First visit to Pops
Four of us descended on Pops the other night, supposedly the same night Allison Arnett was in there (as mentioned in the Globe "Dishing" blog), though I didn't see her. As I mentioned earlier, it's a very pretty redo, though my SO informs me the look is not Victorian, more French (I'm a design ignoramus). Anyway, it's the prettiest, most inviting version so far of this problematic space. Glassing in the kitchen and putting bar seats along it was a great idea: it opens it up nicely.
Apps: stuffed clams, a glorified stuffie of two big clams chopped and mixed with bread crumbs, chorizo, and a little aioli on top. Wonderful. Two crispy raviolis stuffed with English pea puree in sage butter, fabulous. Elephant garlic soup with bits of chorizo and plump little shrimps and bread-thickened, fierce and superb. A deconstructed take on the wedge salad with a square of mild feta instead of blue cheese and good crispy bacon, marred by oversalted dressing.
Entrees of the side dish (!) of gnocchi, excellent and plenty for one (we got it sans the optional white truffle oil): a steal for $10. A veal breast "osso bucco", a boneless preparation with a very nice orange-scented sauce and some nice sauteed greens (something napa-like, I recall), amazing and more substantial than it looks. Spicy lamb bolognese with fresh-made-tasting paparadelle; not as lamb-tasting as I would have liked, but a very meaty sauce. Lacking any lamb gaminess (which no doubt some folks will prefer), it could be mistaken for a traditional Bolognese with a lot of beef in the ragu, but it was an excellent version nonetheless. A crispy pork tenderloin on a white bean puree with chopped green beans was very good, though the crispiness might have been more apparent. A perfect side of spinach, just wilted, with a sprinkle of vinegar, a bunch of whole garlic, some sesame seeds.
Solid desserts: one of those slightly soft-centered chocolate disk cakes helped a lot by good milk-chocolate sauce, a panettone bread pudding with butterscotch sauce (my favorite), and strawberries served simply with creme Anglaise, lovely. We found a decent red around the midpoint of their list, $45-ish.
Excellent service throughout, great buzzing atmosphere (it's been packed every night this week, their opener). Maybe the most impressive thing is the prices for the South End: apps in the high single digits, entrees in mid to high teens, topping out at $20. As I suspected with my peek at the menu, the food feels a lot more expensive, the equal of neighbors serving $30 entrees. We were impressed with the focused simplicity of the food: one good idea with no more than two accents per dish, clear flavors, nothing too fussy, though it all plated quite attractively.
Other good news: a few sandwiches (including a great-looking burger) for about $12, nice for weeknight dining; serving fairly late on weekends (allegedly till midnight at some point); lunch M-F on a block that could use some competition, with lots of sandwiches and salads; brunch on weekends, including several egg dishes (which another Hound suggested they didn't have).
I will certainly be back soon to try more. It already looks like a place where reservations will be important. If they can preserve these prices and consistently deliver the level of food we enjoyed on our first visit, it should be a barn-burning success.
I wanted to bump this thread up because I hit Pops for the first time tonight, and had one of the loveliest dining experiences I've had in a while. I got there just as they opened, and caught a leisurely solo dinner at the bar. I had the paparadelle with spicy lamb bolognese ($16), and WOW. It was rich, flavorful, terrific. The paparadelle itself tasted like it was super fresh, made in house, and it had the most wonderful texture. The sauce had lots of big savory chunks of ground lamb. The waiter came by to offer a choice of roll (sourdough or wheat -- I took wheat), which had also great texture and flavor. Their wine list seems pretty decent, with some good choices for by-the-glass pours. I had a glass of Malbec ($8), and of Viognier, ($9 or $10, I can't recall) and both were great. I don't love paying close to $10 for a glass of wine, but it was tasty, and I felt like the waiter had a good handle on how to steer me to choices I would enjoy.
So, to the service: it was awesome. Super friendly and attentive without being pushy. I was taken care of by a number of people (it was slow, I was the only diner there for the first 30 min or so), each one very pleasant and knowledgeable. The kitchen (as has been pointed out) is partially glassed in, and sitting at the bar you get a good view of the action. The kitchen guys checked in with me to see how I liked my dinner, and were really friendly. Even when the place started filling up, and I was mostly nursing my Viognier while catching up on some reading, I never felt rushed or neglected.
