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Sweet Talkin’: 3 Old-Fashioned Ice Cream Parlors and Soda Fountains

We all scream for ice cream.

In the 1930s, soda fountains and ice cream counters were designed right alongside pharmacies, magazines, and bubblegum. Now, bowtie-wearing soda jerks blending thick chocolate malts and piling ice cream scoops sky-high atop waffle cones might be a thing of the past, but there’s still a handful of old-time soda fountains and ice cream shops keeping the tradition alive. Here’s where to go back in time. 


Marked by a vintage sign with sage green paint and red brick façade, the iconic ice cream parlor has been churning out handmade ice cream and sherbets, milkshakes, malts, waffle cones, and more since 1948. Located in San Francisco’s Russian Hill neighborhood, the sweet shop offers nearly 40 seasonal flavors made in-house from lemon custard and marble fudge to toasted almond and Swiss orange chip. For the ultimate splurge, order a three-scoop hot fudge or strawberry sundae. 

Fenton’s Creamery & Restaurant     

Founded in Oakland more than a century ago by ice cream connoisseur Elbridge Seth Fenton, the creamery—with a second location in Vacaville—offers mouth-watering confections such as the famed black-and-tan sundae made with layered rows of caramel sauce, vanilla ice cream, chocolate fudge sauce, and toasted almond ice cream. The customer favorite is topped with whipped cream and a cherry and served in an old-fashioned footed glass. Choose from countless flavors of ice cream spanning Heath Bar, blueberry cheesecake, Rocky Road, and pistachio pomegranate. 

Fair Oaks Pharmacy

Designed by local architect Arthur Benton, the pharmacy and soda fountain has been a fixture in South Pasadena for ice cream and history enthusiasts since 1915. Still a fully-operating pharmacy with innovative compounding capabilities, the time capsule-like institution is filled with greeting cards, taffy and assorted candy in lidded glass jars, and the original soda fountain dishing up hand-dipped malts and milkshakes, root beer floats, and ice cream specialties ranging from the Banana Blitz with two scoops of vanilla, chopped banana, brownie chunks, and hot fudge, to The Mission combining the best of both worlds: a scoop of vanilla topped with hot fudge and a scoop of chocolate covered with warm butterscotch.

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