Best Bets: Ice cream soda

Classic ice cream sodas at Wiles-Smith Drugs.

Photo by Michael Donahue // Buy this photo

Classic ice cream sodas at Wiles-Smith Drugs.

If you want a classic ice cream soda, check out Wiles-Smith Drugs.

When I asked for a soda at the drugstore that bills itself "Memphis' oldest independent drugstore," Wiles-Smith owner/pharmacist Dr. Charles N. Smith got behind the counter and made one for me.

Classic ice cream sodas at Wiles-Smith Drugs.

Photo by Michael Donahue

Classic ice cream sodas at Wiles-Smith Drugs.

Smith has made countless sodas since he began working at Wiles-Smith in 1961. "It was 'Pharmacy 101' when I went to school," he said.

As a pharmacy student, Smith worked part time at Wiles-Smith. That's when the drugstore's hours were 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. "We did everything if we were busy."

While Smith was making my chocolate soda, waitress Linda Spencer began making a strawberry soda for me. She adds syrup, then ice cream and seltzer or "fizzy water" as she calls it. Then the whipped cream and cherry.

Smith puts in the ice cream first, then the syrup -- "to make a slurry with it," he explained. "Makes it creamier."

Spencer, who said Smith taught her how to make sodas, finished hers first. Smith sprayed the whipped cream in one straight motion, she said.

"Hers is prettier than mine," Smith admitted.

Wiles-Smith cook Beverly Griffin wasn't impressed with either of the sodas. Smith's soda "didn't have enough whipped cream," she said. Spencer's had "too much seltzer."

I drank both sodas. They tasted great. They looked perfect, and they were served as they should be in those heavy fluted, ribbed soda glasses on a white china plate trimmed with green. To get the full effect, you need to drink them at the soda fountain sitting on one of the swivel stools. The whole experience harkened back to my childhood in the 1950s, when I ordered lime sherbet in cake cones at the soda fountain in the old Walgreens at Poplar and Hollywood.

I wasn't the only one captivated by the sodas, which sell for $3.25; Veteran Wiles-Smith customer Aarion Kiner also ordered a chocolate soda. "Yours looked so good I had to get one," he said.

-- Michael Donahue: 529-2797;

Wiles-Smith Drugs' soda counter is open 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Monday-Wednesday and Friday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Thursday and 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday. The store is at 1635 Union; 278-6416.

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Comments » 2

BogeyMan2013 writes:

Michael: you went to Wiles Smith and ordered a soda instead of a chocolate malt? That makes me wonder about your taste buds. There's a reason the malts at WS are what made it famous.

ptaylor046 writes:

Is this the place that keeps getting robbed?

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