Places: POPS in Arcadia, along Route 66
Published: February 12, 2010
Modified: February 12, 2010 at 4:59 pm
The best thing about POPS isn't its architecture, although it must be one of the most structurally interesting roadside diners/gas stations in North America. Probably South America, too, but I've never been there and can't say for certain.
It's not the greasy hamburgers and French fries or the 1980s soft rock playing over the speakers, either. It's not the old-school feel of the place, common to sites along old Route 66, or the hum of constant conversations held by people passing through. Heck, it isn't even the tourists, those people talking, although it is delightful to listen to their accents, hear them discussing itineraries and favorite stops and watch them pose for pictures in front of the giant, skeletal soda bottle outside.
No, the best thing about POPS is, well, the pop. Or soda. Or Coke, if you're one of those people for whom Coke is a catchall term meaning Dr. Pepper, Pepsi, Sprite, Mountain Dew and every other variety of fizzy, flavored sugar- or Splenda-water, including actual Coca-Cola. It's impossible — impossible! — to decide which pop/soda/Coke you want without at least 10 minutes of steady contemplation. The bottled sodas (that's what I call them, so that's what we'll go with) fill 10 tall, refrigerated coolers and spill out onto surrounding shelves. Three more coolers contain beer, milk and water.
And what a selection: By my count, there are 39 varieties of ginger ale, some spicy, some dry, some diet, some not. Thirty-nine. Most stores, you're lucky to find one kind of ginger ale, and aside from a few places I know, you can't get a diet ginger ale to save your life. (For fellow connoisseurs, Crest and Crescent Market have diet Vernors; Homeland in Edmond has diet Shasta, which is made with Splenda.) POPS has a wider array of root beer, including a butterscotch variety that sounds like a little taste of teeth-rotting heaven. I overheard a woman who works here recommending it to a visiting soldier. “It's one of our most popular,” she said. “A bunch of people who work here have tried it, and they really like it.” He picked one up. Sold.
I, however, am torn. Butterscotch root beer sounds better than good. But so does the Thomas Kemper Oregon Marionberry soda. And the Flathead Lake Monster Black Raspberry. And the AJ Stephans' Birch Beer. And what is sarsaparilla, anyway? How would that taste?
I think I'm going to have to find out.
— Ken Raymond, Staff Writer