“That is the best home fry I’ve ever had,” said Laura Pietropaoli ’17 of her steaming plate of food that had quickly found its way to our table. She’s kidding, sort of, but extreme expressions of appreciation for diner food are the norm when visiting Pop Shoppe. I’ve never quite been able to tell whether the food or the circumstances are what make this experience so enjoyable.
Situational deliciousness might be the case for many Bates students who visit Pop Shoppe, but that’s to be expected at a school where we take weekend brunch quite seriously. I’m just going to pencil in “can’t live without brunch” in my ever expanding list of reasons for why Commons has ruined any hopes I had for being a self-sufficient cook after I graduate in the spring.
While some might think that your decision to go to Pop Shoppe might reflect all too honestly on last night’s decision making, rapid service and a complete menu of comfort food in a casual, intimate setting makes the case for Pop Shoppe as a reasonable dining choice for many brunch occasions. Word searches on the place mats, immediate coffee refills and reasonable (read: not embarrassed to be an American) serving sizes are all details that keep students and community members coming back.
“Every town needs a good diner,” said Maya Cates Carney ’16, and it’s important to emphasize that Pop Shoppe is indeed a community staple. My visit to Pop Shoppe was at 9:00 a.m. (which is an arguably unbelievable time for twenty-somethings) on a Saturday morning, and the space was filled with locals enjoying a favorite haunt.
The menu also helps to eliminate any taste of pretension from the premises. I can guarantee that any combination of the words “smoked salmon,” “aioli,” or “sea salt crystals,” have never, and will never, appear on the menu. That’s not to say that all three of those foods wouldn’t make a fine brunch dish at another place, but it is sometimes nice to know that the simplicity of the menu will mirror your sub-par brain functionality.
What’s funny about Pop Shoppe is that the menu isn’t very different from what students can get in Commons for “free” on weekend mornings. There’s the usual assortment of eggs, pancakes, waffles, etc., which suggests that the experience of slugging out of bed, meeting a friend on College Street and trying not to bump into each other as you both stumble down Frye in various states of awareness is the real attraction to this experience.
You don’t go to Pop Shoppe to eat the best home fries in Maine. You go to feel like you’re part of our community by participating in an unspoken tradition that nourishes us. If Pop Shoppe wasn’t around the corner, I’m sure life at Bates would go on and other weekend rituals would take its place, but it’s nice to have a home kitchen just a few steps from campus.