Our report last week that a new Popovers coffee shop and bakery is planned for Church Square had some feeling a sense of déjà vu from memories of a former popular eatery in Wellesley Square called Popovers Restaurant.
When it comes to the town’s history, we often reach out to Beth Hinchliffe, a longtime resident with an encyclopedic knowledge of the town. Sure enough, she had plenty to share about the old Popovers.
I’ve been thinking about Popovers ever since you mentioned the new one. Lots of good memories, for many years. So, here’s “more than you really want to know about Popovers.”
It was like Wellesley’s “Cheers”—run by husband and wife Angelo (known to everyone as Angie) and Paula Adams. It felt kind of like family because it was their family.” They were always there—Angie full of energy rushing around cooking, chatting, laughing, checking up on how everyone was enjoying their meal; Paula taking orders, collecting cash, asking about your children or dogs; both of them simply glad to see you.
Like Cheers, it was filled with regulars, and Angie would have your daily order on the grill as soon as he spotted you coming through the door. The food was good, solid, generous, familiar—hearty breakfasts; filling old-fashioned lunches; and the best muffins in town. They opened every day at 5 a.m., and kept going strong until they closed at 4 p.m. A lot of locals came almost every day—policemen, DPW workers, mailmen for early breakfasts; owners and employees of nearby stores for lunch; and high schoolers in the afternoon on their way home.
Angie and Paula particularly enjoyed those high schoolers. They’d hire them to work there, so taking orders at Popovers was many students’ first jobs. They’d “adopt” them into their family, and would proudly show up at graduations, sponsor sports teams, then keep in touch for years. Other high schoolers dropped by near closing time, hanging out and talking, and Angie would give them broken cookies and leftover muffins when he closed the doors for the day.
Popovers was a big world behind a tiny storefront—you could almost miss its entrance at 13 Central Street (now the site of Juniper), sandwiched in among other doors. The entrance was long and narrow, with a counter along the right wall and dark red upholstered booths along the left—then it opened up into a surprisingly large back room.
I was the editor of the Townsman during Popovers’ glory days, and Wednesday was our early and hectic day of design, layout, last-minute details, rushing to the printing deadline. The office was just around the corner from Popovers, so I’d arrive at 5 a.m. and Angie would always have a hot, fresh blueberry muffin, already buttered and sprinkled with extra sugar, waiting for me, wrapped tightly in silver foil in a plain brown bag. The reporters and I would frequently be at Popovers during the day—holding our meetings there over lunch; interviewing people at corner tables; and taking turns making a mid-afternoon run for their legendary, namesake popovers for the whole office.
Popovers opened (under different owners) in 1969, and one of their regulars was Angie, who used to bring his little daughters in for a Saturday treat. When the place was being sold in 1974, Angie bought it and it became an extension of his family for decades. In 1996, after it sadly closed, Vidalia’s Truck Stop restaurant moved in. For over 25 years, Popovers had been the good-natured, family-oriented heart of downtown Wellesley.
I still miss Angie and Paula; and those early morning blueberry muffins.