There wasn’t a name for the type of bar that Brent Kroll wanted to create, so the award-winning sommelier made one up. At Pop, his newly minted “fizz bar” in Shaw, every drink on-site is carbonated and comes from a can or bottle.
The playful venture popped on open on Saturday, December 17 (2108 Vermont Street NW) with over a dozen half bottles of Champagne to choose from ($28-$75), as well as beer, cider, hard kombucha, sparkling sake and seltzers, canned cocktails, sparkling wine, and pet-nats. Cocktails ($14) pair shots with bottles of soda: absinthe with root beer; green chartreuse with grape soda; and bourbon with Cheerwine. Kroll, who also owns Maxwell Park wine bars in Shaw and Navy Yard, believes canned beverages are on the up and up. Pop opens with 50 types to choose from.
“I think the best increasing category of beverage right now are really good canned beverages like spitzes and cocktails,” he told Eater, “stuff that you see in Europe … but now it’s starting to blow up here.”
Kroll, named Food and Wine’s “Sommelier of the Year” in 2018, is a powerhouse in the local bar and beverage scene. At this point in his career, however, the Oval Room and Iron Gate alum is most passionate about creating “fun” bars: “I come from more of a white-tablecloth setting in my background but after doing all of that, I started to crave comfort and simplicity.”
His latest spot emulates Maxwell’s cozy, intimate, and upbeat vibe—what he calls a “house party” atmosphere—and bumps the party up a notch.
“It’s kind of meant to be an unbuttoned celebration any day of the week,” said Kroll. Behind the bar are colorful bottles and cans stacked to the ceiling and a garage-style glass door in front will lead out to a patio in the warmer months.
“Pop” speaks to both the booze and its pop culture-influenced ambiance. Pop art depicting music icons decorates the walls and pop and lively music fills the 40-seat space.
Chef Bart Hutchins, who also heads the kitchen at Navy Yard’s Maxwell and will oversee forthcoming Le Mont Royal in Adams Morgan, says Pop’s fare is a support system, of sorts, for the drinks.
It “starts with the bubbles and points at the food as opposed to the other way around,” Hutchins tells Eater.
To balance out the bubbly booze, he says the dishes are designed with a “heavy focus on crispy, fatty, buttery.” Detroit-style pizza fit that criteria perfectly.
“As far as pizzas are concerned, it’s like the butteriest, the crispiest, sort of the most bready,” says Hutchins.
Kroll is originally from Detroit, which made the fit even more seamless. The personal-sized pies will rotate with the season. To start, options include a pepperoni hot honey, a Maryland crab and crab fat pie, and a square dressed up with pistachio and brown butter. Other decadent bites include an ounce of Osetra caviar alongside chive donuts, foie (gras) chicken nuggets with fermented hot sauce, and fried pickles with dill labneh, as well as three creamy pasta options.
To meet its mission of delivering salty, fatty, craveable fare, Hutchins draws inspiration from American fast-food favorites like Arby’s, In-N-Out, and Taco Bell. That includes curly fries; a “animal sauce” atop its Pop Burger; and crunch wrap starring duck.
“[We said] let’s lean onto all of the things that we really, really like, and that we have maybe unnecessary affinity for, and let’s do the best version that we can,” says Hutchins. And, of course, it goes with the “pop” theme: “[Fast food] is now sort of part of pop culture itself,” he says.
With a debut right before the holidays, Pop—a bar that seems made for a New Year’s Eve party—is wasting no time in planning festivities. This year, $132 NYE tickets come with a personal Detroit pizza, a caviar “bump,” and four drinks. Also keep an eye out for a membership-based “Fizz Club,” similar to Maxwell’s wine club, with Table 22.
With his innovative new spot, Kroll says he’s excited to break the (champagne) glass ceiling.
“It’s not meant to be a better version of anything existing already. It’s just meant to be its own thing,” he said.
Pop is open Monday through Thursday 5 p.m. to midnight, Friday 5 p.m. to 1 a.m., Saturday 3 p.m. to 1 a.m. and Sunday 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.