Your Guide to Authentic Regional Eats
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1635 Union Ave.
September 10, 2002 4:48 AM
Oldest Independent Drug Store
in Memphis proves its point with a classic lunch counter and soda fountain. While the back of the place is the domain of Charles N. Smith, pharmacist, and the left is devoted to pharmaceutical supplies (as well as a giant stuffed porcupine on a high shelf and countless amusing political cartoons), the right side Wiles-Smith is a place to eat. Here is a counter topped with yellow boomerang-pattern Formica where, if you sit on a stool, you can not only watch the fountain treats prepared, but observe nearly the entire store … in a mirror that covers the wall.
It is a pleasure to watch the soda jerk prepare a chocolate sundae. Once she gets a good amount of syrup into the tulip glass, she swirls it around so it coats the sides nearly to the top. Thus, as soon as you spoon in below the whipped cream, you’re getting syrup with your ice cream. This is good, non-premium syrup, the kind a soda fountain ought to serve: not the least bit fancy, but oh-so-satisfying with non-premium vanilla ice cream.
There are richer and more sophisticated sundaes elsewhere, but this one perfectly captures the pure joy of a sundae to a twelve-year-old.
Likewise, the malt isn’t ridiculously thick the way so many modern ones are.
You really can suck it up a straw, and
you want to
because it tastes so good.
It comes in a tall silver beaker in which you’ll find at least a whole extra serving to refill your glass.
Beyond malts, sundaes, and refreshing summer-only lime and orange freezes, Wiles-Smith’s menu is basic lunch counter fare: eggs for breakfast and sandwiches for lunch. We’ve never tried any of it, but the meals people near us were eating looked plenty good.
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