Burger and shakes chain Johnny Rockets shuttered on Eighth Street a while back, and the space now houses the Manhattan outpost of Pop’s, basically the yuppified version of its predecessor, with a few more gourmet offerings. Meaning, you know, the burgers are now Pat LaFrieda and the pickles are house-made instead of the corporate generic kind. Although still in its infancy, we popped (ha! sorry — couldn’t resist) in for a quick lunch.
The menu is more limited than at the Brooklyn branch, but offers a range of burgers, hot dogs, assorted sandwiches, and appetizers like wings and a super-cheesy mac ‘n’ cheese.
We decided to sample the junior burger and a crispy chicken sandwich. While the accoutrements on our burger left a little to be desired (tomato wasn’t ripe enough and caramelized onions could have been cooked a bit longer), it was a fine griddled burger, if slightly overdone to our liking. We preferred the chicken sandwich (pictured above), however, which featured a plump and juicy breast, coated in crunch and gently spiced with a touch of honey.
And to end our meal, we sprang for a root-beer float. Originally we had wanted a shake, but were told that they wouldn’t have shakes for a few more days. The float, made with Boylan’s root beer, was a good, classic version hopped up with lots of vanilla ice cream.
The interior of the restaurant has an old-school diner feel, but unlike its predecessor, which went for 1950s kitsch, this has more of a hipster Brooklyn vibe going on. Seating is somewhat limited and the restaurant could surely add some additional tables. All in all, though, a decent spot for inexpensive, non-corporate eats (note that it’s cash-only right now). And now that NYU is back in session, expect crowds of wide-eyed teenagers who have yet to learn that you don’t pronounce Houston Street like the town in Texas.
42 East 8th Street