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Jun 8, 2008 10:03 AM

Soda fountains in the Boston area

I've lived in Somerville for the past three years. I know about--and frequent--all the usual "gourmet" ice cream joints: Christina's, Herrell's, J.P. Licks, Tosci's, etc. However, I'm on a bit of a nostalgic quest to track down real soda fountains. Sit-down places, not side-of-the-highway dairy barns. Places where, ideally, the milkshakes come in tall glass cups, with any extras in a frosted aluminum can, and the sundaes are in glass dishes. The places can bear the stamp of any era: I don't really care if they've got marble Victorian-esque tables or leather booths from the 1950's. I'm just looking for something real and good (I've already been to Brigham's in Arlington Heights and Cabot's in West Newton). Ideally, I'd love to track down what, for me, is the Holy Grail of soda fountains: the pharmacy soda fountain (ala the two side-by-side ones on Nantucket). The ice cream needn't be homemade, but they should know how to make a killer malted and a tin roof sundae. If anyone knows where to find anything like this in the Boston area, or elsewhere in Massachusetts (I've got a car), I'd be forever grateful.

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  1. It is worth the drive to downtown Shelburne Falls pharmacy for an authentic soda fountain - a true blast from the past. And, while there, enjoy the Bridge of Flowers, a very famous site.
    Also, there is an old pharmacy on Eastern Ave. in Lynn (the name escapes me) that may have a soda fountain. It is next door to the CVS. It has been there for years.
    There is a very tiny ice cream shop on Main St. in downtown Wakefield. They used to have a soda fountain but not sure if they kept it. Good luck on your quest. Let me know if you had any luck as I truly like them myself - as much as diners!

    1 Reply
    1. re: taxi

      The place in Wakefield immediately came to mind- its called Cravings. I'm, not sure of they have the soda fountain though. But their ice cream is delish and the vibe is fun.

    2. I think the Elmwood Pharmacy in Malden still has a soda fountain.

      2 Replies
      1. re: pemma

        Please tell me where the Elmwood is. thanks.

        1. re: taxi

          I haven't been in a couple years, but they definitely had a breakfast/lunch counter in there when I was there last. I don't know about the soda fountain, but it's the right atmosphere for it.

          The pharmacy is right near the Malden Center t-station - 299 Pleasant Street.

      2. I've never stopped in (although it's on my short list to try this summer), but Colleen's in Medford looks like the real deal. Have any hounds been?

        61 High St, Medford, MA 02155

        3 Replies
        1. re: finlero

          Sure, Colleen's used to be a Brigham's and has a whole regular soda fountain.

          1. re: finlero

            We stopped by Colleen's a few weeks back with the kids. They serve Brigham's Ice cream, but have a larger breakfast/lunch menu than Brigham's ever did. The atmosphere is very much retro '50s/60s soda fountain.

            I had a good, old-school banana split, and a lime rickey that actually tasted like a lime rickey.

            note to Delux town diner: lime rickeys are not made with lime Zarex.
            Note to Brighams in Arlington Center: they aren't made with vanilla syrup, either.

            1. re: finlero

              My wife had a hankering for their BLT on wheat last Saturday so we went for lunch. I had tuna salad on multigrain - not noticeably mayonnaisy, very nice, with pickle slices on the side. Both sandwiches came with 3/4oz bags of potato chips (this isn't a massive-portions place). I ordered a regular frappe - $4.99? - with peppermint stick ice cream off the board of perhaps twenty flavors, and while Brigham's ice cream doesn't generally tempt me it did fine in shake form. The regular frappe is on the thinner side (the "extra thick" frappe is $6.05, haven't tried it yet) and comes in a tall glass shake glass with maybe 1 1/2 refills in the metal can. No spoon, but this one didn't need it, and as a lunch beverage on a hot day it was great. I tasted my wife's cherry coke and I believe it was made with syrup - just right. I've had their root beer float on a previous visit; don't remember specifics but I enjoyed it well enough. I'll let my wife tell me how the malteds are (she hasn't had one yet). There were plenty of open tables at 1pm (you pay at the counter, and they bring your food to you). My wife was charmed by the corner full of old timers holding court. Overall lunch cost for two was $18 and change, which I thought reasonable.

            2. The original comment has been removed
              1. You might try Johnny's Luncheonette in Newton Centre, though I'm more of a beer and wine person it's well regarded and always packed:


                1 Reply
                1. re: steinpilz

                  You might want to try Lord's Department store in Medfield. Not all that far from Boston, and pretty easy to find- right on Rt. 109 near 27. The following is excerpted from an on-line review:
                  I've grown up with Lord's. I used to have lunch at the counter (they have an old fashioned soda fountain with 7 or 8 stools that you can eat breakfast and lunch at), and breakfast with my mom before middle school there.