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Oct 3, 2013 10:53 PM

POP's Garage in Shrewsberry

We where referred to Pop's by a customer of ours. Before arriving we stopped for a six pack of Heineken. As we walked in through the garage door we where greeted by the server with a perky smile, she immediately noticed the paper bag in our hands and offered to bring us a bucket of ice for our beer. Many places do not even make this an option. My wife and I looked at each other at the same time and thought this was a great start, cold drinks through out the meal! While reviewing the menu, we took some time to enjoy some of the details of this little place, which we found very inviting and welcoming.
we where told by our referring friends to definitely order the corn, so we did, for starters, as we continued to look at what more they had to offer.
we asked our server for suggestions for other appetizers, she suggested the nachos as for they make their own homemade guacamole. Its was delicious. The nachos where not homemade but fresh and crispy. they will refill the nachos as many times as you wish for the same price, which we thought was awesome for only 10 bucks. Being that we where at a Mexican restaurant or "garage" we had to try the tacos. I chose the Carne asada, and my wife again goes with the suggestion of our server and tries the chorizo ones.My wife had the combo which came with rice and beans. My tacos where very tasty. I mean it was a treat for me to see that they use fresh crispy greens and where not afraid to lay on the cilantro. every bite was a delight. But by the time I got to my third I noticed some water had settled at the bottom of my plate, which rendered the shell a bit soggy, but I found myself still enjoying them. My wife and I then switched plates so we could taste both, and I must say the server hit it on again with her suggestion. The chorizo was really delicious and thought next time i will order them instead. as far as the side of rice and beans that my wife ordered I must say it was ok. I mean the rice didn't really have the flavor we where looking for and used to, the beans appeared to be re-fried and did not look like they where cooked as black beans are.
Over all we love this little place and will go back. 5 thumbs up /5
Service was fantastic. 5 bow ties /5
Atmosphere was awesome. 5 daises /5
Food was great. 4.5 forks /5
Pop's Garage is BYOB friendly.

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  1. I second your positive review. We were here for lunch over the summer and really enjoyed it. Shame on me for not passing it along!

    1. The one and only time my younger son and I dropped in for a light lunch we weren't nearly as thrilled as you. The small lunch crowd (3 tables) looked like they were finishing up and we remained the only customers for an hour. We both ordered salad bowls which turned out to be very wet rice & vegetable concoctions. I liked my choice well enough, my son wasn't thrilled. For the most part the staff stayed in the back but we didn't find them unfriendly. The portions were large. The price didn't kill us. The vibe of the place seemed fun. But, overall I was struck by how diff the atmosphere would have been if the entire place was hopping and filled with customers; nearly empty the vibe was lost.

      So, food wise I only had one salad to write about but that one experience stopped me from returning.

      2 Replies
      1. re: HillJ

        HillJ, sorry to hear about your experience. I don't doubt for a minute that when going out to eat it's a 50/50 chance you will have a good experience. I guess IMO I was there at the right time. But that does not justify what happened to you. All restaurants should be consistent. If they only had three tables you and your son should have been more important then them hanging out in the back. When i do attend this establishment again I will try this salad bowl and perhaps we can share opinions again.

        1. re: SwallowsNest

          I would welcome a comparison exchange, SwallowN.

      2. Although I despise mexican/taco's my son LOVES them. After reading this review this morning I asked him if he wanted me to pick him up after school and take him for a late lunch.

        My daughter home from college for the first time and her boyfriend are going to join us. I will report back on my experience, I certainly hope it's more like Swallow and Angelo's than HillJ's.

        Funny because I'm in this mall fairly often, seems like my wife can't go a week without a pilgrimage to Harmon, and I've seen this place often but it's tucked away in the corner and never remember it when my son is in the mood.

        31 Replies
        1. re: jrvedivici

          jrv, I will keep my fingers crossed for you. Just keep in mind this is a fun place and not really an authentic Mexican cuisine.
          Which leads me to ask where is there one? Any one would care to share?

          1. re: SwallowsNest

            North of the Border, RB.
            Otherwise, go west :)

            1. re: HillJ

              If we were talkin fish tacos...then the list of decent versions is actually pretty good. But I still believe NJ lacks enough authentic Mexican places.

              1. re: HillJ

                Over the last half decade or more, NOTB has offered the best Mexican food I have had in NJ. I've never eaten at Pop's in Shrewsbury. I'm just not cool with places like the Grove.

                1. re: MGZ

                  MGZ, on this we happen to agree :) lol...what were the chances!

                  1. re: MGZ

                    MGZ, you need to try out the "parilla mexicana" at Linos (also known as the mexican BBQ for us gringos)

                    Its a truck load of food and I think you will really dig it.

                    SwallowsNest, Linos food is the real deal. One guy in there speaks english and I have been the only gringo in there each time I have been there. They cook with wood and literally have a fire blazing away behind the stuff. This is not americanized mexican or tex mex (at least what I order is not.)

