Huntridge Pharmacy and Soda Fountain
The Elvis – Peanut Butter and Bananas, Grilled, with Onion Rings
Bye Bye Love Bananas Foster Pancakes – Sauteed Bananas, Walnuts, Caramel, Whipped Cream, Thrifty Vanilla Ice Cream
Closed on Saturdays in observation of Shabbat, and the sort of place I imagine to have changed little since opening in 1962, it was on a rare Sunday dining expedition that I finally visited Huntridge Soda Fountain – the sizable restaurant tucked inside Huntridge Pharmacy where several families already sat enjoying any numbers of shakes, sandwiches, and diner favorites offered at prices harkening an era long past. Every bit a reminder of a Woolworth’s back home in Ohio, with short-order cooks overseeing a menu of classics frequently tinged in whimsy, it was to a service team of one that I was greeted on entry and with a floor polisher whirring in the background as its driver weaved amidst aisles of toiletries, tablets, and even some toys a two-part order was crafted – the total bill less than $14 even after tax and tip for food that was served not only piping hot with a smile, but also surprisingly delicious despite its simplicity. Admittedly a bit strained in service as my empty beverage languished it was with the $3.95 Elvis Sandwich that my meal began and although buttery Texas Toast surrounding ripe bananas plus ample peanut butter was as tasty as expected the basket of onion rings proved far less foolproof, the flavor of questionably fresh oil rendering the batter entirely off-putting – a $1.50 upcharge eliminated from my bill when I mentioned the issue to its cook. Moving on to something far more decadent it was after only half of my sandwich had been consumed that the $5.95 stack of pancakes arrived and although impressive on their own with soft notes of buttermilk imbuing each bite it can only be said that the addition of bananas sautéed in butter represented a significant upgrade, the drizzle of caramel and mountain of whipped cream atop a generous scoop of ice cream and walnuts pushing the whole thing into dessert territory in the very best of ways.
THREE STARS: Touting a menu far more interesting than several other local diners with prices that rival many chains for ‘bargain’ status Huntridge Pharmacy & Soda Fountain is a truly authentic experience in a city that many bemoan for being entirely too fake, the food far better than you’d expect given both the price and the locale. Admittedly a bit lackluster in service given the skeleton staff, hand-written bills, and orders that occasionally back up when cooks are asked to prepare kosher options suffice it to say that the Soda Fountain is one of those spots everyone should visit at least once, and one that only stands to gain if and when the Huntridge Theater renovation finally takes place.
RECOMMENDED: Bye Bye Love Bananas Foster Pancakes.
AVOID: Onion Rings, though hand breaded while I watched, suffered from flavors of old oil – a comment I heard the table next to me make about the French Fries, as well.
TIP: Apparently well known for their Whoppers shake and serving nearly a dozen varieties of Thrifty Ice Cream those visiting early are encouraged to inquire about seasonal flavors, none available during my visit as the team had just returned from vacation to find one of the freezers broken and thus limiting them to only a few traditional flavors.