Improving popover functionality as a dropdown

Right now I am using the popover controller to function as a dropdown menu on buttons. However, the overhead of this approach is annoying. Creating a new component and module, adding the component to the entry components, importing the module, etc etc…

Is there a better way to handle simple dropdowns?

Yes, a very simple alternative: ion-select

<ion-select value="brown" okText="Okay" cancelText="Dismiss">
      <ion-select-option value="brown">Brown</ion-select-option>
      <ion-select-option value="blonde">Blonde</ion-select-option>
      <ion-select-option value="black">Black</ion-select-option>
      <ion-select-option value="red">Red</ion-select-option>

Yes but the ion-select doesnt nest nicely in an ion-toolbar for example.

Dropdowns are quite simple components, you can handle them with display style property. For example make a simple div element and put your stuff in it. Manage div presence with display:block; and display:none;.

How I do it is to use ion-card component, ion-card-header is always visible and clicking on it triggers ion-card-content display property. You can also add some easing animation on it (in that case you should consider using max-height property instead of display)