                      1. re: HillJ

                        also in RB? Their site appears to be down. couldn't find menu, so pls embellish :)

                        1. re: HillJ

                          okay I'm reading they also serve pizza @ Linos Mexican Cafe, Shrewsbury Ave.

                      2. re: corvette johnny

                        That's sounds like the place I would love. Make it eas for me, tell me where it is.

                        1. re: SwallowsNest

                          Linos is this hole in the wall place on Shewsbury ave right by Greens Auto and "on the rock" liquors (opposite side of road from liquor store)

                          For 15.95 you get the mexican BBQ and it has pork ribs, short ribs (which are the worst of the meat I think but still i eat them) Shrimp, sausage, chicken, and boneless pork. Then you get a container of rice, a container of beans, 2 small cups of different hot sauces, about a dozen warm torillas, gaucamole, grilled onions, peppers, and cactus. Its enough food for about 4 meals or 3 healthy meals. What makes it is the smoky flavor on the meat from the wood.

                          You can dine in but there are only 3 tables i think. I actually plan to dine there one day and bring some beer. I want to try their chips and salsa.

                          I am a big fan of this dish and the price. I think you will like it....a good alternative to bringing home a pizza.

                        2. re: corvette johnny

                          Lino's is indeed a good spot, Johnny, my friend. We all starting talking about it about a year ago: I've been back and never been unhappy. I, admit, however, I like NOTB* better, but I also prefer to go to RB by train than by road, so maybe proximity is a factor? Either way, I prefer each spot to the Pop's Garage locations I've been to in Asbury and Normandy. In fact, I actually like Fins in Bradley for Americanized tacos, especially fish, better (plus, the guys at Fins have been helping to host Surfrider/COA meetings/fundraisers for years).

                          *There are some funny old discussions of NOTB on this Board. Search if you like. Someday, maybe, I'll see if ChefMd minds if I post our initial e-mail exchanges about the place. "Dude, is it cool if we leak it??? It's so SMALL - NO Seats! Trust me, it's cool. PORK SKIN!!!"

                          1. re: MGZ

                            I also appreciate that link. Their site is no longer up and the reviews were mixed but informative. You can always count on Mark to add a photo or menu...

                            1. re: MGZ

                              What about Carlos O'conners in Red Bank? I have never been there however I remember the 10/15? years ago they opened they were all the buzz for good Mexican food.

                              Sadly, I think I'm the only one who was gravely disappointed with Lino's.

                              I forgot to ask you did you go to the RBC vs. Squan game?

                              1. re: jrvedivici

                                Carlos OC's=blech. Cold food, filthy dirty restaurant, microwave cooking. Really, really awful.

                                Has anyone enjoyed a meal there?

                                1. re: HillJ

                                  I haven't been there in ages but I recall it was nothing too great food-wise. I think the decor was kind of neat IIRC.

                                  Man, I can't believe you didn't like linos JR. I love those wood cooked ribs. I guess different strokes for different folks lol.

                                  1. re: corvette johnny

                                    CJ I must have caught them on a "off" night. The grill wasn't even on when I went there, I had such high expectations and such a miserable experience I don't think I could get myself to even try it again. Sorry.

                                  2. re: HillJ

                                    Don't forget the famous Carlos O'Connor Store bought guacamole that looks like grainy green Mayo...

                                    1. re: equal_Mark

                                      Really dreadful. How often do I give a restaurant the full-no thank you...this one just did everything wrong.

                                  3. re: jrvedivici

                                    In all honesty, unless CO'C was there before the tenth or twentieth time I heard Kurt Cobain sing about girls' deodorant, I don't think I've eaten there (though, in fairness, once when a girl I knew puked in the middle of Monmouth Street, I bought myself a coupla tacos someplace close by so she could use the bathroom - that was probably the Summer of Blues Traveller's "Runaround", maybe?).

                                    As to RBC-Manasquan. I couldn't go. It's sad to be so close to home and watch so many grown men who've you known for decades, weep as their little pups are turned into little bitches by the big cats in Green & Gold!

                                    1. re: MGZ

                                      A quick google search show's Smells Like Teen Spirit came out in 91's that is 2 years prior to my arrival in Monmouth County, so I'm not sure CO'C was around back then.

                                      I would say late 90's sounds more like it. Right around when Grohl had moved on and started to give instruction on aviation.

                                      It was an ugly game, RBC is looking fierce once again this year.

                                      1. re: jrvedivici

                                        Carlos O'Connor was open in the early 90s. I remember Carlos living on a boat at Irwin's Marina back when Monkee Hill was open behind the Union House back in 91 - 92...

                                        1. re: equal_Mark

                                          We will have to split the difference on this on EM. You said 91/92 I said around 98 (when the Foo Fighters wrote "Learning to Fly") and according to the web site they are celebrating their 19th year which means they opened in 1994!

                                          I remember them opening I just thought I had been established in the area longer. What is your opinion of them EM?

