Pop-Tarts World (Gone)
New York, New York
We wanted to like Pop-Tarts™ World. Really. After all, a nostalgic tribute to the well-loved, heavily processed toaster pasty of our youth seemed like a laudable endeavor. Why shouldn't there be a Times Square presence for America's favorite factory-stuffed, after school rectangle? It could join the Hershey's Store and M&M World in innovative sugar-coma-inducing commerce!
Well, we have been to M&M World, and you, sir, are no M&M World.
There's something rather half-toasted about Pop-Tarts World, despite an attempt at creating excitement with gaudy décor, blaring '80s pop music and hourly light shows (The lights are meant to evoke frosting, colored sprinkles and foil -- someone in marketing is an artiste.). The café staff obligingly claps, dances and chants along with the programmed jollity even when the place is nearly empty.
There's a custom T-shirt station featuring clip-art graphics (The Statue of Liberty, a bunch of grapes) and an unimaginative array of merchandise (key chains, tote bags, mugs). The looming, tubular,"Varietizer" allows you to create your own mix-and-match Pop-Tart 12-pack for $15. The bathroom features Pop-Tart wallpaper, which is the one thing we would consider buying, if it were possible.
But most pastry pilgrims come for the café. We expected pleasant wafting aromas to permeate the room, sparking Proustian suburban flashbacks, but since no actual baking goes on here, we were out of luck (most everything is prepared in advance and encased in plastic clam shells).
You can get a simple Pop-Tart prepared in one of three ways: frozen, toasted or at room temperature. Eccentric flavors include Frosted Ice Cream Sandwich, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, and Orange Cream.
The more elaborate offerings are odder still: ice cream sundaes with pop tart bits as topping, Rice Krispie™ treats with embedded Pop-Tart pieces, and by far their most infamous novelty snack: Pop-Tart sushi! This "treat" resembles finely ground raw hamburger meat, surrounded by a multi-colored Play Dough shell. Bought one but just couldn't eat it. We noticed that most visitors examined the goods with a puzzled expression on their faces, probably asking themselves, "Will this taste good or make me really queasy?"
We found what we were looking for, in a way. At Pop-Tarts World, one specific childhood memory came rushing back: the place perfectly evokes the earnest awkwardness of an elementary school play. [ADB]
April 2011: It was closed in Jan. 2011, claimed to have been a "temporary store" by PR spinmeisters. Great Pop Tarts merchandise still available online at a discount!