National Pancake Day means free buttermilk stacks at IHOP

Considering that "free" and "pancakes" are two of the most delightful words in the English language, it's no surprise that IHOP draws big crowds—and even beauty-pageant queens—for National Pancake Day, an annual event that began in 2006. And it's not purely about pancake promotion: While the international restaurant chain does indeed dole out short stacks of gratis buttermilk medallions for four hours, customers packing extra coins are encouraged to leave a voluntary donation in exchange.

The money raised today, from 7–10am, supports Children's Miracle Network Hospitals, an umbrella org that raises funds for 170 nonprofit children's hospitals across North America. Here in Chicago, the donations will benefit family-services programs at Lurie Children's Hospital, including art and music therapies, and bolstering family-emergency funds for families in need.

This morning at the popular Lakeview location (on Halsted St at the intersection of Grace and Broadway), we found more than just the standard hard-working team of cooks and servers making the magic happen. On hand to lend some extra attention to the day's good cause was Miss Illinois 2013, Megan Ervin. She explained that her personal platform concerns health and wellness — and pancakes, she joked: "Everything in moderation!"—while the pageant itself works to promote Children's Network Miracle hospitals.

Irvin, who grew up in Rushville (in central Illinois), finished in the Top Ten in the Miss America pageant last month. Parked behind a hot griddle, flipping photo-op flapjacks and occasionally posing in her tiara and sash with delighted young guests, Irvin admitted she didn't have much experience cooking. Still, as a Western Illinois University student living in her own apartment, she said she became adept at making a protein-rich pancake made with egg whites, cottage cheese and oatmeal. (That particular recipe is not on IHOP's menu.)

Also on hand were Lakeview residents Ryan Clark, the nine-year-old ambassador of the Children's Miracle Network, and his mother Mary. Sporting an IHOP chef's hat, Ryan helped Ervin make some pancakes and also delighted at the restaurant's four different flavors of syrup. "I'm been sampling them, actually," he said. "I have determined that my favorite is...strawberry."

Over the past seven years, National Pancake Day has raised $10 million. The goal today is to raise an additional $3 million. You can also donate directly online.


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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)