Summer's here and the time is right for (dancin in the street? Mod B ;-)) fun, sun and ICE CREAM! That treat that makes everyone happy (except the lactose intolerant.) And where is the best place to enjoy the chilly, creamy creation? No, not alone at home on the couch. That's just sad.
The best place to enjoy a sundae, shake, banana split or simple cone is a vintage soda shoppe that has been serving up frozen treats to happy customers for over 100 years.
That place for me is Fair Oaks Pharmacy in Pasadena, California.
Since 1916 the old school classic has been serving up ice cream, penny candy, breakfast, lunch and dinner (as well as medicines and ointments) to people from all walks of life. Once you step through the doors at Fair Oaks there is a distinctively different vibe. You leave the hustle and bustle of a busy California city behind and step into small town gathering spot that would make even the residents of “Mayberry” proud.
The joint is split into three distinctive areas. A back “Toy Room” full of retro repro toys and collectables including a wall of gag gifts. I was able to stock up on both my fake vomit and joy buzzers (my stock had been running low.) The pharmacy. Which we didn't even venture into during our visit. After all healthy people need lunch and ice cream, not prescription drugs.
And the main attraction: The Soda Shoppe!
Part vintage eatery. Part homemade version of Disney's “Tiki Room.” The Soda Shoppe is a welcoming place. The red leather stools beckon you to sit at the counter and gaze upon the collection of Coke memorabilia (No Pepsi!) as you carefully select from the bill of fare.
Will you pick the banana split? A huge traditional treat. (For those with a less hearty appetite there is a junior version.)
Or a freeze? Made with your choice of soda and a pint, yes a full pint, of ice cream.
Or perhaps a cool drink. Fair Oaks gives free refills on all rickies, sodas, phosphates and coffee.
Maybe have lunch! We did. Juicy burgers and crunchy tater tots were so good we almost didn't have space for dessert.
We finished the meal with a cookie ala mode with green tea ice cream. Tradition and innovation collided perfectly.
One menu item we didn't try but would like to is the “Kitchen Sink challenge.” You get 8 ice cream flavors, 8 topping, diced banana, chunks of warm cookie, chocolate chips and a can of whipped cream with nuts and a cherry. Plus two glasses of ice water to wash it down.
If two people finish it in a half and hour you get it free (otherwise $39.95) and are also rewarded with two t-shirts and your picture on the WALL OF FAME. Brain freeze here we come!
Apart from the soda fountain and lunch counter they also have a huge selection of “Penny Candy.” Even though it no longer costs a penny, you can satisfy your sweet tooth with old time favorites like root beer barrels, Mary Janes and those little wax bottles full of sugar juice. (Brand Name: NIK -L- NIPs) (Nickel Nips. I get it! Mod B, again ;-)) The only thing missing were Squirrel Nut Zippers.
Next time you bump into the “Lady Old Lady From Pasadena” or anyone you know in the area, get them to take you to Fair Oaks Pharmacy for easily the best summertime treat you'll ever have.
Open 9am to 7pm Monday through Friday.
9am to 3pm Saturday.
Closed on Sundays.