Enjoying An Old School NYC Egg Cream In 1963 And 2023

Enjoying An Old School NYC Egg Cream In 1963 And 2023

Feature Photo: Brian Kachejian 2023©

Egg Creams were a part of mainstream life for New Yorkers growing up in the 20th century. If you were raised in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, or Manhattan, during the 40s, 50s, 60s or 70s, Egg Creams were the go-to beverage for millions of people on a daily basis. Of course, they were also made on Staten Island and some places on Long Island, but during that time period, Egg Creams were more a part of city life because of the places where they were made. Every neighborhood in all of New York City’s boroughs had there own candy stores or luncheonettes. These were the place where this legendary drink was made.  Candy Stores were pretty much newsstands with food counters. In the Bronx where I grew up, we had a great one on 206th Street and Bainbridge Ave.

Egg Creams are not a complex drink to make. They consist of only three ingredients. They are made of seltzer, milk, and syrup. They are usually made in only two flavors consisting of either chocolate or vanilla. We all have our favorites. I loved them both. For years I have tried to make my own egg creams at home, but they never tasted like the ones I used to drink at the Candy Store in the Bronx. Using bottled seltzer and syrup out of plastic bottles just didn’t seem to cut it. Even in restaurants that served egg creams, they just never seemed to taste the same. There was just something missing. They weren’t made like they were in the old days.

When you walked into a Candy Store or Luncheonette in the 60s or 70s to order an Egg Cream, you experienced not just the taste of this wonderful drink, but an observation of how it was made. You couldn’t help it, because they made them right in front of you. Sitting at the counters, you saw the man grab a big clear glass placed in a silver cup holder. At that moment the magic really began.

They didn’t use bottled seltzer or canned syrup. Behind the counter were those tall metal sprouts where the candy man would release the fresh seltzer into the glass.  You could actually hear the water sparkling, A few pumps of beautiful chocolate or vanilla syrup from another tall metal sprout would come next. The final addition would be the pouring of milk into the glass. However, there was one more step. The last action in creating this spectacular drink was observing the candy man taking a long silver spoon and stirring the drink in perfect time. The sound of that spoon hitting the glass is a sound I have never forgotten. It was all a musical prelude to being served the most heavenly drink ever created on this planet.

Those memories of the making of those legendary egg creams are shared by millions of New Yorkers. It was an experience that I thought I would never get to live again. That is until recently when I heard about an old-school candy store that was still in business on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. In the borough of Manhattan, there are still plenty of restaurants that have been around for almost a century. There are a lot of classic places where one can still enjoy an experience back into the past. However, I had never heard of an old-school candy store still in business with a counter like the one I used to go to as a kid. I was skeptical at first. However, as soon as I saw the outside of this place I had heard about, I could see this was the real deal.

Located on the corner of Lexington Avenue and 83rd Street, the Lexington Avenue Candy Shop has been open since 1925. That’s only a few years after the end of World War I. I stood outside for a few minutes staring at those old genuine signs and the brick structure feeling like I had been transported back in time just like Marty McFly.

Upon entering the store I was greeted by that legendary luncheonette shop counter complete with the spinning stools and soda fountains. To my right were tables and booths, that were obviously put into the shop many years after it had operated as a candy store. Old-school candy stores didn’t have booths. One look at an old photo confirmed my observation as the photo showed counters filled with items where the booths are now placed.

Original NYC Luncheonette

Photo: Brian Kachejian 2023 ©

I wanted to sit at the counter, but I choose a booth so I could have a better view of the entire store. What I noticed immediately was the size of the store. It was the exact same size as the candy store I grew up going to in the Bronx. Even the lighting felt the same. I could see those soda fountains behind the counter. I even observed an old malt-making machine that looked like it came from the 1940s. As I sat in the booth a waitress asked for my order. I was happily enjoying my surroundings and wanted to stay a while. I made sure to order some food and of course an egg cream. The hardest choice was choosing the flavor. Vanilla or chocolate? For whatever reason, I choose a chocolate egg cream.

I watched as the waitress gave the order to the server behind the counter. My eyes were fixated on his every move waiting to observe him make my egg cream. Once he grabbed a glass, I knew the moment had begun. I watched him go to that legendary sprout as it poured the sparkling seltzer into the glass. And just like I had observed hundreds of times fifty years ago, the server went over to the syrup sprout and pumped some magnificent chocolate syrup into the glass. After adding the milk, the sound of that spoon stirring the drink rang out once again making this journey into the past even more real.

Enjoying An Old School NYC Egg Cream In 1963 And 2023

Photo: Brian Kachejian 2023

The waitress brought my egg cream to my table as I sat there frozen in a moment of time. My expression of bewilderment and joy was noticed by the person sitting in the next booth as they commented that it looked like I had seen a ghost. He was right. I was very nervous. I had been disappointed so many times in trying to find my way back to my youth in a glass. Yet, in this magical moment, I had a feeling that I had found my way. I lifted the glass and took my first sip. Instantly a feeling of nostalgia took over. I could hear my father asking me to run to the candy shop to get him the newspaper. I could hear my mother calling me out the window to come home. I could see my friend John Murray ordering a pretzel stick as we drank our egg creams. I could hear the sound of the Fifth Dimension on the radio. I could smell the city streets during summertime. I was back. It was only for a moment, but It was a moment that was as real as a childhood memory could get.

I left the store to walk back downtown past the Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks stores and crowds of younger people drinking their Frappuccinos, staring at their iPhones with headphones in their ears. Somehow they just all seemed disconnected from the real sounds of the city streets, the smell of the air, and the beauty of it all in reality. If only they could hear the sound……….. of that spoon, that stirred more than just a drink.

Lexington Candy Shop

Lexington Candy Shop exterior Photo: Brian Kachejian 2023

If you enjoyed this article, you should check out my other stories on what life was like growing up in the Bronx ….

A Bronx Way Of Life On Bainbridge Ave And 204 Street

Life Along Mosholu Parkway In The Bronx

History and Tales of the Williamsbridge Bronx Oval Park

 

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