Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pop's Grill

There is a new player in town. Pop's is located on 20th street just south of five points in the same storefront that old guys like me will remember as the location of Mancha's many years ago. I still miss Mancha's after all these years, but now we are talking about hot dogs, not tamales. Here's a link to their web site: Pop's.

Those close to me will immediately see a connection in the name. A few years ago when my first grandson was born my wife and I announced our "grandparent names". These both were inspired by names from my own family. I had a grand mother that I never knew. Her passing at a relatively young age was before any of her grandchildren could know her but her nieces and nephews knew her as "Aunt Bunny". Bunny became the name our grandchildren would call my wife. My grandfather was always known to me and all of his grandchildren as "Pop". That became my grandfather name. Of course I kind of liked "Kingfish" but what do I know?

So here we were at a sandwich shop named after my grandfather and myself. I was hoping it would be good.

They offer much more than hot dogs at Pop's. In fact their menu made it particularly hard to stick to our usual order. The usual order was originally conceived to aid comparisons as we visited numerous hot dog servers. We have tried to always order a hot dog and a chili dog, both all the way. Today Robert gave in to temptation and ordered a hot dog and a junk yard dog. A junk yard dog is a hot dog with all available toppings. This one came with chili, hot beef, cheese, slaw, and hot dog sauce. Aaron, who was with us for his last time before starting a new teaching job on Monday, ordered a chili dog and a Chicago dog. We did share samples between us as we went through lunch.

OK, one might ask: "How was it?" I'll sum it up as good. Pop's cooks your food after you order so there is a little wait. That was fine with us, and is better than some of the instant presentations we have been given. They seem to really be concerned about the customer's experience.

So, who is Pop? The guy who started this place is Sammy Guarino, a long time player in the hot dog business in Birmingham. He started Pop's to help set up his daughter Heather in business.

Heather graduated from Birmingham's Culinard culinary school and has decided to go into her father's chosen segment of the food industry. We came to find out that everyone working at Pop's today (there were five of 'em) are family members. One has to admire a family with that level of commitment to each other and helping get a new business off the ground.

We also found out that contrary to the posted hours Pop's is open for a "second shift" very late at night. They are doing a brisk business in the late (and early?) hours each night. This is unusual for a hot dog stand, but not for a "grill". These folks are go getters trying to optimize their return on their investment. I say; "Go for it", this is true entrepreneurship.

Give this place a try. It's not Mancha's, but it's a good sandwich shop/grill/hot dog place.

One final note, take a look at the picture below. This is not a large place, but they have two mirrored walls facing each other. You can see "forever" if your eyes are that good.