Stepping across the threshold into The Lexington Candy Shop Luncheonette is truly like stepping onto a 1940s movie set and with good reason, since their last renovation was in 1948. Here you will find the oldest family owned luncheonette in New York City. John Philis, the grandson of the original owner, will most likely be there to greet you. Within these walls, tradition is a way of life from the original coffee urns that date back to 1948 to the original Hamilton Beach milk shake mixer from 1940.
In keeping with tradition, your lemonade and orange juice will be freshly squeezed when you order it and not a minute before, and the syrup for your Coca-Cola will come from a pump, just the way it was done in the 1940s. Real malt powder will be used for your malted and a promise that their egg creams are the best. The shop was first opened in 1925 as The Lexington Candy Shop, with the chocolate made in the basement. By 1948, they discontinued the candy and concentrated on the shop as strictly a luncheonette, serving milkshakes and butter burgers ever since. Their breads are made just a few blocks away at a bakery founded in 1916 and they pride themselves on the ice cream used in their shakes, sodas and malts– Bassetts Super Premium, which was founded in 1861.
Above, John’s Father, Grandfather & Uncle c.1938; Below, the shop interior c.1925
The vintage interior has been lovingly preserved down to the smallest details and it’s no surprise to learn that the shop has been featured in numerous movies, commercials and TV shows including Fading Gigolo, Three Days of the Condor and The Nanny Diaries. Their customers have included Sir Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, Matt Dillon, Tom Brokaw and Al Roker–just to name a few.
But their primary customer base are locals, many of whom are younger than the milk shake mixer. And the shop can be rented for private parties, including their full menu–something the New York Post called “the latest in party chic.” John has seen a lot of changes since he first started working for his father and grandfather in the shop. Of all the local businesses they started with, the only one remaining is the Lyric HiFi across the street that opened 55 years ago.
The Lexington Candy Shop Luncheonette is located just three blocks from the Metropolitan Museum of Art at 1226 Lexington Avenue, corner of 83rd Street. Easy to get to on the 4, 5, 6 trains. Stop by for a really good cup of coffee and wish them a happy 90th!
Get in touch with the author at AFineLyne.