tuesday) was celebrated the Tuesday before lent and dates back to early Christianity in Europe. Legend has it that pancakes were common on Shrove Tuesday because they were an easy way to use up any dairy and eggs before Lent (when eating rich foods was frowned upon).

One of the most famous, long-running Pancake Day traditions is the annual pancake race at Olney in Buckinghamshire, England, dating back to 1445. In it, contestants (traditionally women) race through an obstacle course, flipping a frying pan the entire time.  Pancake races are a widespread tradition across the United Kingdom.

The largest US pancake race is held in Liberal, Kansas, which has coordinated an international competition with Olney since 1950. The towns agree upon a pre-measured course, and then times are compared to determine an overall winner. The Liberal contingent has won 36 times; Olney won last year, bringing their win total to 26.  This year’s race will be held Feb. 12.

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To find free IHOP pancakes near you, visit the IHOP store locator and type in your zip code.


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