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The culinary genre of food that is "just like Mom used to make" can be found in lunch and dessert form at this old-fashioned drugstore counter and soda fountain. Straightforward and satisfying sandwiches include tuna salad, chicken salad, egg salad and PB&J, plus scrumptious Chicago-style and chili dogs. From the fountain, enjoy bona fide phosphates mixed right in front of you, a classic banana split sundae (chocolate, vanilla, strawberry ice creams; hot fudge, pineapple, strawberry toppings), or a surprise testament to New York, the egg cream. Of course there's pie, most notably the brownie pie with the melted chocolate-and-caramel icing on top. In short, a cheery throwback to PTA bake sales, mom-and-pop shops, the Woolworth's counter and Mom herself.
Midwestern moms fascinate me. They possess unparalleled apron collections and the best cookware this side of the Betty Crocker test kitchen: deep-dish Pyrex pie pans; two-foot-long maple rolling pins; 24-count cupcake carrying cases; nonstick,... More »
We romanticize the past as a simpler, quieter time. This is probably inaccurate -- we're guessing people ate lunch at their desks just as much in 1962 as they do now -- but Jennifer's Pharmacy & Soda Shoppe does a great deal to contribute to the illusion. The drugstore soda fountain was all but dead when pharmacist Jennifer Rich imported a vintage marble counter from Oregon to her downtown Clayton pharmacy in 2005, in an attempt to re-create a piece of her small-town Illinois... More »
Jennifer's Pharmacy & Soda Shoppe is a Norman Rockwell hallucination, from the counters lined with pies overflowing with fruity fillings to the ice-cream sodas you sip through a straw while swiveling on your stool. Homemade pies. A wide selection of phosphates, milkshakes and sundaes. A choice of 30 syrups with which to flavor your soda -- all the makings of a sugar shock the likes of which your bod ain't seen since you were too short to ride the Tilt-A-Whirl. OK, we'll have the pie... More »
The milkshake doesn't show up on modern menus, and when it appears it does so as a hallmark of traditional American fare. Lately the cheeseburger, the milkshake's longtime comrade in arms, has enjoyed a renaissance of sorts, flushing the indulgent carnivore from celebrity chefs who dress up the chopped beef with manchego or Cotswold or eggplant in an attempt to deflect the common heritage of the sandwich. Not so the milkshake, and be thankful: The beauty of the thing is the simplicity of the... More »
What is it about lunch counters that's so dang inspiring? More than any old diner, truck-stop cafe or other greasy spoon, an old-fashioned, honest-to-goodness lunch counter can make the spirit hum with all of mankind's dizzying benevolence. Passing a paper napkin to the stranger seated next to you, asking for a little extra mayo, smiling kindly when the bill is put before you -- such throwaway exchanges betray humanity at its most wholesome. But enough rhapsodizing. The real reason to stop in ... More »
The milkshake doesn't show up on modern menus, and when it appears it does so as a hallmark of traditional American fare. Lately the cheeseburger, the milkshake's longtime comrade in arms, has enjoyed a renaissance of sorts, flushing the indulgent carnivore from celebrity chefs who dress up the chopped beef with manchego or Cotswold or eggplant in an attempt to deflect the common heritage of the sandwich. Not so the milkshake, and be thankful: The beauty of the thing is the simplicity of the thing. That's not to say one can't modernize it, though in the way all things are modernized — by abandoning newfangled instant ingredients for old-school organic milk and ice cream. It may be that all the ways to dress up a milkshake have been explored: chocolate, vanilla, strawberry. Coconut? Yes, please. But even as ice cream moves into brave new territory (green tea? Cayenne-infused gelato?), these wacky (or just plain wack) flavors won't invade the classic two-fisted American dairy bomb. You don't need to be told that a properly made milkshake, like a properly pulled pint, takes time to prepare. You don't need to be told that it's only fitting to drink a shake at the (progressive holistic) pharmacy lunch counter. This is a piece of beauty that's in the background but will never vanish. And all of a sudden you're laughing when you remember that this splendid drink did indeed re-emerge this year, and when you spy your lunchmeat ogling your perfect beverage, you say the words like an Irish Method actor: I see you want to take your straw and drink my milkshake.
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