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Apr 16, 2007 04:46 PM

High hopes for Pops:(

Unfortunately not satisfied. Had a pretty mediocre experience there. Is it worth going back? The smokey kitchen and average food are making it really hard for me to justify it. I'm looking for someone to tell me something good about it. I only live a few blocks away, and I was really hoping it would be good.

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  1. I guess I would compare it to its neighbors. Where else are you getting that level of food, atmosphere, and service with most entrees in the mid-to-high teens? I personally like it a lot, having only experienced the smokiness issue while sitting at the counter, not elsewhere in the dining room.

    I think there's a hand-crafted quality to the food (e.g., real hand-cut fries, not frozen, is one example of many) that I don't see in more expensive nearby places like Sibling Rivalry. The concept is clearly focused on fairly simple, straightforward food; complex sauces and intricate technique are not what the chef is aiming for, part of a goal of keeping costs reasonable. Two of us can get out of there on a weeknight for under $60, something that's pretty impossible at similarly casual places like The Butcher Shop.

    I'm always on the lookout for better deals: can you suggest other places in the South End that you think are a better value?

    4 Replies
      1. re: hotoynoodle

        Maybe you've touched on something: Pops is pretty enough to feel like a fine-dining room, perhaps promising a level of food it doesn't really intend. The Franklin looks and feels like a bar, so newcomers are generally surprised by how good the food is. The prices and level of the food are similar: well-executed comfort food with some gourmet flourishes, entrees in the $15-20 range. But I'm spending a lot more of my money at these places than popular South End venues like Stella, which is rather pricier than Pops or The Franklin but whose food I find much less interesting.

        1. re: MC Slim JB

          i see this with a lot of comments on here. and i think it very unfair to hold all places to the same standard. in other words, if your check for dinner is $60 for 2 ppl, rather than $120, i think people need to calibrate their expectations accordingly. pops is doing comfort food, at reasonable prices in a pretty space.

      2. re: MC Slim JB

        I'd add Petit Robert to the list of good value South End restaurants.

      3. I was at Pops Friday night and have to agree about the smokiness though I've been several times and that was the first time I had noticed it. The food is good, not great, but for me it's a great neighborhood spot with reasonable prices. And from day one, despite the fact that most places have service issues when they first open, Pops has had really good, friendly service.

        5 Replies
        1. re: lissy

          Agreed. Food's good, not transcendent, but worth the price, which is more than can be said for a lot of places in this town; folks are extremely service-oriented; and the space is just as cute as can be.

          1. re: tatamagouche

            I triple agree, I do like Pops and think right now it's probably the best value in the south end (ok, maybe tied with The Franklin..)
            Though I also have to agree with the whole ventilation issue. Not necessarily smoky, but everytime I walk out of that place, I smell like my dinner (or anyone elses who was eating there that night..) It's sort of an afterthought and not really anything that would deter me from going there...but it is a drag.

              1. re: Joanie

                It was noted in a recent Globe review too, so it's definitely an issue.

              2. re: twentyoystahs

                "I smell like my dinner"

                That's funny. Maybe we'll soon be able to start identifying people who just dined at Pops when they sit next to us @ The Butcher Shop for an after dinner drink without even talking to them, "Hey, how was the papardella spicy lamb bolognese?, smells good"....

          2. I was also there on Friday, but was there semi-early (maybe 7ish) and got a seat in the back atrium. The smoke wasn't too bad back there at the time. After reading some great reviews I was a bit disappointed. I think if I had gone in without reading them I would've been more satisfied with the meal. The prices are excellent for the neighborhood with the exception of wine which was on par with other area restaurants. I was really disappointed when we walked by the bar w/ the bartender mixing up cocktails, then saw the couple next to us receive fruity martinis straight from the shaker, then was told they can only do flavored vodkas when I ordered a Manhatten. That was a big tease.

            As for the food, the stuffies were really good, probably the standout of the night. The corquettes were good but not exceptional, they took too long to transition from the fryer to the table, I like my croquette to be as hot as can be. I had the short ribs which were good but somewhat boring. The short ribs I had at Franklin a few months back absolutely blew them away. Finally, the gnocci was a huge disappointment. They were covered in a layer of elastic feeling cheese that was completely uneccesary. It absolutely ruined the dish.

