Hop on Pops
With apologies to, and great affection for, Dr. Seuss…Do Hop on Pops! Like Seuss, Pops is fun, eye-popping and well done.
Pops Restaurant at 560 Tremont Street in the South End served a delightful lunch today. Calling itself “A Diner of the 21st Century” the decor evokes a flamboyant bistro, think le Marais. Etched glass, dark wood, brushed nickel, pressed tin ceiling, marble countertop, offset by slightly scandalous gold and black wallpaper.
This was my first visit and, other than an awareness it was a place ‘on the list,’ I didn’t know much about it. The name “Pops” evokes a 50’s era diner and the menu and food falls right in between that and our fun French cousin, le bistro de le Marais. Did I mention the chairs? Stripey and studded. Ooh la la.
No matter how cute, or how sophisticated, if the food isn’t good, why bother? We all know some hole in the wall that we’ve found amazing meals at. And beautiful places that disappoint are too common.
Though we had only a salad and two sandwiches, and it was only one visit, here is why I would still be pretty confident in recommending Pops, and why I will go back.
Good menu, well-executed.
The menu includes pastas (available in half and full portions – fantastic, wish more places would follow suit), a good selection of salads, and sandwiches.
Whenever we order something fried, the expectations are low – to – mildly hopeful. I’m impressed when a kitchen gets it right, which is too rare an occurrence. Three things have to happen: (1) the oil must be clean and fresh; (2) the temperature must be right (too low and food is greasy and soggy; too high burnt) and, (3) the chef must have a mastery of the technique. These three rules apply equally to tempura, french fries or Chinese food.
Frybasket expertise is just one measure and certainly not the most important. But, it’s up there. It tells you something about the overall quality of the kitchen. No matter how good the chef is, if the oil’s old – or cheap, they won’t overcome the owner’s corner-cutting. If the oil’s good, clean and fresh but the technique is bad; well, you get the picture.
Another measure is the salad. Are they interesting but not too weird? Are they executed well? Swimming in dressing or not enough? We shared an arugula salad though it was hard for me to turn down the wedge with a poached egg! You may recall my failed attempt to persuade a waitress to serve me just such a salad before. (see Fresser’s Choice.) Happily, this is offered on the menu.
Our chosen salad today was dressed lightly and perfectly, with the arugula was topped by 4 or 5 fried oysters. I wouldn’t normally have selected this salad but we’re eager with anticipation of our upcoming New Orleans trip and I was busy mulling over three different sandwich choices, so I left the salad to Caleb.
Perfectly fried, delicious oysters. He also ordered a Shrimp Po Boy. The shrimp were perfectly, lightly fried. (Nola on his mind…)
I ordered one of their recommendations, the cheeseburger. It came with sweet carmelized onions, chips of bacon (so much better than unwieldy strips hanging off the bun!), melting cheese and delicious brioche. The sweet-salty heavenly sandwich also sported a hand-cut or at least hand-made burger. Made-to-order would be my guess.
And the fries on both our plates (which also came with sufficient salad that we didn’t need the one we split) were perfect, too. Slivers of skin remained on the potatoes and not a drop of oil. Perfect salt.
Iced tea was brewed and fresh and refilled without request or charge.
Is long and the license is full. Perhaps the name is meant to invoke the thought of dropping by for a “pop.” It would be interesting to see this in full swing of dinner. I’ll be sure to report back.
The hours & service.
We had some South End errands today and decided to try a late lunch at Pops. Luckily, they were open at that odd period between lunch and dinner service when many places are closed. One might expect to be ignored at the in-between shift. We were not, but if you’re in a hurry at an off hour, the counter might be a better choice.
Pops 560 Tremont Street, South End (@ corner of Dartmouth.)
Brunch: Sat & Sun 1030 – 300
Lunch: M-F 1130 – 500
Dinner: Sun & Mon 500-1000; Tues – Thurs 500- 1030 Sat & Sun 500 – 1200 [sic?]
When you go, be sure to wish them happy birthday – today was their one year anniversary. You might even bring a fox in sox. *wink*