Googie, also known as populuxe, is a style of American architecture of the 1950s through 1960s influenced by car culture and the Space Age. The only pop art in evidence is a couple of Warhol prints. There is a mural in the rear which looks like the background was done by Jackson Pollock, but, excuse me, he was an Abstract Expressionist. The place is just begging for some Shag prints. Whatever you call it, the quirky atmosphere is wryly retro, and even has jukes in the booths. Pop diner works hard to achieve a common diner goal. That is, to be all things to all patrons. Pop accomplishes this better than most. Their menu is reasonably comprehensive without being encyclopedic. Instead of the multi-page tome favored by many diners, they have managed to distill their menu to quintessential diner food, enlivened with a sprinkling of well chosen ethnic specialties. Credit for this accomplishment goes to Chef Kishore Mondal, who has been featured on the Food Technology Channel, and learned to cook in Hong Kong, New Orleans and India. His specialties include Latin, Oriental and Caribbean delicacies along with traditional American favorites. Mofongo, a choice of chicken, shrimp or steak in a fried plantain shell with a Latin tomato sauce is an example of his Latin items. Singapore Hakka Noodles are part of his Oriental repertoire.We decided to put this concept to the test by splitting our meal between ethnic exotica and diner standbys. We began with "Dim Sum" on the specials menu and a Greek salad on the regular menu. The dim sum was described as "shredded shrimp and veggies in a paper-thin pastry, served over shang hai choy with a spicy roasted sesame sauce." They were pretty much as described, although the rice pastry was especially thin. Calling them shrimp dumplings or "shu mai" would have been more to the point as dim sum is catch-all term for all sorts of small dishes. A dozen rice dough wrapped dumplings were attractively arranged on a platter over shanghai choy (mini Chinese cabbage) and grated carrot surrounding a piquant dipping sauce. This dish is an ample appetizer for 2 diners. Both in taste and presentation we were off to a good start.Next came the Greek salad. It was an ample salad with a couple of nice big anchovies on top, a garnish that has all but disappeared these days. The vinaigrette that accompanied it tasted more Italian than Greek. We asked for oil & vinegar and got oil & balsamic vinegar - a little overpowering for a Greek salad.For our entrees, we again chose one multi-culti and one of conventional diner fare. From the specials menu we ordered "Sancocho," billed as "a traditional Spanish stew with oxtails, beef, pork, plantains, yucca, corn, potato and squash served with white rice and sliced avocados." This traditional Dominican soul-satisfying dish surpassed my expectations. It tasted fresh and homemade, correctly seasoned, and abundant with all ingredients. Another winner! We made a tactical error when we started with a Greek salad. The entrees come with a choice of soup or salad. Since the sancocho is sort of soupy, we really didn't want either, but settled on clam chowder. The dense New England style chowder was generous with its contents, but not adequately hot and lacking in flavor. It was the low point of the meal.Our conventional entree was a cheeseburger deluxe. You can't get more diner-y than that. We were served a respectable half-pound cheeseburger with crispy fries, lettuce and tomatoes, and a couple of French fried onion rings. It was not the burger of a lifetime, but perfectly acceptable.For dessert we chose flan. We were served a healthy slab, ample for two. It was nicely done with a light graham cracker crust, garnished with fresh strawberries. They also serve Haagen-Dazs ice cream, and an assortment of cakes and pastries made on the premises.The Bottom LinePop Diner serves American and ethnic food in an amusingly retro setting. The American dishes are dependable, and the ethnic fare is a cut above. Each day Pop Diner has 10 different specials available for lunch and dinner. This reinvented diner is a great spot for casual dining for those who seek conventional fare and those who want to try something new.Pop Diner80-26 Queens Boulevard, ElmhurstCuisine: American with various ethnic specialties Setting: Retro dinerService: Intermittently attentive.Hours: Sunday through Thursday: 6 a.m. to 1 a.m.; Fridays and Saturdays: 24 hoursReservations: NoAlcohol: Full bar featuring many specialty cocktailsParking: Private lotDress: CasualChildren: Children's menuMusic: Juke boxes in the boothsTakeout: Yes Private Parties: Yes, private roomCredit cards: the usual Noise level: Acceptable Handicap accessible: YesRecommended DishesDim SumÉ$7.95Greek saladÉ$8.50MofongoÉ$11.95 (chicken)/$14.95 (steak or shrimp)SancochoÉ$15.95Chee
©2005 Community News Group
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