                                          1. re: jrvedivici

                                            Summed up by my opinion of their guacamole a few posts upstream (bear in mind I've not been there in probably 15 or more years)...

                                            1. re: equal_Mark

                                              gotcha, I did read that my bad.

                                              Since you've been around the area longer than me, do you recall the place having a very positive "buzz" about it when it opened?

                                              Granted I haven't heard much about it of late, but it's still there which says something about it, especially surviving this economy in Red Bank.

                                              1. re: jrvedivici

                                                Can't say that I recall any real buzz at the time. Folks were more enamored of Juanitos that had opened around the same time down the street. For what it's worth this era was about a decade prior to the influx of authentic taquerias and bodegas being opened by the growing Pueblan Mexican communities throughout Monmouth County that we see today.

                                  4. re: MGZ

                                    I'm laughing, having found this old thread on tacos in the area after trying to figure out when we first started going to NOTB. (It's barely alluded to at the top of the thread) I can't help but wonder if the idea for a "Wing Crawl", mentioned therein, still has "wings"?


                                    Anyway, a few of the places are closed now, but some are still solid. Personally, I'm going to keep up my neverending quest for that great spot that features two dollar "shot & beer" specials, the perfect "chicken wing and pork skin taco", and barbecued mutton on the weekends. If anyone finds it first, let me know, and I'll treat the next time . . . .

                              2. re: HillJ

                                NOTB... I heard of that place from someone else. It's a go in the near future.

                            2. re: jrvedivici

                              Oh I def. hope you all have a better experience. Mine is a good eight months ago. I look forward to your review..maybe it will prompt a second look.

                              1. re: HillJ

                                HillJ, it's wonderful that you can keep an open mind. Not many do.

                                1. re: SwallowsNest

                                  Thanks, I like to think an open mind leads to better food finds than the opposite.

                                  Plus, I'm not always right! :)

                              1. Ok so I've just finished my lunch with my kids, and here is what I have to report.

                                Upon arriving we were the only table in the place with exception to 2 men seated at the furthest back table near the bathrooms. We sat at the first available table when entering, so we were the entire dining room away from them.

                                Well apparently one of the men was the owner and the other an ex-employee I'm assuming, and their very odd and heated discussion was involving unreported wages, audits, penalties, lawyers and a bunch of things which should NEVER be discussed within ear shot of customers. Let alone shouted at each other while there is another table in the room. Very odd, very surprising and very heated.

                                Once the ex employee left the assumed owner kept complaining to whatever employee would listen, the waiter or cook.

                                We started with the homemade chips salsa and quac, all of which were excellent. l liked the chips, homemade but not overly salted. We had two burritos and two sets of soft taco's for lunch. I opted for chorizo & beef tacos, daughter had two chicken tacos and the boys each had a beef burrito. Everyone enjoyed and personally I liked mine better than similar I've had at Surf Taco, Chipolte, Quodobe to name a few. Rice and beans were very good and tasted well seasoned.

                                One thing I will say, they had a mosaic portrait of Jim Morrison made with individual wine corks, pretty cool.

                                The service was completely lacking, the waiter paid us no attention and at times spoke over us to continue the ranting of the owner.

                                I would certainly go back overlooking the service as a side affect of whatever was going on between the owner and ex-employee.

                                Again Mexican isn't my thing but off all in give area I would put this at top of the list.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: jrvedivici

                                  Forgive me, this thread crossed a few restaurants, was your review of Linos or Pop;s G or another place altogether?

                                  1. re: HillJ

                                    Awww c'mon HillJ keep up with the program! This review is for Pops Garage as this thread is about. My review of Lino's is part of the link/thread MGZ posted above.
                                    (I am of course playfully ribbing you, sorry for not specifying)

                                  2. re: jrvedivici

                                    Jrv, I am happy you and the kids enjoyed it.
                                    I must say you are certainly correct when you said certain things have their place and jerry time to be discussed. That just shows unprofessional work ethics, on the owners part because he should have had control of the situation.
                                    On the other note I totally missed the JM cork mosaic. Argh.......

                                    1. re: SwallowsNest

                                      There is one over the counter when you walk in made of bottle tops, that says the name "Pops Garage" which is cool, but nothing like the Lizard Kings. The Jim Morrison once you realize is made with shades of individual corks is really impressive, like hang over my fireplace kind of good.

                                      On a side note when I asked "the kids" (ages 15-19) to tell me who the mosaic was of the results were as fellow;
                                      1. Steven Tyler
                                      2. That Beatle Guy
                                      3. The guy from American Idol (Steven Tyler)

                                      The topic and tone of discussion were as out of line as any I have ever witnesses in any dining situation. For whatever happened, someone F'd up, to have that discussion as to paying people off the books, not withholding taxes and all the potential consequences is not something you want the public hearing. Who knows it might wind up on the Internet!

                                      FYI an order of Mahi-Mahi tacos brought home for the wife received high praises from her as well.