For the past two years, we've been eyeing a restaurant on Van Buren just west of Seventh Avenue. There are bars on the windows and the building doesn't really look inviting. Then there's the name: International House of Food. The painted lettering on the building promises American, Mexican, and Chinese food. The sign out front guarantees a $3.99 breakfast. After two years of trying to figure out if this place was for real, we just walked in.
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The name of the joint is definitely silly. IHOF, as we call it now, delivers on everything as promised though. Walking in, there are several tables, a large mural of a phoenix, and the friendly family that owns the downtown spot. It's simple and humble, giving a fairly accurate sense of the restaurant before you even take a bite. You can order homemade aguas frescas to start, or just dig into the massive menu.
In terms of the American fare, the breakfast offerings are the type of freshly made but still very cheap diner fare that downtown Phoenix sorely needs. That advertised $3.99 breakfast is 2 eggs, 2 pieces of either bacon or sausage, and toast. You can upgrade that toast to a big, fluffy waffle for $3 more with all of the other fixings. Chicken and waffles and pork chops with eggs are also on the roster, making this a must-stop for breakfast aficionados.
If you're not in the mood for breakfast, stop that. Okay, that's your choice, and IHOF has sandwiches, salads, and burgers to accommodate if you're not ready to venture to the international side yet either.
However, don't discount the Mexican and Asian fare as the next in a list of fusion spots popping up. The kitchen keeps the two culinary genres separate, offering authentic Mexican eats and Americanized Asian comfort foods.
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The simple street tacos in either carne asada, adovada, pastor, chicken, or chorizo, paired with smooth refried beans topped with cotija and a side of rice showcase IHOF's obvious prowess with Mexican fare. Chile rellenos, burritos, huevos rancheros, tlacoyos, and more make up the list of options for Mexican eats.
On the Asian menu, it's all chicken and tofu offerings, but the tofu was actually surprisingly well-cooked and firm--surpassing our expectations yet again. We're not going to tell you that the pad thai was the best we've had in town or that the other Asian dishes were particularly authentic, but, it does compete with other Americanized spots in town in that it offers greasy, comforting Chinese-inspired dishes at a low price.
It's easy to write off IHOF as a novelty: after all, we ate tacos, waffles, and pad thai all in one sitting. However, the breakfast and Mexican dishes are actually delicious and priced so that you can make regular visits. With the restaurant serving from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday, our only real complaint would be that this spot would be an ideal late-night international binge, but we suppose we can wait until the morning to go again.