I Love Grilled Cheese: The Pop Shop
I have neglected the I Love Grilled Cheese series for too long and I apologize. I had wanted to turn I Love Grilled Cheese into a regular feature, but with all of the sandwiches I was creating and the changing of jobs, time just got away from me and the feature slowly died. I have had a reply from Connie from The Pop Shop sitting in my inbox for longer than I would like to admit. I just never made time to update the blog.
Not anymore. I believe the story goes that I was simply looking through either Twitter or my grilled cheese Google Alerts and noticed that there was a store in Collingswood, New Jersey, that serves 30 grilled cheese sandwiches. I knew at that point, I had to ask The Pop Shop a few questions for the blog. After a few emails back and forth, Connie responded with great answers and they are posted below. If you ever happen to be in Collingswood, New Jersey, please make sure to stop by. Tell them GrilledShane sent you!
P.S. Even Bobby Flay headed to The Pop Shop for a grilled cheese Throwdown. Nice. Being on an episode of Throwdown is one of my many dreams. Looks like The Pop Shop beat me to it! Maybe I will, one day, have to challenge The Pop Shop to our own version of a Throwdown!
How long has The Pop Shop been open and how long have you both been in the restaurant business?
We opened September 2005. I have worked in and around the restaurant industry for 25 years. I have a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management from Johnson & Wales University. I was the president of Small Potatoes Press, a publishing house that specializes in restaurant cookbook development. I have written seven cookbooks. I am the founding publisher/former executive editor of Cuizine magazine which focused on the Delaware Valley restaurant scene. I serve on the Chef Advisory Panel for Dairy Management Inc.Stink has worked in the industry as a restaurant manager for Bravo restaurant at the Mann.
Please expand on your love for grilled cheese and how it evolved into a featured menu item (x30).
Our menu at The Pop Shop is based on our love of the diner culture and comfort food. Grilled cheese is a staple on most diner menus so we took the basic idea — a bread base, cheese and fillings — and ran with it. When we were first creating the menu we had maybe 25 combinations that we really loved and the thought of cutting them down to 2 or 3 selections was sad. Then Stink said “why not have a grilled cheese for every day of the month” and then we knew we could really take and play with the concept.
In addition to the grilled cheeses we have on the menu, we also often have a grilled cheese of the day. During National Grilled Cheese Month (April) we feature a different new grilled cheese platter everyday. We also have competitions for to be the Grilled Cheese King and Queen and run a Cheesy Poetry Contest.
Do you believe that most people stereotype the grilled cheese in that they think it is boring and only for children?
Yes, grilled cheese is a classic kids food but it’s a classic for a reason — it’s tastes great! So it brings back wonderful childhood memories, it’s comforting, it’s easy to make. Plus we use hand-cut artisan bread, quality cheeses, homemade condiments, and our own roasted meats so the childhood memory gets a grownup redo.
Have you seen a positive response to your restaurant? What has been the most popular sandwich and what is your favorite?
Our best selling grilled cheese is the Collings (the classic country white bread and American cheese) but our customers have embraced our creative grilled cheeses. We often get calls and e-mails from people who want to share their ideas and recipes. My favorite is the Haddon – Brie with caramelized onion, ham and mustard on seeded wheat. I also love our newest one called The Powell- blue cheese, mozzarella, proscuitto, fig jelly on grilled cibatta. Stinks favorite is the Calvert — jack cheese, roasted turkey, applewood smoked bacon, avocado and balsamic house mayo on rosemary focaccia. That’s the sandwich that was featured on Throw Down with Bobby Flay. We also serve the grilled cheese that Bobby made — it’s called the 5B’s. (All our grilled cheeses are named after streets in Collingswood.)
Where does your sandwich inspiration come from?
From lots of places — classic food pairings, ethnic cuisines, traditional recipes — it’s fun to play around with flavors and textures and a grilled cheese is so open to interpretation — you just need a base, a cheese and a heat source and from there the sky is the limit!
– Connie (& Stink)
The Pop Shop • 729 Haddon Avenue • Collingswood, NJ 08108 • 856-869-0111