APPETITE A wave of old fashioned soda fountains serving alcoholic and non-alcoholic treats alongside quality food is hitting various parts of the country, with two notables in San Francisco.
I’ve already written about the incredible, one-of-a-kind Ice Cream Bar (815 Cole, SF. 415-742-4932, www.theicecreambarsf.com). Reviving the lactart, phosphate, and traditional sassafras root beer, it reaches past the 1950s all the way back to the 1890s. Recent changes at the family friendly shop include the launch of a food menu of comfortable diner fare and the gain of a beer and wine license.
An egg salad sandwich — made with slices of thick, house-baked brioche and served with a pickle and roasted vegetable salad or house-made sweet potato chips, as with all sandwiches here — is soft and lively, with chives, arugula, and the clincher: pimento cheese. My favorite, the tuna melt, evokes childhood, elevated by Gruyere cheese, organic tomatoes, and arugula.
There’s one “must” on the new alcoholic section of the soda fountain menu: a classic Angostura phosphate. Fizzy with acid phosphate, gum foam and soda, a heavy pour of Angostura Bitters makes for a spiced beauty, conjuring fall and winter simultaneously. Can’t Stop is a notable dessert of butterscotch syrup, whole egg and cream, effervescent with Drakes Bay Hefeweizen (adding notes of grain and hay), topped with a musky Carpano Antica vermouth float.
Joining Ice Cream Bar in the fountain revival is the new Corner Store (5 Masonic Ave., 415-359-1800, www.thecornerstore-sf.com), in the old Hukilau space, from 330 Ritch business partners Miles Palliser and Ezra Berman. Old-fashioned in ethos, contemporary in style, this all-day restaurant and fountain serves sodas, candy, beer, wine, and gourmet food. The airy space and outdoor sidewalk patio nod to an era gone by. The menu seems straightforward, but dishes become more intriguing at second glance.
Chef Nick Adams (Salt House, Town Hall) elevates the umpteenth roasted beets plate ($8) with Greek yogurt, candied almonds, purslane, and radicchio in honey vinaigrette: it’s sweet, nutty, earthy, and creamy. Likewise, house smoked salmon ($10) goes well beyond the usual piece of salmon with potato pancake. An herb-laden egg salad flanks a crisp potato pancake, multiple slices of silky, fresh salmon, and mound of lettuce.
Whether a burger ($12) laden with aged cheddar, pickled red onions, pickles and bacon jam, or a fried green tomato sandwich ($9) with burrata and avocado at lunch, items between bread are done right here. Thoughtful $16 entrees are a steal compared to similar dishes at greater cost elsewhere in town, like Snake River pork loin ($16), co-mingling with fennel, marble potatoes, and pancetta, invigorated with shishito peppers and a zippy nectarine mostarda. A side of house brioche dinner rolls ($3) with honey butter and sea salt makes it homey.
Hans Hinrichs (25 Lusk, Foreign Cinema) helms a soda fountain menu of cocktails ($10), boozy shakes ($10), and sodas ($8), using local or American craft spirits whenever possible. Though not the journey through soda fountain history you’ll find at Ice Cream Bar, Hinrichs creates drinks that make you feel like a kid again… with booze.
The Muir Trail is a tribute to local nature, both in name and the use of St. George Terroir Gin, the Bay Area’s native gin. Hinrichs allows the gin to shine alongside tart huckleberry puree (huckleberry juice is infused with a sachet of spices, thinning it out with port wine reduction), dry vermouth, lemon, and bitters. Sans alcohol, Lone Mountain Egg Cream is dulce de leche and sea salt, creamy with milk, perky with seltzer, plus a number of bottled classic sodas like Cheerwine and Dang! Butterscotch Beer ($4).
Spirits-laden shakes induce cravings. 50/50 — spiced rum, orange marmalade, vanilla ice cream — is textured and rich with rum and marmalade, accented by strips of candied orange peel. My youthful favorite, a Grasshopper, is a minty dream with Tempus Fugit’s unparalleled Creme de Menthe and Creme de Cacao, vanilla ice cream, and a hint La Sorciere absinthe to perk up the mint.
Probably my favorite of all three boozy shakes is the Manhattan. Tasting like a real Manhattan, punchy with bourbon, sweet vermouth, cherry syrup, creamy with vanilla ice cream, bourbon shines though Hinrichs uses no more than one ounce of base spirit plus half-to-one ounce of any other liqueur in any given shake. It’s a perfect combination.