National Association of Soda Jerks Convetion at Lofty Pursuits October 8th

Just in, we have been selected to host the 2011 convention of the National Association of Soda Jerks. It will take place on October 8th 2011 at Lofty Pursuits. We will be having folks come in from all over the country to meet and trade the skills of the soda fountain to keep them from getting lost.

NYC Day 4: The Bay Street Lunchonette and Soda Fountain

The Bay Street soda fountain was not really on my to visit list. First, it is in Staten Island. For those of you who don't know, the only way to get there is by ferry, and unlike the rest of the city the best way to get around is by car.
I also was unsure if it was still in business.
Fate took a turn with this one. A very old friend of mine named Scott now lives in Staten Island and he's been trying to get up with me for about a year now. We have not really seen each other in 32 years. I ride the ferry, he picks me up and after an interesting parking situation we find the place.
The place opened around 1939, and is from what I can tell the last soda fountain standing in Staten Island. We see the sign on the door. Apparently it closed 10 months ago, but someone bought it, has restored it and will be opening it this coming weekend. Yup, not open yet.
So in poking around I raise the interest of someone inside. It's a friend of the owner who is helping with the renovations. He lets me in. They did a very good job. They still had the original 1940's Liquid Carbonic fountain, complete with ceramic syrup wells and matching original pumps. (I really wanted one of these, but they are impossible to find in good condition). There is was. We talked a bit about what was planned, and I'm happy to say that Staten Island is in good hands with the new owner. I wish him the world of luck and hope we get up on the phone some time soon.
It was very good to see Scott too (Hi Scott!)

NYC Day 4: Katz's Deli

I want to visit a friend who has a store over near the Bowery, so "Greg," I think, "I'm Hungry". I grew up in NYC, Brooklyn to be specific, but I've never eaten at Katz's Delicatessen. I figure this is my chance. I order a Kinish, a Ruben and an Egg Cream (it's become a theme if you have not figured it out). The nice young lady pictured above made me a first class egg cream using a classic glass seltzer bottle. You can't get any more old school than that. She is now the youngest person in NYC I've seen make a passable egg cream, and what's great, is the egg cream was great as well (Ray's still wins, but this was top notch). It made me very happy to know that another generation is being made. I really was not sure of that. Sadly I did not learn her name, but if anyone knows the folks at Katz's, please send them her photo and my complements. It was a nice surprise.
Mmmmm, Ruben.

NYC Day 3: Rays Candy Shop

So I'm talking with one of the owners of the Brooklyn Farmacy, about the soda fountains we grew up with. He said his was still kicking on Avenue A on the Lower East Side. To locals, this is known as either Thompson Park (if you're a hipster) or Alphabet city if you're not. This was a place you'd only go to get mugged when I was growing up. It's much better now.
Ray's is a hole in the way, and might technically be a fry shop, but has a functional soda fountain, and what's more important it has Ray. Ray owns the place and has worked the overnight shift since he bought the place in 1974. He's 79 now.
The marque of the store is blank, white washed, and just empty. It actually took me three trys to find the place on a block that is shorter than the depth of Lofty Pursuits. I go in wondering if I found the right place. It looked more like a closet filled with refrigeration equipment than a food store.
This place has been 24 hours for over 40 years. It's tiny, about 10 to 12 feet wide, barely enough room for two or three customers.
I go in and order an egg cream. Ray, is there, toothless, and listening to Turkish music over a radio. He makes the egg cream in a simple conservation of motion. By now I'm, a bit jaded on egg creams. I've had them at no less than four places in NYC now, and by far Ray's is the best. Shockingly good. I look under the counter at the stacks of cans of malt and other fountain syrups. My god, this place would fit in the Party Room at Lofty Pursuits and he needs to stock more syrup than we do.
Ray talks to me while the other lady there helps customers. He tells me he's afraid the egg cream will die in NYC when he retires. He wants to sell, but has not found anyone ready to buy the place. While we talk, others come in, order fries with mayonnaise, something I know goes on in France, but seems to be the norm here.
I buy another egg cream for the road, and I leave, only to find a fire truck outside. Not to fight a fire, but so the crew can come in and get egg creams. I hear cursing as they turn around, they are called to another fire. They did not get to order.
I know I have had a piece of NY that is not long for this world. My hat goes off to you Ray.
If you want to find this place it's between St. Marks and 7th on Avenue A. 113 Ave A. You may need the address. It's only about two or three blocks away from the Gem Spa that claims to have the best egg cream in NYC, they do not, Ray does. It's that simple.
If you want you can follow ray on Twitter
Here's a NYT article about his rent woes
And lastly here is his cafepress page :)
(I really dig ray's yoga mat ... on sale!)

NYC: Day 2 The Lexington Ave Candy Shop.

I go to bed Saturday night with no sleep in site. I have been loaned a wonderful apartment for the week to stay in, but said apartment is across from Hunter College, and the co-eds who must rent the unit across the hall felt it was a good night for an all night birthday party. They seemed not to need to sleep and I was unable to thanks to their merriment.
I wake up late, it's almost noon, and the show started at about 9am. I decide the morning is toast, I'm hungry and I want to go to the Lexington Ave Soda Shop and Luncheonette. The owner was behind the counter with their old Knight soda fountain. A nice guy. His grandfather started the shop. Everyone wears whites, and knows what they are doing. I have an amazing burger and a great milk shake. He also makes me a very good egg cream. We talk shop, exchange a our vanilla syrup recipes, and talk about how he hates the term "Jerk" and that I don't. We also talk about the rules for co2 in NYC. Very different from Florida.
Ahh bonding. In the lower photo he is showing off his old and still working auto measuring malt dispenser. I was shocked to see one still in use. Very very cool.
Then it was off to the toy fair. I splurged on a cab.

NY Day 1: The Brooklyn Farmarcy

Boy Saturday was a long day. It all started for me when I did some last minute work in Lofty, drove home and got a lift to the airport. 4pm in NYC, 5:30 meet with Anton of P&H (see last post) and by 8:30 I was in Brooklyn at the Brooklyn Farmacy. The Farmacy was an old drug store that has been converted into a proper soda fountain. The tin roof and tile floors, the wooden bar back and display shelves all from the 1890's are stunning. This place is great. The owners and I traded syrup recipes, and chatted up about running a modern fountain. From the best I can tell there are three new true fountains out there, and a few dozen classic ones. The three are the Brooklyn Farmacy, Lofty Pursuits and the Franklin Fountain in Philadelphia.
Their menu was short but sweet featuring syrups from P&H, and some great ice cream from Philadelphia. Good stuff. I had a vanilla shake, and a Sundae they called the Sundae of Broken dreams. It was vanilla ice cream, Carmel syrup (close to ours), covered in broken pretzel sticks, and whipped cream. You will see something like this coming to Lofty Pursuits.
They also made me an egg cream using a different technique. It was great too. This is the first good egg cream I've gotten in NYC since I was a kid.
Earlier in the day I wen to the Gem Spa, a candy store on the corner of 2nd ave and St. Marks in NYC. It claims to have the best egg cream in NYC, but it is clearly sub par. (I tweeted about this on Sunday).
All in all a packed day and a fun one.


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