The soda fountain is a classic and nostalgic dining experience, and although only a handful of New York City soda fountains still remain on the map, their presence comforts the old-fashioned soul in all of us. Here are some of the best soda shops the city has to offer. At each one of these throwback locations, it’s easy to notice that their patrons aren’t just enjoying the grub — they’re soaking in 1950s culture like it was their own, giving each establishment a glamorous, nostalgic glow.
The Diner (Hudson and 14th streets)
The Diner still sports a simple, laid back attitude in the West Village, one of the most gentrified neighborhoods in Manhattan. With their Meatpacking Meatloaf ($15) designed to test limits of stomach-expansion, The Diner offers fine American comfort food. The ambience is unique, with Ke$ha’s music occasionally striking a strange juxtaposition against the 1950s décor, which is complete with Chevy-leather booths and neon signs. At certain times of the day, you could even call The Diner a sports bar, with its five TVs offering every angle of whatever game is on.
Hamilton’s (West 11th and Bank streets)
Hamilton’s Soda Fountain is a more traditional take on the classic American soda fountain, with its emphasis on bar-style seating and a large variety of sodas and floats. Hamilton’s also is a reminder that the soda counter’s origins lie in the town apothecary, serving sodas with lactic or phosphate acids to remedy headaches, stomach aches and grumpy attitudes.
Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain (Henry and Sackett streets)
A popular and authentic soda fountain option exists across the river in a Brooklyn building that was built as an apothecary in the 1920s. Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain presents original, handcrafted American desserts that change with the seasons. On Father’s Day, Brooklyn Farmacy celebrated by creating the Mr. Potato Head Sundae ($12), and it soon became a permanent menu staple. The sundae includes vanilla ice cream, peanut butter, caramel sauce, whipped cream and potato chips. The restaurant has been featured on television and foodies have frequently written about it.
Empire Diner (22nd Street and 10th Avenue)
If you want to feel like you are going way back, then grab some friends and head to Chelsea for a visit to Empire Diner. Built in 1946, Empire Diner still has Buttermilk Pancakes ($11) on its dinner menu and a jukebox with no shortage of Elvis or The Cascades. It’s home, sweet American home and is not too far away from campus.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Feb. 17 print edition. Email Donald Pierce at [email protected]