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Bill and Connie Correia Fisher have lived in Collingswood since before it was chic. They watched their little downtown shake the dust off as one successful restaurant after another opened. But even with more than ten new restaurants in town, there was still no place for parents to take the kids for a burger and a milkshake.
Connie, a restaurant consultant and cookbook publisher who runs Small Potatoes Press, pitched the idea of a family-style restaurant to several chefs, but no one bit. Then, after a frustrating attempt two years ago to eat out with a three-year-old, the couple just decided to do it themselves.
They found a prime location on Haddon Avenue, got a loan, imported an old-time soda fountain, counter, and stools from Ohio, and the Pop Shop was born.
With a 1950s-diner theme, the 83-seat dining room is painted bright turquoise, hot pink, and pale yellow, with a black-and-white tile floor, chrome tables, and comfy booths. The place feels fun when you walk through the door, but after a few moments, some flaws become apparent. For one, the extremely high tin ceiling above a huge room filled with hard surfaces creates an echo chamber that makes it tough to hear a conversation on the other side of your table. There is no denying it: The place is loud.
The service also has its problems: 30-minute waits for food, sometimes even longer for ice cream. Although the waitstaff is pleasant and apologetic, they are often too harried and stressed to do a good job.
The food is also a mixed bag. In general, the burgers—made from a half pound of fresh Angus beef and grilled to order—are juicy and tasty. And the possibilities for toppings are endless, including just about anything but the kitchen sink: Granny Smith apples, cranberries, pesto, black beans, lemon-basil vinaigrette, chili, even an onion ring. (But do you really want apples and cranberries on your burger?) Also, they are not cheap: $7.99 to start, another buck for cheese, plus more for add-ons. The highly touted hand-cut fries are soggy and forgettable.
It turns out that the sandwich listed on the menu as “hot and cold roast beef” can be ordered either way. When ordered hot, the disappointing result is an odd combination of a cold sandwich with hot caramelized onions. A good waitress ought to inform the customer that the sandwich is served with slices of cold roast beef and warm onions.
Mysteriously, the “Honeymoon Chicken Sandwich” with grilled chicken breast, honey-mustard, avocado, and caramelized onions, is actually bland, the chicken dry.
Nevertheless, the milkshakes are thick and rich and everything they should be, as is the ever-popular root beer float.
In the end, the Pop Shop is trying to do too much. With 31 different kinds of grilled cheese sandwiches, ten different hot dogs, eleven variations on the French fry, and six choices for eggs Benedict, they would do better to stick to the basics and get the food out on time.
A word of advice: order a burger and a shake with the hope that the staff can work out the kinks and do something to lower the headache-inducing noise.
Reviewed in: September 2006
729 Haddon Avenue
FOOD: Burgers, shakes, breakfast SERVICE: Friendly but slow WINE LIST: None DINNER FOR TWO: $40 Re-creates the feel of the the '50's-era neighborhood soda fountain. Serves American comfort food.
Cuisines: American, Breakfast, Deli/Quick Bites, Diner