Most main dishes are in the $8 to $13 range, and the daily specials feature such favorites as turkey and dressing, fried chicken livers, country ham, chicken pot pie, chopped steak, meatloaf and pork chops. The country-fried steak is their most popular entrée, and diners have also enjoyed the fried catfish (domestic farm-raised) and stuffed bell peppers.
Along with warm biscuits and cornbread, Southern vegetables are just as important to round out the hot plates. Offerings include turnip greens, cooked cabbage, field peas with snaps, mashed potatoes, fried okra and more.
The full menu is online at the restaurant’s website, popscomfortkitchen.com, and it also includes appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches, baskets and a children’s menu. The dessert options are a long list and include favorites such as banana pudding and apple pie à la mode.
“It’s food that everybody should like – family favorites, a large variety of vegetables,” said owner/operator Chuck Wigington, a Whitehaven native who now resides with his family in Rosemark. “We do traditional Southern favorites. … It’s stuff that we grew up eating, from grandparents to parents to us. The family got together, and it’s the kind of foods we cooked at the house.”
The restaurant relies on family recipes, as well as a few from places where Wigington has worked in the past.
He named the place based on what his seven grandchildren call him, and he runs Pop’s with help from more than 40 people. That includes his family (daughters Melissa and Lindsey and his wife, Kathy), an experienced kitchen staff and a wait staff that includes local high school students at night.
Savannah, their daughter in Florida, and two sons-in-law help with social media and computer work as needed. On the right side of the restaurant, Kathy also has a gift/craft shop named after their grands – Seven Blessings.
Wigington said he’s always liked working with youth groups at church, so he was pleased to find plenty of teens willing to learn how to wait on customers at his full-service restaurant. “Our family’s mission, if you want to call it that, is working with the next generation.”
Pop’s brand of customer service is the kind his family likes for themselves: Quick greeting of customers, keeping tables clean and uncluttered, staying on top of refills and using teamwork. Wigington and floor managers circulate to ensure customers are happy and getting the service they deserve. Overall, the team works to emphasize speed and quality.
“We try to get the food out as quick as we can but at the same time get it right,” he said.
It’s the first restaurant they have owned, but Wigington said he’s been in the industry since he was in high school. He chuckled and said, “I knew what I was getting into.”
In addition to praising the food, both young and old customers tell him they enjoy the oldies background music from the ’50s and ’70s.
“They say it reminds them of when they were growing up – brings back memories. That was one of our goals, to do what we remembered as we were growing up and raising our kids and as we were growing up. And from the feedback from our customers, that’s what we’ve accomplished.”
Wigington said they want to be involved in the Bartlett community and support it. So the business is a member of the Bartlett Chamber of Commerce, and they have reached out to schools to invite them to book special fundraising nights. By prearrangement on Tuesdays, the restaurant will give back 10 percent to a school, church or some other group that invites their supporters to Pop’s Comfort Kitchen. Children also get to eat for just $1.99 on Mondays.
Pop’s opened its doors on April 2 and has been refining its menu choices and operations to suit the customers, even adding breakfast hours on Saturday by popular demand. Sundays are their busiest lunch, and Fridays typically are their busiest night.
The restaurant also rewards its customers with a loyalty program that gives then a free appetizer on their sixth visit and a half-price entrée and free dessert the week of their birthday. The restaurant is also developing a monthly special for loyalty program members.
Wigington chose Bartlett for the business location after looking at multiple properties throughout the Memphis area. The location next to Kroger meant they would see plenty of foot traffic, and the intersection of Kirby-Whitten and Stage is a busy one.
He didn’t mind it when he found out that Chick-fil-A was moving in on the other side of the large parking lot he shares with Kroger.
“Competition’s not a bad thing. Sometimes you want a chicken sandwich, and sometimes you want vegetables and country-fried steak.”
Operating a full-service restaurant is lot of work but also a pleasure, Wigington said. “I’ve met a lot of really nice people in Bartlett, going around talking to tables, just meeting a lot of regulars. That’s been a lot of fun. I do a lot of cooking, and I like to cook, so that’s enjoyable. And like I said earlier, I like working with young people, so that’s fun too.”
He continued, “It’s long hours, but it’s important in life to do what you enjoy. And working with family – a lot of people tell you to be careful about that, but it’s working. We enjoy working together.”