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Free is the New Black

Just two days after the Super Bowl, Denny’s Restaurants across the nation gave away a free Grand Slam breakfast to all comers, going so far as to advertise its intentions during the Big Game. The result: people queued up for hours in the longest lines ever to form outside of a Denny’s (with the possible exception of that two-hour window between 2 and 4 a.m. on weekends in which Denny’s sales eclipse the GNP of most third-world countries.) Even in good economic times, the draw of a free meal would have been high. But in this climate, offering a free breakfast with no strings attached was akin to naming that Tuesday a national holiday. Which, coincidentally, is just what Denny's competitor, IHOP, is doing now.

Or should I say, has done. Since 2006, the International House of Pancakes has dubbed Fat Tuesday National Pancake Day. That's when, from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., they give away a shortstack (that's three) of their famous buttermilk pancakes for absolutely free. Of course, the tradition of eating pancakes on this day stretches back even farther, since dairy products are forbidden during Lent and making pancakes is a good way to use up a lot of dairy products fast. So in giving these hot griddle cakes away for free, IHOP has effectively stolen Pancake Day from the Catholics. The catch? Well, IHOP hopes pancake lovers out there will agree that one good turn deserves another, and make a donation to the Children's Miracle Network in return — an organization that supports local children's hospitals. Last year, IHOP raised over $875,000 for charity through National Pancake Day. This year, they hope to eclipse one million dollars. The hardest part for you will be choosing what flavor of syrup to adorn your free stack with. I'm partial to blueberry.

Go to to find an IHOP location nearest you, then head in and scarf your one free shortstack (and make a donation if you can).
Tue., Feb. 24, 7 a.m., 2009

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John Linn

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