Pops in the South End
Not sure if restaurant reviews are supposed to go straight onto the boards like this but I can't really find another place- I just wanted to let people know (because I went there last night), that overall this restaurant was pretty darn good, i went with a party of 10 and we had a great time... if you're a fan of gnocchi or mushrooms, order the mushroom gnocchi because It's unreal. Also, the folks on yelp all seem to be big fans of the beet salad but personally, I was disappointed. I thought it was really unsubstantial- just a few pieces of lettuce around the beets really- and IMHO, cheese on a beet salad should be warmed... maybe I'm just wrong about beet salad but I love it usually and this didn't wow me. Anyone else tried it?
Ate there last night for the second time and must say it was a somewhat mixed experience. My first time I had the to-die-for Kobe meatloaf, but last night I decided to go with the cassoulet, a dish with which I have a fair amount of experience (I once did a cassoulet-based tour of Southern France, including several in Castelnaudary, the town that claims to have invented it).
There are a lot of variables in a good cassoulet - it usually has confit of duck, sometimes goose, usually pork, often sausage, sometimes even lamb - but there are also some constants, like the use of certain types of smallish white beans, slow-cooked to a stage of rich, flavorful creaminess, with the meats cooked in so that the flavors meld into a satisfying whole.
This one was based on sadly overcooked giant (elephant) beans, with the meats - an excellent confit duck leg, quite good chunk of barbecued pork belly, and odd-tasting little spicy sausage - clearly cooked separately and added just before serving. Not unpleasant, but the beans, which make or break this dish, were a terrible disappointment.
Had a great Negroni to start though, and my wife really liked her crisp-skinned salmon with cauliflower/raisin ragout. I'll be back, but may need to stick with the meat loaf.
I tried that Pops cassoulet once, and thought it was just okay. Many better dishes on that menu. You've been spoiled by the real thing.
Check out the versions at The Butcher Shop (an occasional special, small but very good), at Hamersley's (might be the best version in Boston, and usually on the winter menu), and at Pierrot Bistrot (though it's been a couple of years since I had it there).
I too love Pops. I have only ever eaten brunch there, but I go quite often and its always good. My only complaint is that the food is VERY heavy. I am generally someone who tries to eat somewhat healthy, and there are definitely not any light options on the menu. I guess maybe that's why I have avoided eating dinner there. However, having said that, they make a mean omelette and they have great pancakes (if the butterscotch pancakes are on the menu, get them!!). My only other complaint is that they have terrible bloody marys. It was actually one of the worst I have ever had. Overall though, great place!
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I like Pops a lot, too, have never found them to be unfriendly. The chef/owner is one of the nicer guys in the neighborhood.
I've never heard of warming the cheese on a beet salad; in general, I think that hot/cold combo rarely works, as the ingredients quickly tend toward a mean temperature not suitable for all of them. (It's not my favorite dish there, anyway; I've seen that salad on too many menus for too many years.) My other quibble (a pet one) is the brioche roll on the otherwise-excellent hamburger.
Those nits aside, I think it's one of the better fine-dining values in the South End. They were trying to make weeknight dining affordable before everyone else started to out of economic necessity.
One other thing: while I'm glad they got a full liquor license, it's a good idea to know your cocktail recipe before you order one: lacking a dedicated bartender means that servers make drinks, and their skills are limited. If there's a question and neither of you know the answer, order wine or beer or a soft drink instead to avoid disappointment.
I like Pops, especially pre-theatre. In the colder months they often have a lamb ragu with tagliatelle or paparadelle, which is delicious. And ever since they fixed their terrible kitchen exhaust problem, I find the atmosphere and decor to be pretty perfect. The only problem is that sometimes the waitstaff/hosting isn't as friendly as I'd expect for a neighborhood joint like this.