Lynden’s Soda Fountain in Highland Park, St. Paul
Once Kopplin’s moved its coffee and wares from the intersection of Hamline and Randolph Avenues in St. Paul late last year, the narrow piece of real estate near the Nook stood yearning for a tenant. That tenant arrived a couple of weeks ago, and while coffee lovers can relish that they can still get a cuppa in the familiar spot, the main attraction now is something significantly colder. Though you can order Dogwood Coffee, the buzz at Lynden’s Soda Fountain surrounds its selection of Chocolate Shoppe ice cream, egg creams, and phosphates served up at a refurbished vintage soda counter.
While the various flavors of Madison-made ice cream will tempt — and it’s good stuff, don’t get us wrong — a setting like Lynden’s nudges you toward the soda-fountain specialties found in few other places locally. The chocolate egg cream ($3), which teased and ultimately disappointed us recently at Rye, doesn’t fare much better here. Again, the creamy / fizzy ratio was way off, lacking in creaminess and offering the sourness of an abundance of seltzer. Instead, try a phosphate ($3), an old-timey treat that combines your choice of syrup, acid phosphate, and ice cream. Our combination of ginger ale and butter pecan worked together surprisingly well — the sweet pep of the ginger ale only improved with the thick richness of the ice cream that slowly melted into the drink. With flavors like chocolate, hibiscus, and green river, you could spend weeks taste-testing soda / ice cream pairings.
Owned by Jon and Tobi Lynden and partner Matt Miller, Lynden’s throwback appeal draws in families, teenagers, and even a few people who might remember sitting at such a counter themselves long ago. Its scoopers, however, lean toward the younger end of the spectrum, and while you have to applaud their enthusiasm, one would hope they’d be a little more diligent when it comes to learning their craft. The two chocolate egg creams sampled varied in not only milk / seltzer balance, but also the amount of froth, and even topping. (The pretzel rod gets our vote over the wan cherry that sunk to the bottom of the glass.) A $2.50 kiddie cone surpassed a $4 sundae in volume of ice cream. But hey, the young jerks (yes, it’s PC to call them that here) are friendly and generous with the samples, so it’s easy to oversee a few inconsistencies.
If the ice cream isn’t sweet enough for you, you also can scoop up bulk chocolates and candies ($10 / lb.) from the narrow shelves opposite the ice cream case or choose a few old-school varieties, like candy cigarettes and lollipops bigger than a baby’s head. Morning visitors get first dibs at the Mojo Monkey Donuts served at the counter, where you’ll also find giant marshmallow treats made with Froot Loops and Rice Krispies.
If the Nook didn’t already inspire you to wear elastic-waist pants whenever you’re in Highland Park, the addition of Lynden’s surely will. A Juicy Nookie and a banana split practically next door to one another? Dangerous.
Lynden’s Soda Fountain, 490 Hamline Ave S, St. Paul, MN 55116; 651.235.5646