I will absolutely be back, and I hope that these guys make it. The design is great, the atmosphere is welcoming, and my limited foray into the menu was absolutley enough to make me want to try much more of what they have on offer.
Yeah, it was properly cooked to order...I did notice it was a perfect MR. Definitely NOT Cafe Umbra level. Nor Eastern Standard level, imo, though the fries and the broiche are on the same par. You're right, it was ok. Not a destination burger, not a standout, but not-so-bad either. It's just that when I eat a burger, i'm using looking for a little better than "not-so-bad."
Wanted to bump this thread back up since I had my 2nd visit to Pops last night. I'm torn....I really want to like this place. It's casual, unpretentious, friendly....the menu is simple and easy and it's just the sort of place the neighborhood needs. In regards to the service, the place just opened and they seem to be working out the kinks so that's great. Everything went smoothly last night (though granted it wasn't a crazy Sat night) but the place was still packed at 7pm, all tables filled.....
Spinach salad w/crispy oysters. mmmm. About 4 perfectly pan fried oysters atop a bed of spinach greens. A delicious tangy dressing made this dish a simple standout.
Chocolate cake dessert: I thought this was gonna be more like a chocolate cake..which is how the server described it but it was really like one of those "molten chocolate cakes.." A little round disk served warm sitting atop creme anglaise and topped with fresh whipped cream. Really decadently chocolately and delicious. A perfect way to finish off the meal (esp if you split it with your DC to avoid dessert guilt!)
Our entrees. I got the skirt steak which was served with some sort of marsala gravy and garlic fries. Fries were excellent, as they were Sat night. Steak was pretty tough and chewy..I know that's par for the course with a skirt steak but it seemed to me the steak could have benefitted from longer marinating time or something to make it a bit more tender. Flavor was just ok. Almost "gamey" if that's possible....but overall not something I was enthusiastic about eating.
DC got the veal osso bucco which in fact wasn't a traditional osso bucco but more like a big hunk o' veal breast formed into a circular shape. I'm not a veal fan but took a bite and it seemed ok. He said it was just alright, nothing special, and was a bit surprised by the fact that it wasn't authentic "osso bucco" --a real veal shank slow roasted for hours. I'm not sure if that was explained on the menu or not. Either way, not a big thumbs up for this dish either.
The bread they serve before the meal is also just ok. Nothing special and with so many great bakeries in Boston it would be great if they could bring in some local fresh baked bread each day...i guess this bread is fresh but it's really nothing special.
In other news --I really wanted to like the burger here. I think it's $12 and comes with carmelized onions, mushrooms and bacon? As most 'hounds know, we are all desperate for a good burger spot in the south end..a place where you can sidle up the the bar, grab a beer, chomp down on a juicy, meaty, perfectly cooked delicious burger. Sad to report this ain't it. At least not right now.
I was actually about to order the burger after eying the woman next to me eating it....it looked good on the plate...but she said it wasn't as good as it looked. To prove it to me, she handed over a few pieces....She was right. The burger suffered the same fate as some of our other food from here.....just alright...not bad, but not good either. Not juicy, not flavorful, just sort of "there.." . SO. That's that.
However, I still really like this place. I like the vibe, I like the energy, I like the menu, and I like the effort. So...I haven't given up....there's still plenty of time for improvements, adjustments, etc. Here's to hoping they read Chowhound :)
I tried the burger the other night, and it's decent, properly cooked to order, but not great, certainly not the Caffe Umbra level burger I was hoping for.
As at Eastern Standard, they've chosen to use a brioche instead of a normal roll, which I really dislike (nothing against brioche per se, I just don't like it around a burger). The fries are really good, obviously housemade.
we suddenly wanted champagne and oysters at 7:30 saturday night. we went to b&g. 40 min wait. we thought "okay, maybe wine and cured meats", we went to butcher shop. ugh no room to stand. WHY even try on bridge and tunnel night?
we saw pops and both thought "why not"? we got there before the rush and it was a great idea! host was accommodating. we had the inexpensive cava ($32) it was pleasantly sweet and nice presentation by our sever fernanda. we started with the fried oyster salad. very good, i could have had another. dressing matched spinach and bacon perfectly. tart baby red onions melted in mouth. meaty oysters lightly battered with cornmeal crustiness went perfect with the cava. companion also got ravioli with sage butter...we would have licked the plate if we were alone. bread and butter were sent out. the butter was room temp and salty. not the impression of a euro butter but very tasty. bread gave impression of being sliced hours earlier. seemed like iggys, could be better. digression: I am so over the bread and butter unless its fabulous.
