So much of New York City has changed since 1925 - the Empire State Building wasn’t even built, Prohibition was going on, and the great Wall Street Crash was still 4 years into the future.
Fast forward to today, and we are all lucky that the Lexington Candy Shop Luncheonette, opened in that year (93 years ago!) remains in business, one of the few survivors from that earlier era.
Opened originally as a candy shop by the grandfather of current owner John Philis, the candy counters were replaced by tables and booths in the 1940s, the last time this neighborhood corner eatery was remodeled, to concentrate on the luncheonette business.
The terrazzo floor still retains the green and yellow zigzag, and the counter is still that cheery bright red and black. (When you're there, note the clever shelf below the counter, where you could slide your newspaper or purse. What a great idea!)
They didn’t see the need to update the name at the same time that they renovated, so the Candy Shop moniker has stuck for all these years. Of course you can buy a candy bar at the register, but what you really want to get is the classic luncheonette food, done right.
Eggs are cooked in butter in separate pans, not with the food cooked on the griddle behind the counter. Orange juice is fresh squeezed right after you order it, not earlier in the day. Same with the “bespoke” lemonade that can be tailored to your preferred degree of sweetness. All salads are made in-house - no tubs of institutional tuna are delivered here.
“We would never serve anything that we would not want to eat ourselves” explains John, as he lunches on a cheeseburger on a freshly toasted bun.
Mod Betty has lunched on the same sandwich and heartily recommends it!
Some of the best ice cream shakes in the country are spun on those classic jade green Hamilton Beach milkshake mixers, in place next to the gleaming 1940s coffee urns that are still in use.
The hundreds of Coke bottles in the window are just to catch your eye, as sodas are made the old fashioned way too - mixing the coke syrup and carbonated water by hand at the soda fountain. While it may not be as fizzy, nor taste as diet as what you’re used to, this is the way it has always been done here.
Popular with neighbors, newbies and seasoned New Yorkers, everyone is made to feel welcome at the counter and immediately included in conversation. This sort of community and inclusion may be surprising to folks who are used to self-service, phone gazing and permanent headphones wearing, but is something worth joining in on. Families have been coming here for 3-4 generations, and happily include the latest addition to the family to this tradition.
International tourists flock to the shop too, to experience an authentic slice of Americana, in the same way that we as Americans would want to visit actual real places when we visit their countries. People from other cities and states visit and reminisce when there used to be a place like this in their town, in every town. Now a place like this is a destination because of its rarity in these modern times!
This is not schtick. Not a set designer’s idea of what the past looked like, It looks like this because it always has, and always will. The assortment of artwork on the walls is a not corporately dictated, but instead an organic combination of artistic homages to the shop, photos of news, TV and film appearances, and some Japanese prints that John’s father bought and hung there simply because he liked them. This place is real, genuine, and you’ll feel that authenticity as soon as you step inside.
Not that they’re stuck back in time all the time! They’re open 7 days a week, breakfast is served any time, they DO take credit cards and they have T-shirts and caps for sale. If you’re feeling flush you can even rent out the entire spot for a party - or for filming! Many movies, TV shows, commercials, catalog shoots and interviews have taken place here. Famous folks from Paul McCarntney - (swoon!) to Mod Betty (tee hee!) have been spotted here, and know that this is a special place.
Mod B is now declaring this the place she'll meet her pals and any Retro Roadmappers any time she's in the city - join me!