A Modern Comeback For A Taste Of Brooklyn
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For the New Yorker of a certain age, the first sip was a rite after nursing: from mothers milk to Manhattan Special. Those little glass bottles may as well have come with nipples.
And brother, what a sip. In todays world of energy drinks and juices and endless vitamin boosters and ginger and ginseng, there is still nothing that resembles a cold Manhattan Special, a thick and fizzy, jet-black blend of espresso and seltzer topped off with a bracing wallop of pure cane sugar. It muscles its way around the mouth, making itself at home, before bounding down the throat like a big, goofy kid going to play in the basement.
The first sip was often the start of a lifetime of little glass bottles, for Manhattan Special, a hand grenade of caffeine and sugar, is nothing if not addictive. Generations of New Yorkers, especially Italians, grew up jittery as junkies on the stuff outside its big plant in Williamsburg, on the street that gave it its name, Manhattan Avenue.
Youd almost think it was in the Bible, for Gods sake, said Paul Botwin, a veteran of World War II and, later, the New York soda wars, working in the business and watching other local brands come and go. The times passed them by. Coffee survived.
Thats a good question, Ms. Passaro said.
Where To Buy Manhattan Special Pure Espresso Coffee Soda
I’m near Penn Station. Looking for the closest location I could buy this. Tried a CVS and Duane Reade near by but there was none.
Dont know any spot in particular but try a pizzeria
I have lived in NYC nearly all my life, it’s hard to find in the city. In Brooklyn nearly every corner store has it.
Growing up in Queens I was friends with the family that owned the company. The son and I were about the same age and used to hang out together. Years later, after a hitch in the Navy, I got my first apartment just around the corner from their bottling plant in Brooklyn. The smell of that plant in the summer when the doors and windows were open was heavenly, and I used to love watching the bottling lines running.
I love coffee, and I love espresso, but no matter how often they had me try it I just could not get used to drinking cold coffee though.
Old New York Soda Fountain Restaurants
New York has changed a lot in our lifetimes. When I was a kid we really didn’t have that many chains stores and restaurants in Manhattan. I used to see ads for Red Lobster and Beefsteak Charlie’s on TV and pine for the suburbs. Now, of course, I know better and pine for the old neighborhood places. Most of them are long gone, but there are a few places left that have miraculously survived.
You can take your kids to any one of these old-fashioned soda fountains and it’s like stepping into a time travel machine. Each of these kid-friendly restaurants is a great place to stop by for ice cream drinks and desserts and is a window into a long-gone NYC. Experience old New York at an old-fashioned soda fountain. Isn’t history yummy?
Note about hours:We opted not to include hours in the post because places tend to change their hours, but a general note is that many of these places only serve breakfast and lunch or close early and some are closed on Sundays. I guess they keep old fashioned hours as well as everything else. So please call ahead and check if they are open before venturing out.
What Does Manhattan Special Taste Like
Smells like coffee with an acrid, acidic tinge. Not unlike espresso?which, my general fondness for coffee aside, is too bitter for my taste. Theres some of the harshness of espresso in the flavor, but also fizziness and a syrupy edge. Drinking further, the fizziness is definitely still pronounced, which I like.
Staten Island Soda Fountains
Bay Street Luncheonette & Soda Fountain Staten IslandUnfortunately this restaurant closed in June 2014This 70-year-old Island gem has been serving knockout egg creams and fountain sodas to many generations of patrons. Recently under new management by the delightful Castorina family, this is a true mom-and-pop shop intended for kids, families and old timersnot hipsters. Theres the classic black, white and red-checkered design with 50s tunes crankin and the likes of Elvis, Marilyn Monroe and Betty Boop on the walls. Feast on a delicious chocolate malted or their popular egg creams. Theres all sorts of fountain sodascherry-lime rickey, chocolate soda, lemon fizz, root beermilk shakes, floats and all the ice cream parlor standard fare, but theres also a serious breakfast and lunch menu complete with banana chocolate chip pancakes and meatball parmigiana heroes. Classically delicious and fairly priced, the food and close proximity to the ferry alone make a visit to Bay St. Luncheonette & Soda Fountain a great way to spend the afternoon.
Tip: Most of these places do birthday parties and make for a fun and easy party for kids. Find more NYC birthday party ideas in our Party Guide.
Do you have a favorite “Old New York Place?” Share it in the comments.
Thanks to Charlotte, Shea, Bess, Ed and their kid entourages who selflessly trekked out to all these places to sample their wares and report back.
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