The King of Pops folks are opening a location inside Ponce City Market's Central Food Hall, and the new venture will be more than a simple popsicle stand. Officially called King of Pops Bar & Good Grub, it will have a limited food menu and cocktails to go along with the popsicles, which will feature a variety of toppings. Co-founder Steven Carse and Neil Ringer, who will run the Ponce City Market outpost, shared details in a phone conversation with Eater Atlanta.
How long has this project been in the works?
Steven Carse: I live right across the street from Ponce City Market, so I called them, I think, the very first day they put a phone number up. I've kind of gone through — I think everyone has — kind of a long process. It's a huge, huge, huge project, and we've been on their radar in a couple of different iterations, and then this is the one that worked out, space-wise, in the building. It's been on our radar for a couple of years, really. In the last three or four months, it's obviously become a lot more of a reality. And now in the last few weeks, it's very, very real.
I think the project, just in general, is obviously really important for the neighborhood. I feel like we consider this neighborhood home, so it felt like it made sense for us to put down roots as far as a significant retail presence. We have our window [in Inman Park] by the BeltLine, which I think will continue to be awesome. But [Ponce City Market] is a space where we can do a little bit more.
Where in the market will you be located?
SC: We're in the Central Food Hall. For more detail, the big restaurants are located on one side — like Minero and Bellina [Alimentari] and [Dub's] Fish Camp — and that's on the North Avenue side. So our side is closer to Ponce, and there's probably six-ish small kiosks there. We only have the shared seating for the place, so we'll have a few barstools at our bar, but in general people will be coming up and hanging out at Ponce City Market, whether they're shopping or sitting down to eat a bite or going out to the BeltLine.
So it'll be more of a food stall as opposed to a full-service restaurant?
SC: Yes, "food stall" is a good word.
What's the design going to be like?
SC: We did our original mural, which we are still in the process of painting. It's really small; it's only, like, 200 square feet, so there's not a ton of options to do stuff. But it's going to be colorful. It's going to have some of the chalkboard elements that we've had, obviously from the beginning, just because that's what our menus are on.
Neil Ringer: It's pretty small. The mural takes up half of it, and the chalkboard element will pretty much take up the other half.
In the announcement you mentioned the stall "will have more than just pops." What does that entail?
SC: We'll be having some food along with it. It won't be an extensive menu, but some things ranging from a high-brow grilled cheese to a straightforward grilled cheese, and then a salad or two featuring produce from our farm out near Douglasville. And then it'll kind of be pops to the next level. So add-ons, which might include different types of dips that we'll do — different types of chocolate, and then potentially coconut or nuts or different things to dip once you put the chocolate on the pop.
What we know will be the focus and the most exciting part is the alcohol element. So we're going to have a lot of cocktails that are inspired by our flavors, and then cocktails that include the actual popsicle in them. Imagine a blackberry-ginger-lemonade dark and stormy, a grapefruit-orange blossom paloma, a raspberry-lime margarita, a watermelon mojito. They would have the actual popsicle in the drink, so you're getting the best of both worlds. It's going to be a cocktail that's really good. You can take the popsicle out and just enjoy it, or you can let it melt into your drink and instead of getting watered down, it will just further enhance it.
So as opposed to ice cubes, you're going to have actual popsicles to chill the drinks?
SC: There will still be some ice. We tried testing it without any ice, but the drinks just weren't cold enough. So there will be some ice, but much less ice because there will be a popsicle occupying that space.
Is there anyone in particular who will run this stall?
SC: Neil will be running the space. He's been working with us for a long time and is certainly the resident foodie of the group. He goes out of his way to learn about food trends. We've always been running in circles with mixologists and food people. And I think our take on it is to take a lot of those elements and then bring them back down and make them a lot more approachable. If you look at our cocktail menu, there will be some ingredients that you might have to ask what they are. But as opposed to if you went to Kimball House or one of the really amazing restaurants here in Atlanta, you would have a better idea here, I think, exactly all the ingredients that are in it. That's not to dumb it down in any way. We're going to be thinking about all the recipes.
NR: It's like how we've been making pops the last five years. It's a lot of really good ingredients. And the pops are pretty simple, as far as fresh fruit and fresh ingredients. That's what we're going to focus on, and then we take them and make them into a cocktail, because that's the number one request we've been getting for the past five years. We think it works great.
What was the inspiration for this? Did it come from fan requests?
NR: It is a thing — people are like, "You should make cocktails," every time they get a popsicle, which we always think is a great idea. We've always played around with doing it by ourselves. We've always used really fresh fruit and really good ingredients, so it naturally formed into a "why not?" And then we started experimenting with some food.
SC: Yeah, we wanted to have a reason why people would go out of their way to go [to the Ponce City Market stall]. They're obviously going to be able to get a popsicle for the same price if they want to walk in. But we wanted to do something special to make it a little more of a destination to sit down, enjoy it, and think a little bit more about it. I think the dips and the add-ons are one thing, and then alcohol is another thing. The food's going to be really good, but we know the popsicles are our bread and butter, so we'll be focusing on those.
When are you hoping to open? Next month?
SC: We want to open as quickly as possible. The whole project is a lot of moving parts, obviously, which some of them we're privy to and some of them we aren't. [The market's] going to try to roll out a lot of things at the same time, and we'll be ready for sure at that point. We might open without out liquor license, just based on timing. We're in the review board part of that so we're pretty far along in the process, but you never have an exact date. As far as having our space ready, I'd say anywhere from one to three weeks. Maybe more. One week is what they're saying — they think things are going to be ready — but often times things get delayed.