First Look: Pop's of Brooklyn Comes to Manhattan

Staff Writer
A Brooklyn burger institution takes over an old Johnny Rockets space downtown

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

As you swivel on the '50s-style red vinyl bar stools, you can still hear the ghosts if you close your eyes. The long pink straws being offered to you from glass canisters. The waiters and waitresses sock hopping to the sounds of Danny and the Juniors crooning, what else, "At the Hop." Yes, I confess that I ate at Johnny Rockets on West 8th and Greene Street although only to appease my then much younger daughter to whom the '50s were literally pre-historic. The burgers were horrible; the shakes worse.

Thankfully, like all things pre-historic, Johnny Rockets (at least the one on 8th Street) has gone the way of the dinosaur. Joining a growing trend of other successful Brooklyn Mom and Pop start-up restaurants trying to make it in Manhattan, Pop's of Brooklyn (Williamsburg to be precise) has brought back a college frat house feel to a neighborhood almost entirely owned by a college: NYU. Pop's has also brought back delicious late-night sloppy-drunk burgers and beers (with shakes coming soon).

The bar's only nod to its ShaNaNa theme park predecessor are those red vinyl stools which give a great view of the grill in the kitchen turning out bar worthy food: wings, chili, cheesesteaks, and beautiful burgers.

No rocking around the clock dance competition for this waitstaff. The only contest is who has the most radical ink covering exposed (and undoubtedly unexposed) skin. More importantly are the burgers. The menu proudly boasts Pat LaFrieda as Pop's meat man, which is the current Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for chopped meat.

There are many choices of toppings and cheese all served on soft potato rolls with homemade pickles. My gaze landed on the Juicy Louie. While I love a good Juicy Lucy, I had to try this masculine version. Two five-ounce patties enveloping American cheese like a traditional Lucy, but made mas macho by the addition of American cheese ON TOP! Suffice it to say the Juicy Louie was one sloppy, cheesey mess.

The soft bun was no match for the pickles, onions, and lava-like cheese simultaneosly spurting from both inside and out. The toothpick that originally affixed bun to burger came in handy to spear the gooey cheese, caramelized onions, and spicy pickles, which were given an extra bite by the spicy homemade ketchup.

As I happily swiveled on my stool, I thought I heard the faint strains of Chuck Berry's Johnny B. Goode — the unofficial anthem of the extinct Johnny Rockets. The tattooed manager brought me back to reality even if not quite to the 21st century as they turned up Nirvana's All Apologies. And I can assure you that there was positively no dancing.