The Popcorn Wagon
February 10, 2004
The Popcorn Wagon in Aspen has finished with the remodeling and
revamping and is finally reopened. The good news is that you wouldn’t really know that it was remodeled unless you work there, the bad news is that the prices have also been remodeled.
Not that I fear change or anything, but I’m glad that the Popcorn Wagon remodel left it looking virtually the same. The Wagon, to me at least, is the great symbolic equalizer in Aspen; the place where rich and poor, tourist and local alike can (and do) come and dine in complete equality and even sometimes, on those cold, tipsy nights, in solidarity.
And speaking of fearing change: There isn’t much opportunity anymore to fear the change you may get from your five dollar bill if you are hunting for crepe. All of the “entree” crepes, those wonderful spot-hitters that you can grab just before a movie or a concert starts at the Wheeler, now start at $5 and skyrocket to $5.50! That includes the roast beef, ham, turkey, veggie, spinach and grogan (ham, onion, green peppers, cheese, tomato and onion). The “dessert” crepes, like the fruit, chocolate and classic (cinnamon and sugar flamed in Brandy) hover in the $3-4 range … where the others used to be.
I suppose one can’t complain, though. It does seem like the prices at the Wagon have been the same for more years than I can remember, and I guess $5 for a little pancake of cheese, tomato, onion and green pepper is in keeping with the overall Aspen-ness of the situation. And, in all fairness, during those times when money is no object, like when it’s 1:45 a.m. and you’ve just shut down the last bar in town and the difference between having a tabouli sandwich (cracked wheat, tomato, onion and tatziki sauce on a fried pita) and not having one is nothing short of a life or death ordeal, then $4.25, if you’ve got it, is a very small price to pay.
I said earlier that the remodeling of the Wagon isn’t noticeable unless you work there, but that is not entirely true, and was only meant to calm any fears that you may have had about the Wagon now being one of those exclusive, members-only establishments or some other such rumor that you may have heard. Actually, apart from the physical changes, like more storage/work space, the addition of a microwave and a brand new popcorn machine, there are a few new menu items alongside the old stand-bys. The Wagon will be featuring a soup every day, so I guess you could call it the soup of the day, which will rotate between clam chowder, beef stew and chili and will be somewhere in the $4.50 range. Also, let’s give a warm welcome to baked potatoes “in their jackets,” with a few choices of fillings, butter, sour cream, cheddar, onion, bacon, chili, you know … potato stuff. These little guys are $2.50-$3.50, depending on whether you get the designer jackets or not.
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And, you’ve still got your long time menu items from which to choose while warming yourself under the outdoor heater, which was graciously placed right where one would stand while making a menu choice. If you’re gonna linger and be indecisive, you can be warm while doing it. For hot dogs, you got your Vienna (all beef), Kosher (quarter pound), Polish (spicy sausage), Fire Dog (way spicy) and chili dog, ranging from $2.75 for the Vienna to $4 for the chili. That’s not such a bad chunk out of a fiver after all. For sandwiches they have the aforementioned tabouli, the greegaros (roast beef, tomato, onion, tatziki sauce on a fried pita, $5.50) a ham, turkey or roast beef on wheat ($5.25) or a Gyro, easily the most mispronounced item on the menu. It’s lamb, tomato, onion and tatziki on pita, it’s $5.50, and you may as well just pronounce it like it’s spelled … whoever is working that night will know what you are talking about.
Let’s see … assorted drinks, soda, lemonade, iced tea, hot cocoa, coffee, tea and, my favorite, spiced cider (hot), all just over a dollar, some further than others. And speaking of the dollar, gone are the days, and it doesn’t seem that long ago, of ordering a small, plain popcorn and throwing the change from your dollar into the tip jar, but I suppose that isn’t news to anyone. The small plain is now $1.10, so I suppose you could throw your change in from two dollars and make a fine contribution to someone’s off-season fund.
All in all, the Popcorn Wagon is the same old Aspen standard, the saving grace that is open ’til the wee hours, when the munchies can be at their worst. And the Wagon is still THE place in Aspen to feed that apres-ski popcorn jones, so what if it’s just a coin or two more now?