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Love that IHOP coffee

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The author in front of the IHOP at 101 N. University in Little Rock, Arkansas.
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Is there a doctor in the house? In the house of pancakes?” asks Dean Wareham of the band Luna on their 1997 song “IHOP,” featured on the solid album Pup Tent.

I thought about that song on a recent Sunday morning, when I found myself in Little Rock, Arkansas, standing outside the IHOP restaurant at 101 N. University, at the corner of Markham.

Why is this important? Because it was here – on February 13, 1977 – mom and dad took my younger sister and I out to breakfast, to the International House of Pancakes (the acronym “IHOP” only being introduced four years earlier, in 1973) at this very site, back when it had the distinctive and iconic A-frame roof and stood on this slope at University and Markham.

I was nearly five years old and going to an IHOP was a unique and exciting experience. Seeing all of the different syrups there on the table, I wanted to try every one, settling for both the maple syrup and the blueberry syrup.

I remember this so well because my family was moving from the Washington, D.C. area to Little Rock for my dad’s new job as director of city planning.

Along the way, we stopped at a motel in Bristol, Virginia and on the night of Friday, Feb. 11, 1977, there in that motel room, we tuned into ABC affiliate WKPT TV, based in nearby Kingsport, Tennessee, part of the “Tri-Cities,” which includes Bristol, Tenn. and Virginia and Johnson City, Tennessee.

Just a few months earlier, on Holston Mountain, where the WKPT transmitter tower was located, "two German Air Force officers were killed instantly when the US Air Force reconnaisance jet they were flying crashed into Holston Mountain near here," as an Elizabethton newspaper reported in October 1976. 

Anyway, I remember sleeping on the floor as we all watched the “ABC Friday Night Movie” with that disco/Love Boat-styled music intro and discovered we were going to be watching The Last Dinosaur, a Japanese-American Rankin/Bass/Tsuburaya-produced sci-fi movie starring Richard Boone, an aging Western film star and Joan Van Ark (who had appeared in 1972’s horror film Frogs).

Apparently, after an oil driller “borer” in the polar icecap, bores through to a hidden valley where dinosaurs live. For a kid of nearly five, The Last Dinosaur (with 70’s-era “special effects” and Japanese actors in dinosaur costumes, with sound effects pinched from old Godzilla films) was pretty doggone neat! And this experience, watching The Last Dinosaur with my family made the long drive from D.C. to Little Rock all the more fun, even though most of the time was spent in the back of a ’72 Buick Skylark.

The Last Dinosaur on ABC that winter evening over 40 years ago has stuck with a lot of folks over the years I've discovered. The rest of the trip to Little Rock was uneventful from what little else I remember from it.

So, right after we got to our new house (which I also visited during my quick trip to Little Rock) my parents took us kids to IHOP, with that inviting blue roof and good things to eat (I was always a breakfast guy). It was a bright, crisp winter morning. Just a day before Valentine's Day. What a treat! 

And when I made my way to University and Markham this past month, I was surprised to find that the old IHOP structure, originally built in 1971, had been torn down and replaced a year earlier with an entirely new building and a new design.

As a story at KTHV, Channel 11, “the new IHOP will feature a new contemporary design with features like updated seating, stylized copper-colored light fixtures, and porcelain, wood-like floors.” 

I had my picture taken in front of the brand, spankin' new IHOP and was very impressed with the interior, so fresh and clean. After 45 years, it was clearly time for an update, and they made it roomier (the kitchen was no longer right there, as you walked in.

For a Sunday morning (it was a Sunday morning, as well, back in '77), it was relatively busy. My waitress, who had worked in the old building years earlier, had recently returned to Little Rock to work in the new restaurant. Her name was Suzanne and when I saw her nametag, I thought of the rather obscure Weezer song "Suzanne." She said she was familiar with the song, and this right after Weezer's song, "Island in the Sun," from 2001, played over the IHOP's sound system. It was curious.

What is also interesting about "Suzanne" (which appeared on the Mallrats soundtrack), is the Guns N' Roses reference in the song lyrics, when Rivers Cuomo praises Suzanne for helping him and "Even Izzy, Slash and Axl Rose / When I call, you put 'em all on hold."

Yeah, Guns N' Roses has been coming up a lot, in recent weeks. It's odd. They've been on my mind a bit, even though I'm not much of a fan. And, as I researched the band, which is touring, one of the first references to the band was their August 5, 2017 concert - last Saturday! - in Little Rock at War Memorial Stadium, which is literally just a few blocks from this very IHOP!!! I had no idea, until now, that Guns N' Roses were playing in Little Rock the week after my stop at the Little Rock IHOP.

And what's also odd is that the video accompanying the 1976 Holston Mountain plane crash in Tennessee, involving those German pilots, utilizes Guns N' Roses' cover of Bob Dylan's "Knockin' On Heaven's Door," the 1973 song used in the film Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, which included performances by Harry Dean Stanton, who is on a big comeback of late, appearing as coffee-loving trailer park manager Carl Rodd, on Twin Peaks: The Return.

Anyway, I enjoyed a stack of pancakes, along with my hungry companions, and that terrific IHOP coffee. I even left with a souvenir (which I paid for, of course).

It reminds me of one of my favorite exchanges in Jim Jarmusch's 2003 film Coffee and Cigarettes. Rock musicians Tom Waits and Iggy Pop have an awkward meeting at a diner. And when Iggy notes that the diner jukebox doesn't have Tom Waits' music on it. This puts Tom off, and he suggests that he and Iggy might want to go to Taco Bell, or even IHOP.

Tom: “We could go to the International House of Pancakes. Maybe that's more up your alley. I don't know."

Iggy: “I didn't say that. I don't wanna go to the International House of Pancakes. I'm comfortable.”

Adds Iggy: “Coffee is good, though, at IHOP.”

Tom: “Oh, you like the coffee down there at IHOP?”

Iggy: “I drink the coffee at IHOP. I like the coffee. You don't like it?”

Tom: “Yeah, man. I like the IHOP coffee.

Iggy: “- Classy brew.”

Tom:”- Yeah, that's good coffee. Yeah, that's good coffee at the IHOP.”

We would have to agree.

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About the Author

Andrew W. Griffin

Editor & Owner.

Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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