The words “soda foundation” conjure up a nostalgic image of marble counters and swivel stools, egg creams and ice cream sundaes, soda jerks in paper hats, and 1950s first dates. Although the classic drugstore soda fountain reached its peak from the 1920s through the 1950s, some diners, ice cream parlors, and pharmacies in New York City have held onto their vintage decor and a traditional menus. The Covid-19 pandemic forced many beloved mom-and-pop shops to close their doors, including the century-old East Village soda fountain Gem Spa, known for its legendary egg creams. However, traditional soda fountains continue to survive and provide sweet treats and sweet memories to New Yorkers. Visit these nine legendary soda fountains for an unforgettable taste of old New York.
1. The Lexington Candy Shop
The Lexington Candy Shop at 1226 Lexington Avenue, located just three blocks from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, celebrates its 98th birthday in 2023. Opened in 1925, the oldest family-owned luncheonette in New York City was last renovated in 1948 and maintains its original appearance, with coffee urns and a Hamilton Beach milkshake mixer dating to the 1940s. John Philis, the grandson of the original owner, still greets customers to this day, lending the restaurant a homey feel.
Since 1948, the luncheonette has continued to serve up traditional treats and classic meals such as butter burgers and milkshakes. The restaurant uses only locally sourced and traditional ingredients such as bread from a 1916 bakery located a few blocks away and ice cream from Bassetts Super Premium, a company founded in 1861. Lemonade and orange juice are freshly squeezed, real malt powder is used for egg creams and malteds, and syrup for Coca-Cola is poured from a 1940s pump. Customers can choose from a wide selection of breakfast foods, sandwiches, and burgers, as well as frozen treats from a traditional soda fountain. With its vintage signs and iconic interiors, the luncheonette has not only been featured in several movies but continues to attract a loyal customer base, many of whom have patronized the Upper East Side restaurant for decades.