Entertainment, On A High Note

Elliston Place Soda Shop: A Nashville classic

Elliston Place Soda Shop is a fixture in Nashville’s culinary and city history. Way before “foodie” was even a word, the Elliston Place Soda Shop has been serving up great burgers, milkshakes and homestyle meat-n-three meals.

Elliston Place Soda Shop’s interior is a throwback to decades gone by. PHOTO BY SHERI ONEAL

Elliston Place Soda Shop’s interior is a throwback to decades gone by. PHOTO BY SHERI ONEAL

We chose Elliston Place Soda Shop for our monthly restaurant review, in part because of the venerable history that surrounds it and in part because we were all dying for a good milkshake here at the office. So we traipsed down to Elliston Place on a Friday afternoon, and it was as if we had traveled back in time.

Elliston Place Soda Shop has all the elements to make a kitschy diner come to life, except their atmosphere is 100 percent genuine. Vinyl-covered bar stools with shiny aluminum, tableside jukeboxes (granted, they’re just for looks these days) and counter service for quick meals or to-go orders, Elliston Place Soda Shop has all the elements of a classic soda shop.

We had enough in our group to get a fine sampling of all of the soda shop’s offerings, including the burgers, the fries, the meat-n-three offerings, and, of course, the milkshakes. We even tried some fried pickles! (We think we might start a review of just fried pickles around town. Any “Amens!” from the crowd?)

The burgers did not disappoint. Nashville is certainly home to a number of great burger joints – always has been and has even more choices these days – but Elliston Place Soda Shop can hold their own. Think back – how many times lately have you gotten a double cheeseburger and it was literally almost too tall to eat? That’s Elliston Place Soda Shop for you! My double cheeseburger was practically taller than it was wide. You could tell the patties had just come off the grill. They were piping hot and covered with drippy, gooey American cheese. Can’t get much better than that!

You also can’t go wrong with a good old-fashioned cherry Coke when you go to a soda shop. It would almost be criminal not to get something from the soda jerk while there! The cherry Coke was a perfect counterpoint to the burgers and the fries, which I splurged and had topped with chili and cheese. Thumbs up from here!

The meat-n-three offerings from Elliston Place Soda Shop are not to be ignored, either. It is debatable which is better – their vintage burgers and fries or their blue plate specials. Fried chicken, meatloaf and all the fixings were on the menu the day we visited. The squash casserole was especially yummy. You just can’t go wrong with a lunch that rivals something your Nana would fix.

Each booth is graced by a vintage jukebox that helps to create that authentic soda shop feel. PHOTO BY LEIGH GREENWOOD

Each booth is graced by a vintage jukebox that helps to create that authentic soda shop feel. PHOTO BY LEIGH GREENWOOD

We topped off our lunch with chocolate milkshakes, which were tremendous. It was an especially smooth milkshake made with Nashville’s finest, Purity Milk. And they got the balance between the chocolate syrup, the vanilla ice cream and the milk just right. Not too sweet, not too chocolately, not a bit lumpy. You can certainly tell they know their way around a milkshake maker, that’s for sure. It was a tough call to decide on a milkshake when they had coconut pie and chess pie, staring right at us in the vintage glass stands on the counter. But we had to let something go. We were about to pop. The pies are top of the list on our next visit!

For Nashville’s oldest continuously operating restaurant still in its original location, it can truly be considered a historic place. Fears of its closing in 2011 were put to rest with agreements in place between the soda shop and building owners, all of whom agreed that Elliston Place Soda Shop is simply too special to lose.

It has seen much in its days in Nashville. It was first opened in 1939, more than 75 years ago. There are very, very few places that are still around that can claim to be near the same. It saw young men off to war in its early days, saw the world change for the better during the Civil Rights movement of the ‘60s and has thrived in today’s era when the most popular restaurants in town are so new that you can still smell the fresh paint.

When you visit Elliston Place Soda Shop, prepare yourself for some fabulous food and an equally enjoyable experience soaking up the atmosphere. In a time where you can hardly see the skyline for all the cranes, it is refreshing to visit a place that hasn’t changed in 75 years. Elliston Place Soda Shop is one of the very few places where you can touch, taste and see one of the restaurants in Nashville that has made us what we are today.