            Service was quite good. The waitress was friendly, attentive and very accomodating. When my SO order a bottle of Malbec I didn't have a chance to stop her (I'm not a huge Malbec fan), but when she returned the waitress said we could exchange the bottle after she corked it since they sell it by the glass.

            I would go back, but probably on a night when I didn't feel like dealing with the long wait at Franklin. The price-points of both restaurants are nearly identical, except for wine, where Franklin is better. The space is very cool and I'd love to dine in the atrium when the weather gets nicer. That may help out with the smokiness as well, there are a lot of windows back there they could open up.

            1. I was there Saturday as well.
              The place definitely had a smoky haze from the kitchen.

              Croquettes and stuffed clams were overly salty.
              Skirt steak was ok. Skate was weird tasting and whatever sauce they used was weird tasting (that's why I was asking about how to tell if skate was bad or not because the one I had at Brasserie Jo was memorable enough to make me want to try other skate dishes)...

              7 Replies
              1. re: Spike

                I wasn't so crazy about the skirt steak when I had it there. It was tough and a little too "meaty" flavored for me. I realize some might like the "meaty" flavor so that shouldn't be enough to put others off...but it was somewhat of a chore to eat just b/c it was so chewy. Did you have a similar experience? Might have just been a mediocre cut that night, I'm not sure, but I wouldn't chance it and order it again.

                1. re: twentyoystahs

                  skirt steak isn't supposed to be buttery, and is more full-flavored than something more tender, like filet mignon.

                  1. re: twentyoystahs

                    LOL. My S.O. had the same experience and hotoynoodle said the same thing about it :-)
                    She said the garlic/thyme fries were the best tasting thing of the night...

                    1. re: twentyoystahs

                      agree with Hotoy...skirt should have some chewiness. I love the full flavor of the cut.

                      I don't know how you ordered it; but "so chewy".. it can get very tough if cooked much more than MR..I prefer it rare.

                      1. re: 9lives

                        I ordered it MR.....sounds like it's just not the sort of cut I like (yes, i prefer more buttery and tender like filet mignon or even sirloin or ribeye..)

                        1. re: 9lives

                          It was medium rare. I thought it was ok. FWIW, my SO had skirt steak at a different place a few years ago and didn't complain about chewiness.
                          I'm not into skirt steak. I much prefer a T-bone for more flavor/tenderness...

                          1. re: Spike

                            Porterhouse / T-bone is one of my favorite cuts, too, though it takes skill to cook it properly (example of failure: Vintage Restaurant in West Roxbury). It also rarely appears on local menus for under $30, with $40 being a more typical price. For the kind of bistro-level meal that Pops is purveying, you need to embrace the budget-priced virtues of properly cooked skirt or hangar or flank steak: plenty of flavor, and yes, chewy. This is why most authentic steak-frites are sliced on the bias. Or get something besides beef.

                    2. I recently went to Pops on a Friday, and Union the following night, and Union was far better. A lot seems to be made of Pops prices, but I think you can go to Union, order well, and spend about the same. Wines seem to start at the same price, appetizers at Union average $8.10 (yes, I just calculated it) and 6 out of 10 Union entrees cost $25 or less. Split the Maple Bread Pudding for dessert at Union and you will be far better off than with the terrible black rice pudding at Pops. Having said all that, I'll give Pops another go.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: jonship

                        I like Union a lot, too, and definitely patronize it more since they moved the ambition and cost of their menu downwards last summer. But of the three under-$20 entrees on their menu, two are pasta, the other is a (very nice) pan-roasted chicken. The average of the rest of the entrees is more like $27.

                        You can order carefully and get a comparably priced meal to Pops, but I find that my average check size is significantly bigger at Union. Union is still a relative bargain for a fine-dining experience, and it certainly offers more polished atmosphere and service (the bar and bartending are a big draw), but I put it in the next price tier up.

                        BTW, it looks like Pops will shortly get a full-liquor license, and so be able to serve more than just flavored-vodka (ahem) "cordial" based drinks.