companion's entree of roasted pork was a stand out. tender tasty pork that was NOT over cooked...its as if we found the rosetta stone from which all other pork dishes should learn from.
my lamb sandwich was uninteresting. lamb was fine; tender and rare. the overall presentation was traditional but but dry. sauce was scarce and not very tasty. i was bored. fries were nice. they should have been paired with something more interesting than heinz. i wish they had offered an aioli or country ketchup of some kind.
side of cauliflower risotto was ok. cauliflower is such an overpowering flavor that it masked any involvement of the sauce it was tossed with.
service excellent. by the time we left at 9:00 the place was packed and staff was going in every direction.
open kitchen was interesting. we sat at bar and had full view. it was kinda like foodie adult entertainment (can i say foodie porn on chowhound?) only drawback was line cook whats his name. He touched his ear, then pan, then picked his AWFUL burn, then back to cooked, then nose, then pan. ug. other than him, the fishbowl kitchen was entertaining. the place itself was beautiful. great design. nice flatware and plates. i would go back again for sure.
recommendation of: oyster salad, english pea ravioli, roasted pork entree
4 or us went there tonight (sun the 18th) and though our experience wasn't nearly as flawless as yours, I liked it, think it's a great addition to the neighborhood, and I'll definitely be back.
No question they've got a couple of kinks to be worked out.....to be totally expected a week after opening, and it seems they've pretty much been slammed every night.
At about 6pm I called to see if they could take a party of 4 (they do take reservations, a big plus in the south end.) I was told they could seat us at 7:30-8ish, which surprised me, given how busy it has seemed to be there since opening. We got there at 7:30 and they seated us right away. Perfect. Although...we then proceeded to sit there for close to a half an hour...we finally flagged a waiter down (who definitely seemed like he was "in the weeds") and he apologized profusely.
The menu is great. Lots of comfort food like burgers, steak frites, a daily fish of the day special (it was striped bass tonight) and more. Everything $20 and under. Even better. A pretty good wine list --I'm pretty sure it was exclusively Italian? Or certainly close to it. I was in the mood for a beer...but wasn't so crazy about the few beers offered by the bottle...sam light, stella (i think)....one or two others. We ordered 4 glasses of wine, a burger, the side of gnocchi, garlic soup, 2 crispy salmons. And wings to start. The burger and salmon were both good. Side of fries were excellent but not hot enough. Garlic soup was also not quite hot enough...it tastes good on first bite but finishes with a really bitter aftertaste. So bitter that I actually wonder if the soup is somehow "off." The soup comes with shrimp and chorizo. Good thing I'm not a chorizo fan, as it seems to be missing from the soup. The wings, which were meant to be a starter, turn out to be the last course --they forget to bring them...they were good though. Nice flavor, and hot, both temperature-wise and spice-wise. The gnocchi was good too. Sort of unusual, as it's almost like a gratin. a casserole which has been put under the broiler so the bits of bacon and gnocchi are crispy. The gnocchi is light and fluffy but it's sort of hard to tell with this preparation. It's good though, and yes, a good value at $10. It's a "side dish" but really could be a small main....
The good news: the space is great. Our waiter was very friendly and extremely accomodating. I told him the garlic soup wasn't so great, he apologized, asked if he could bring me anything else.....when we got the bill, he had comped not only the garlic soup but the wings (because they were late) AND all 4 glasses of our wine.
He thanked us for coming, said he appreciated our patience, and promised that as they worked out the kinks they'd "only get better." Yeah, there's some issues in the kitchen...and maybe the wait staff is a little harried.....but all in all the food was great... and ultimately, this kind of effort and exceptional service certainly bodes well for that prediction.
Looking forward to my next meal there...maybe in about a month when they've got just a little more of a rhythm going.....
Thanks for the great write up, and glad to hear that you enjoyed!
Just a quick question on the eggs at brunch issue -- my recollection is that there were several egg-based dishes, but no eggs benedict or scrambled eggs option (favorites of my SO). Did I overlook these on the brunch menu (which would be great news because I loved the line up of savory options)?