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The Pop Shop – Collingswood, NJ

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Great eats plagued by poor service.

The Pop Shop
Collingswood, NJ
Meal: Dinner / Weekday / 8pm
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Compare to: Johnny Rockets
Menu (PDF)

There’s something nostalgic about the Pop Shop. As a living homage to yesteryear in the mold of Johnny Rockets and the burger and malt shops of old, the Collingswood icon is often bustling with patrons. It is worth noting we’ve been there several times in the past, enjoyably I might add, but as policy we’ve wiped the slate clean for the purposes of this review. We were surprised in consecutive visits, however, that the Pop Shop service is very fragile under pressure.

Forgoing a long summary of our first review experience, we left a little disappointed due to some unusual issues with the food quality and service. We eventually talked to the manager, who thoughtfully and kindly offered us a $15 gift certificate to return in the future and hopefully have a better experience. At that point, we decided to hold a review until the return, admittedly in part because we had many positive experiences with the Pop Shop in the past.

When we came back, we unknowingly stumbled upon ‘quiz night’ and the joint was packed. There was one booth available, and we grabbed it. The Pop Shop has maybe a dozen padded stools across a long counter, maybe six padded booths, and tables and chairs in between. The interior is very family friendly, with lots of light blues, yellows, and pink hues. Service staff wears throwback uniforms, and there are always plenty of colored balloons everywhere. Autumn wasn’t keen on some food/trash on the floor, though, which is unfortunately a byproduct of the atmosphere. Our table also appeared that it had not been wiped down. I did what I could with a napkin. The menu (linked above) is definitely a bright spot; it’s presented in the format as an old-style newspaper and there’s plenty of interestingly named items to choose from.

The place was busy, no doubt, but we felt we waited an awful long time for service throughout. Our waters didn’t come for a couple minutes after we asked for them, and we weren’t particularly enamored with our waitresses’ excitement to see us. With gift certificate in hand, we started with an appetizer of cheesy lumped crab meat over a pretzel. Autumn thought it was a little too rich, but I loved it. It was a very big portion, easily enough for two to share. For my dinner, I stayed with my Pop Shop favorite, their vegetarian cheese steak. It is made with seitan, a very tasty and ‘fleshy’ wheat-gluten product that comes very close to the texture of chicken. The sandwich was on a firm and large half-cut sesame torpedo roll adorned with fried onions and a separate side of cole slaw. For a buck or two more, I added a side of french fries. Autumn ordered a grilled chicken sandwich with mozzarella cheese on foccacia bread, complete with lettuce, tomatoes, and honey mustard sauce. I took care of her cole slaw and she shared some of my fries.

My sandwich was delicious. It has the satisfying feel of a cheese steak with slightly less guilt. The fries were mid-cut with sea salt sprinkled on top. They are a favorite of ours when we visit. Autumn’s dinner was equally scrumptious, with the honey mustard serving as a great dipping sauce for the french fries. The cole slaw was in line with similar offerings found elsewhere. Our pathetic performance in quiz night aside, we were having a good time.

For dessert, we shared a s’mores sundae after much debate about the numerous choices. Unfortunately, Autumn noticed that they forgot the chocolate chips on top that were clearly advertised on the menu. I didn’t think it was a huge deal, but certainly an important omission to detail. Still, it was hard to criticize the otherwise calorific offering. After another wait while our waitress began to clean, we grabbed our bill. Again, another oddity ensued. When I reminded the waitress we had a gift certificate to apply to the bill, she mumbled something inaudible and just left the bill. I decided just to do the math myself and subtract the $15 and change the bill. Again, nothing that’s a deal breaker, but I’ve never had to adjust my own bill when applying a coupon or gift certificate.

While still within our ‘modest’ category, the pre-certificate tag of $33.65 for two sandwiches, an appetizer, and a sundae might be a little over the top compared to most others that would include fries with our sandwiches. Also, the appetizers (ours was a few cents from $10) are mostly on the expensive side, although there are some different offerings like the crab pretzel and the tofu buffalo ‘wings’.

Pros:

– Terrific Food, Appetizers, and Desserts
– Lots of unique menu items
– Management seems committed to keeping you happy

Cons:

– Inconsistent service from wait staff
– No fries with sandwiches
– Appetizers may cost more than your entree
– Lots of kids make it hard to keep clean

Guru’s Score: 2.6
Autumn’s Score: 2.6
Combined Score: 2.6 Chews
★★½☆☆
Subjective rating: Passable, if not disappointing.

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Last 7 posts by Chewru Guru

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The Pop Shop - Collingswood, NJ, 3.6 out of 5 based on 7 ratings

2 Responses to " The Pop Shop – Collingswood, NJ "

  1. rick says:

    I travel a lot and therefore dine in similiar restaraunt settings to the Pop Shop. From New York to California, Florida to Michigan, the Pop Shop is one of the finest little family diners I have been to. The staff is always friendly and responsive to the customers needs. I have always gotten clean silverware and dishes, had a clean table, and am amazed at the amount of food that you get for the money. I some times am forced to dine at some of the more expensive establishments across the bridge and even here in town, and can’t say that about all of them. Now I am no eating guru, but for the money, taste, and great enviroment, the Pop Shop is the Top Shop as far as I am concerned.
    rick

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  2. fred mendelsohn says:

    I really want to like this place. However, something almost always gets in the way. (I’m a few times customer, kids wind up there more frequently)
    Last visit – JANUARY 2009; for supper. People friendly as always, but it was about 58 degrees in the shop. Add to that the fact they have solid metal chairs sucking the heat out through the derriere, and I was freezing the whole time. It didn’t help the food temperature either. Every time the door opened a blast of frigid air swept the room, diners were wearing coats and some hats. Is it really that hard to figure out an inner barrier of some sort?

    Obviously, warm weather will fix this, but on top of this they still can’t get a handle on the noise issue, one has to practically shout to hear when the place is busy. Acoustical attenuation isn’t exactly rocket science, a few soft things in the room would aid tremendously (people have commented on this issue ever since they opened).

    Oh yeah, the tables are way too small for four people, once the place settings, the pile in the middle of the table is added, there’s scarcely a place to fit the food. If three or fewer are at a table, I suppose it’s ok.

    I suppose some of my hard-earned money will occaisionally wind up there cause the kids like it. I want to, too. But I will not be returning until warm weather and, hopefully, the owners just TRY to do something about the noise.

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