we'll always love big pop-pa

today i crossed to bridge and headed to the always pleasing enigma that is the pop shop in collingswood, nj. the pop shop has been on our radar ever since we heard they had 30 different kinds of grilled cheese, all available with a soy cheese substitute.

a lot of things are enigmatic about this place. first of all, it's in collingswood, which is a cute town in new jersey. yes, cute and new jersey in the same sentence (sorry all you jersians out there). second of all, it's prettttty kitschy, with a retro 1950's diner vibe where kids and the elderly abound. there's a lot of things that could potentially go wrong with that sentence. kitsch. 1950's diner vibe. kids and the elderly. somehow, the pop shop pulls it off.

finally, the true veganness of this establishment has always eluded us. the soy cheese is vegan. the soy cheese isn't vegan, but there's a different dairy free cheese. there's no vegan cheese at all. the veggie burger is vegan, the veggie burger isn't vegan, etc. etc. etc. every time we go to the pop shop we grapple with these issues. it seems like they're changing their vegan and veg options pretty frequently. restaurant owners can do whatever they like with veg friendly dishes, but when you have this printed on your menu, you better have the food to back it up:

We conscientiously and consistently strive to respect and accommodate vegetarian/vegan practices and palates. The majority of our menu does start vegetarian or vegan and can be altered to accommodate special requests if circumstances permit. For example, all grilled cheeses can be made vegan. Keep in mind that we are a creamery and we love dairy so your salad, sandwich or bagel may have spent some time along side some beautiful bovine bounty before it reached your table. Enjoy!
- The Pop Shop Kitchen Staff

i mean, throw me a [vegan] bone here! also, the staff isn't the most knowledgeable and often times isn't even sure what we mean by vegan. i know i sound like a complainy caroline here, but when you so clearly try to highlight your vegetarian/vegan food policy, is it so much to ask that the staff actually know what they're talking about?

enough kvetching, my trip to the pop shop today was phenomenal. best ever. the waitress was SUPER sweet and answered all my questions without a twinge of annoyance. best of all, yes, the soy cheese was definitely vegan! i ordered a veggie burger with soy cheese, dijon mustard, mixed greens, tomato, caramelized onions and avocado on a ciabatta roll with a side of spicy fries.

is that teese? what is that!!

the ciabatta was probably a bad choice as i took the first bite of the crusty roll and half the ingredients inside fell out. also mixed greens does not a neat burger experience make. i blame myself and my poor choices, not the kitchen staff. after some really difficult knife navigation, i cut my burger in half with mild success. half the burger and a plethora of spicy fries (cajun spiced fries with sauteed onions and jalapeno peppers!) plus trying to save room for dessert equals leftovers!! and i will very happily eat those leftovers tomorrow. the burger was delicious.

speaking of dessert, the pop shop offers vegan ice cream options (read: chocolate and vanilla soy ice cream). i decided if i was going to order one of these less than exciting flavors, i should probably go for a sundae and not a cone. i went for it, like taking back sundae (this is terrible, but is it as bad as "just another manic sundae"?). a scoop of each vanilla and chocolate topped with peanut butter sauce, crushed peanuts, oreos, bananas and cherries. it was a true sundae!!! one i haven't had the likes of in years.

that was our waitress, making my sundae. no whipped cream please!

they also have killer buffalo wings made from tofu which i've had before, but not today. and apparently they have a new option: vegan pancakes! good for you pop shop, i applaud you. next time, i'm looking at an ice cream soda. they have a painting on the wall that says "be a jerk" and today, i'm feeling pretty jerky.


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