There’s a new vegetarian burger restaurant opening in the East Village this week — one block from arguably one of the city’s best vegetarian burger restaurants. Pop’s Eat-Rite is a laid-back burger and fries spot from Endless Hospitality, the heavy-hitting group behind neighborhood restaurants the Wayland, Goodnight Sonny, and the newly opened Wild Son. The group’s latest project opens on September 15 at 123 St Marks Place, near Avenue A.
The new spot is just a few hundred feet away from Superiority Burger. There, chef Brooks Headley has garnered a cult-following for his “unqualifiedly delicious” veggie burgers, made in-house using a blend of quinoa, carrot, chickpeas, bread crumbs, and a host of other ingredients. It’s wildly popular, but even so, Pop’s Eat-Rite co-owner Rob Ceraso thinks there’s room for another veggie burger in the neighborhood.
“Superiority Burger is well-loved. I probably eat there once a week,” says Ceraso, who grew up on the Lower East Side and has been going to Superiority Burger since it opened in June 2015. “It’s a different thing, though. We’re not competing with them.”
Unlike Superiority Burger or Amanda Cohen’s popular vegetarian burger restaurant Lekka Burger, Pop’s Eat-Rite serves thin smash burger-style patties made using Impossible Meat. Burgers are available in a single ($10) or double option ($14) and come in three varieties: classic, served here with vegan American cheese, pickles, caramelized onions, and ketchup; a plant-filled version that comes with green sauce and mixed greens; and a daily special.
Despite its proximity to Superiority Burger, side-by-side, the two burgers are completely different animals, without containing any at all. Impossible Meat is engineered to char and the one at Pop’s Eat-Rite is closer to those served at many of the city’s fast food restaurants.
“It’s fast-casual, almost bordering on fast food,” Ceraso says. “We didn’t want to open another veggie burger spot.” Instead, the new restaurant channels the nostalgia of the city’s old school, fast-service burger joints. In addition to burgers, the walk-up spot also sells fountain drinks, non-dairy milkshakes ($8), and french fries ($3 for small, $5 for large), something Superiority Burger customers have longed after for years.
Pop’s Eat-Rite was originally envisioned as a finer dining Italian restaurant, in what would have been a first for Endless Hospitality, a restaurant group more commonly known for its buttoned-up cocktail bars and neighborhood brunch spots. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the team decided to head in the direction of fast-casual — another first — and open Pop’s. The new restaurant has also helped Endless Hospitality hire back a half-dozen members of its kitchen staff, Ceraso says, who were laid off when New York City closed for indoor dining in mid-March.
Pop’s Eat Rite debuts September 15 and will be open Tuesdays to Sundays, from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. The restaurant will close an hour early during its first week.