Monday, March 15, 2010

Pop's Cafe

Lidia (who you've recently met in the Colonial Kitchen review) and I drove down the seedy streets of Bell Gardens, past the Bicycle Casino and graffiti covered industrial buildings. Soon that environ gave way to the less seedy and just normally depressing streets of Downey. We weren't 100% sure where the restaurant was, but when we saw a sign that said "Rives Sguare." We both were inclined to think that that might be where we would find our destination.

Inside the strip mall that is "Rives Sguare," (yep, that's an old engligh 'g' there and not a 'q.' I have no clue what a SGUARE is.) we found Pop's Cafe.

Our friend Amy (first time Dinerwooder but longtime Yelper) was already waiting for us. We in turn were now waiting for our other friends Andrew and Terri. The two of them are notoriously early for these kinds of things, so I knew right away why they were not there yet. This was Sunday the 14th, Day 1 of Daylight Savings Time. I left Andrew a message saying "Spring forward!"

Pop's Cafe is a decent-sized strip mall diner. There is the standard abundance of cheesy motel art on the walls, with the obligatory lack of a level having been used to hang them. Our waitress was very nice and brought Lidia and I our coffees (which were excellent) right away. Even though we were taking a up a lot of real estate with only three people sipping drinks at a table that could seat six, our waitress never made us feel guilty. The people standing outside waiting, however, did throw some glares our way.

While we waited, we took our time going over the menu. The clear focus at Pop's is the breakfasts. They cover the basics very well and I love that they offer three kinds of breakfast potatoes: Irish, Home Fries, and traditional hash browns. There are some dinner options and sandwiches, but they seem like an afterthought. We did note that all the food coming to the tables around us looked amazing. I had high hopes.

I was really tempted to order the Pop's Country Breakfast, but that price was pretty steep. Although, any place that is going to put a dish in that price bracket must know what they are doing and that must be the best damn breakfast in history. I just couldn't swing that much money.

Giving up on Andrew and Terri, we decided to go ahead and order.

Amy ordered the Belgian Waffle and the Irish potatoes. She was initially a little gun shy about ordering it, hoping that the "fruit topping" listed in the menu wasn't just strawberry compote. The waitress informed her that it was strawberries AND other berries, which sounded intriguing enough for Amy to try it. Unfortunately when it came out, the compote was still a bit frozen. The waitress gladly whisked it away and Amy decided to get one without the topping.

The Irish potatoes were a little bit different from what you usually get. Normally the potatoes and the onions and peppers are fried up all together and all the flavors mix which usually means, everything tastes like onions. These were clearly cooked separate and the potatoes are plated first and then the onions and peppers plopped on top.

Amy's new waffle looked like this and was satisfactory.

Lidia ordered the french toast with a side of eggs and bacon. At Pop's they give you the option of grilled or fried French toast. Lidia, sadly, went with grilled. I would have liked to have seen the fried version. The french toast consisted of thick slices of bread and a lot of powdered sugar and tasted good, but were not anything special. The bacon and eggs were pretty basic. The bacon was very crispy and it was cool that they give four decent sized slices of it. We had expected the standard two slices.

I asked my waitress which she would order giving the choice between "corned beef and eggs or the polish sausage and eggs." Without hesitation she said to get the polish sausage. I suspect that the corned beef at Pop's is probably going to be the canned variety, but I didn't see it firsthand.

The Polish Sausage and eggs were very good. My eggs were good--I ordered them over medium so I could sop up some yolk with the biscuit. I'm big into sopping right now. The polish sausage, very oddly, was 1 1/2 sausages. Somewhere in the back there was a lonely half of a sausage that had just been split in two, like a lover in Plato's, "The Origin of Love."

The home fries were the highlight for me. I have never seen them made this way at a restaurant. The potatoes were sliced, not shredded or cube or diced. Each piece was a golden brown on each side and were heavenly.

The biscuits were interesting. The had almost a steamed quality to them. They weren't crusty or dense, but had more to them than do dinner rolls. I liked them.

Of course just as our food Arrived, Andrew and Terri finally showed up, diminishing the wrinkled noses and ruffled feathers of the now several parties waiting outside.

They didn't take too long with the menu. Terri ordered the french toast also, sadly, not the fried version. Andrew was the big spender at the table.

He ordered the Pop's Country Breakfast.

He enjoyed it. The gravy wasn't too heavy and the biscuit and sausage sandwich that was smothered underneath it was good. Unfortunately, a few of his home fries were undercooked.

It took us a long time to actually pay our bill, which only became a problem when we started to feel extremely guilty about taking up the table space. Our waitress just never made it back over to us after she cleared our plates and dropped off the check. We were pleased that they actually took Amy's waffle off the bill entirely. The refill waitress coming by with more delicious coffee helped ease our wait.

The bathroom (there was only one as the men's room was out of order) was a little dark and kind of sketch with both the toilet paper dispenser and the paper towel dispenser being busted. I have seen worse, though.

So three negatives: frozen compote, underdone home fries, and less than stellar bathroom. Overall though, good food and nice service. There is also a disturbing lack of pie on the menu, but I will still recommend Pop's Cafe for providing a pleasant experience.

Food: Good.
Service: Good.
Price: $6.50-$650. (maybe it's a typo)
Pie: No pie!

Pop's Cafe
7840 Florence Ave.
Downey, CA 90240
(562) 927-0096

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