Pop!!

September 12, 2008

“Can I begin my analysis now?” I asked my restaurant-loving date, T, as we settled into our seats at the three-week old Pop!! in downtown St. Paul. The location in Northeast has had some success and we were eager to see how it came together in the fairer of the two cities.

The Warhol-inspired decorative screen with a bright medley of Campbell’s soup cans. Very cool. The Lichtenstein-inspired pop art dots that grace the menu. Also very cool. As I searched for more inspiring detail in this strangely bright and cavernous space, I started to struggle with what I wanted to say next. The table we were sitting at (and every one near it) felt like they were located under the chefs’ heating lamp and we were the plated food set to linger at a low heat. Everything felt orange and toasty. T noticed my silence and asked the most pertinent question of the evening. “So, you like the dots. What else?”

My honest answer one appetizer, two entrees, two cocktails, and a bottle of Malbec later is this: Eh. I’m not sure yet. Pop!! is well-intentioned, but we felt that none of the elements came together in a truly memorable way. We ordered Picadillo Empanada appetizers stuffed with seasoned ground beef and served with olive relish and chimichurri sauce. We agreed that the empanada dough tasted flat, as thought it had sat for awhile, and would have loved more of the chimi sauce.

I ordered cous cous with sauteed shrimp, chorizo, saffron tomato broth, and olive relish. Although the entree lacked personality, the shrimp were nicely cooked and made me happy, like a good chorus in an average pop song. T ordered the vegetable paella, which he found disappointing. Always making healthy choices, he thought it would be a nice, light meal of the much-loved Spanish variety. When the waiter took off the lid, T poked at his meal with his fork, disturbed by the little pool of grease formed around the edge. A few bites later, he was disappointed. “There is nothing paella-ish about this meal. But I’m so hungry, I need to eat something.”

My favorite part about the night was not the restaurant’s attention to detail, but my date’s. He pointed out that the Northeast location of Pop! uses one exclamation point, and the St. Paul location uses two: Pop!! But rather than calling them exclamation points, he called them “bangs.” When he saw the use of two of them, he got my attention and said, “See, two bangs.”

T and I walked off into quiet St. Paul and the first cool night of the year. “I still want to go to a ‘real’ restaurant with you,” I said, given how much we enjoy food, restaurants, and all of the opinions formed therein. As it is with the fate of Pop!!, though, I guess it’s still a little too early to tell.

Pop!! on Urbanspoon

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5 Responses to “Pop!!”

  1. Kathy Says:

    I actually liked Pop!! Even though it was really busy with folks out enjoying happy hour, we were seated immediately by a very nice hostess (in fact, the service was superb throughout our visit). I also loved all the bright colors and the cool Warhol-esque art, and have to give them props for the clever menu design.

    I had the Caesar salad with flat bread and grilled chicken, and I thought it was fab! The lettuce was crisp with a tangy-yet-mild dressing, the chicken seared without being charred, and the flat bread soft without being soggy. I also loved their house white zin, which was mellow and didn’t leave a bitter aftertaste like so many other brands I’ve tried.

    My only complaint was that the restaurant was loud, but that won’t stop me from enjoying Pop!! again.

  2. Stefanie Says:

    Seriously? The St. Paul location uses two exclamation points? I sort of both love and hate that little detail.

    Sorry you didn’t have a great experience there. I maintain that the Northeast location is a lovely and unassuming little neighborhood spot that has yet to disappoint, but then, I am not the foodie you are, and when I go to a neighborhood spot, I expect just that: a neighborhood spot. High-class gourmet is not my goal.


  3. Although I enjoy a good exclamation point in my dining, I can’t say that I’ve ever seen a Pop! here in New England.

  4. Elisabeth Says:

    Well, I obviously don’t get out enough, because I wasn’t even aware that they had opened a Pop!! (two bangs, there) in downtown St. Paul. I suppose I’ll have to give it a try, huh? I’m thrilled to have discovered another Twin Cities blog – I’ll look forward to reading more of your reviews!

  5. Carrie Says:

    Kathy – You’re the one who didn’t like M and one another St Paul restaurant, right? So I’m glad Pop worked for you. I’ll go back again sometime and get a deeper perspective.

    Stef – Yes, I laughed out loud when I walked past the restaurant Saturday afternoon and recognized the two exclamation points displayed prominently in their sign. I also love and hate that detail.

    NPW – Hi! Do you like my theme?

    Elisabeth – Our blogs make a good pair. Can I add you to my links?


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