In pre-pandemic times, Rob Ceraso and the Endless Hospitality group had plans to open an Italian restaurant called Little Saint in their newly leased space on St Marks Place. It would have been a new direction for the cocktails & brunch-focused group of East Village restaurants— The Wayland, Goodnight Sonny, and The Wild Son are all part of the portfolio — but the space had sat empty for more than a year and they were excited to bring something new to the block.

Then COVID hit, and Endless Hospitality quickly realized that "a new upscale sit-down restaurant was the very last thing New York City needed at the moment," as Ceraso put it. The team did a quick pivot, and instead of fancy pasta we got a fast-food, all-vegan burger stand called Pop's Eat Rite.

In many ways, Pop's is the perfect restaurant for exactly right now, what with the cost of meat (to your wallet, to the planet) skyrocketing, and the idea of sitting down to a lengthy meal surrounded by strangers an unappealing prospect at best. Plus Endless Hospitality is donating all of its Pop's profits through the end of the year to the nearby Bowery Mission and the Brooklyn based non-profit Rethink Food.

Here at Pop's you order your vegan burgers and sides, your drinks and desserts, from a window looking out onto St Marks, and a few minutes later a bag of food appears. Everyone during this exchange should be masked at all times, please. St Marks just became a "closed street" last weekend, so there will be tables set up out in the road on Saturdays and Sundays; otherwise you can just bring your feast to Tompkins Square Park right across Avenue A.

The Pop's menu is short, but nails that classic comfort trio of burgers, shakes, and fries. The crew is grilling up three different burgers each day, all cooked smash style using those "Impossible" plant-based patties that mimic the flavor and juiciness of ground beef.

The Green Burger ($15 for a double) and Vegan Cheese Fries ($7)

The Green Burger ($15 for a double) and Vegan Cheese Fries ($7)

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The Green Burger ($15 for a double) and Vegan Cheese Fries ($7)
Scott Lynch / Gothamist

There's the Classic, topped with melted vegan American, pickles, and caramelized onions; the Green, featuring a zippy sauce and a pile of leaves; and a daily special, which on opening day was the Papi Khan, a beast of a burger with BBQ glaze, cucumbers, pickled onions, and vegan mayo slathered top and bottom. All of these are available as a single or a double patty, and they were all extremely satisfying,

Two sizes of Fries, offered with or without vegan cheese sauce, and a Cup of Kale slick with vegan ranch dressing are your only options for sides right now, with market-based specials coming soon. For dessert Pop's will have non-dairy soft serve starting next week, which you can order in a cup or as a float or shake. The Pop's Donuts are already available, and come in three flavors, Coconut Citrus, Cinnamon Sugar, and Chocolate Dipped.

Drinks are non-boozy for now, and include housemade Iced Tea and Hibiscus Fruit Punch as well as an array of fountain sodas. The exterior of Pop's is bright and welcoming and stars one of the better pandemic murals, SacSix's portrait of Dr. Fauci-Spock. Note that the artist is returning soon to freshen the piece up because someone scrawled a disgusting message across Fauci's face.

Pop's Eat Rite is located at 123 St Marks Place, just west of Avenue A, and is currently open on Tuesday through Sunday from noon to 9 p.m. (popseatrite.com)