"You can find your way across this country using burger joints the way a navigator uses stars." Charles Kuralt

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Pop Shop

How often do you wish that there was a friendly little local place nearby with great sandwiches and a full service soda fountain? Someplace where the experience is real, without the forced atmosphere and taint of corporate influence. That wish came true for me when I first visited The Pop Shop in beautiful downtown Collingswood, NJ.

The Pop Shop generated quite a lot of local buzz when it first opened, and garnered positive reviews for most aspects of its menu. They have breakfast all day, a ridiculous variety of grilled cheese sandwiches, a huge general sandwich board both cold and hot, and an exhaustive ice cream and soda fountain. Their french fries are hand cut in-house and are served with the Pop Shop’s own home made spicy ketchup.I’ve been there more than a few times now and have had a positive experience every visit. I enjoy bringing friends to The Pop Shop just to show them that this kind of place is still alive and well, and that eating can still be a good time. I try to have a little something different each time I go, but it’s hard. Not because of a lack in variety (quite the opposite, in fact) but because it is so easy to get hooked on a favorite item. You just want to get that same thing over and over.A cornerstone of downtown revival, The Pop Shop takes square aim at mid-century Americana and hits the spirit of it all pretty much right on target without going overboard. This is no garishly decorated neon and silver nightmare. I imagine that The Pop Shop looks pretty much what any comparable local business would have looked like fifty or more years ago. The look is authentic and so is the food.The Pop Shop menu is designed as a newspaper and is so jam-packed with great stuff that making up your mind becomes a challenge. There is a whole page dedicated to breakfast, which I already mentioned is served all day. I personally suggest Your Own Private Idaho. There’s something like 2½-dozen varieties of some of the best and most original grilled cheese sandwiches on the planet. And just in case you were wondering; yes, they've got tomato soup, too. The Pop Shop has a large kids' menu that is hands-down the best around. They also offer an above average selection of vegetarian offerings that should more than satisfy anyone of the meat-free persuasion. The O-rings are beer-battered and the Buffalo Tofu Wings are HOT!Recently, The Pop Shop was paid a visit by Chef Bobby Flay, who arrived for a surprise grilled cheese throwdown for his Food Network show, Throwdown with Bobby Flay. I won’t ruin the surprise. You’ll either have to watch for yourself or find the results online.On my last two visits I had a Grant with tomato and a Hot and Cold Black Friday. The Grant is a fairly simple grilled cheese sandwich: american cheese and a double portion of applewood smoked bacon to which I added sliced tomato. There’s nothing simple about the taste, however. The quality ingredients come together to deliver a taste experience you will wish to repeat long after the last bite.The Hot and Cold Black Friday is what I like to call a Thanksgiving sandwich. It is primarily hot turkey, cold stuffing, cold cranberry, and hot gravy for dipping. This is the one I keep going back for. If you’re a Thanksgiving leftover junkie like me, it will have you going back for more, also.As incredible and varied as the rest of the menu is, the real treat is the soda and ice cream fountain. You can get all the standards, some cool house originals, or anything you can create from the long list of ingredients. Since I started going to The Pop Shop I have tried all sorts of soda and dessert offerings. This is one category where I won't give you my own personal recommendation. Go with an old favorite or try something new. Either way you win.Did I mention they sell merch? Get your Pop Shop t-shirts, hats and other goodies. You can wear them to trivia night or to any of the other regularly hosted events. Whether it is in the kitchen or the dining room, there is always something good happening at The Pop Shop. See you there.


Anonymous said...

hey george, i totally agree. it will become one of my favorites. i went there this past saturday and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. there are so many things on the menu i'd like to try. the four of us all ordered different dinners but our forks couldn't stay on our own plate. "here, try this." "taste mine". it was like a feeding frenzy. the crab pretzel appetizer was so delicious. the pop chop salad was amazing. my only disappointment was in my choice to order a diet coke. what was i thinking??!! the soda menu somehow skipped me. i will have to try a specialty soda next time. btw...this restaurant was recommended to me by your lovely wife, lisa, whom i just happen to work with at the pitman library. thanks so much. what an experience.

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