Sipping an egg cream soda is an all-American, very New York pastime, but nowadays the nostalgic sodas are popping up in increasing numbers in our fair city. I rounded up a trifecta of perfect SF spots to get your cream on, but first a historical rundown.
Though the identity of the creator of the original egg cream is somewhat debated, many credit Louis Auster, a Brooklyn candy store owner in the late 1800s. In his well-researched tome on the history of soda fountains, Fix the Pumps, Art of the Drink's Darcy S. O'Neil says the New York egg cream evolved as a variation on the original milkshakes served at soda fountains in the late 19th century.
The classic recipe, which contains no egg whatsoever, traditionally consists of milk (or cream, for added richness), chocolate syrup, and soda water, making for a gently effervescent imbibement. It has a creamy, chocolate-y tinge, and a pleasurable hint of sour from the soda. The best creations have a foamy, seltzer "head" and are reminiscent of an ice cream soda sans ice cream. Some claim the original recipe included actual egg, which was replaced when they became expensive and harder to procure during World War II.
Speculations aside, I find egg creams a delightful reminder of my high school years on the East Coast, when I sipped at diners in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Jersey. To this day, I can't be in proximity of Katz Deli in the Lower East Side without ordering one to go.
The recent proliferation of egg creams in San Francisco is a welcome trend. Though I can never seem to track down the Egg Cream Cart, which was launched earlier this year by a mysterious "Madame Bubbles" (and serves egg creams and Jewish treats like rugelach), there are a few more easy-to-find places to wash down a soda, whether you go for the original Brooklyn recipe with chocolate syrup, New York style with vanilla, or even a San Francisco egg cream made with both chocolate and hazelnut syrups.
Months back, I wrote about the new Grand Coffee on Mission Street, a humble little counter-window service that pumped out expertly prepared Four Barrel coffee, creative jam sodas, layered iced coffees, and yes, egg creams. Owner Nabeel Silmi makes a Brooklyn egg cream ($2.75), for which he first drizzles the glass with Brooklyn-made Fox’s U-bet chocolate syrup, then douses it with milk and seltzer water, ultimately handing you a freshly frothy drink.
2663 Mission, SF
Tony's Coal-Fired Pizza & Slice House
The new take-out shop next to Tony's Pizza Napoletana is just what North Beach needed: addictive Neapolitan and East Coast pizzas, ordered by the pie or the slice (cheese, pepperoni and daily specials). Eat in at one of the couple of tables in the joint or trot across the street to Washington Square Park with pizza or giant Italian beef sandwich in hand. The deal is sweetened with three egg cream options: New York, Brooklyn, and SF versions. The downside? They're a whopping five dollars each. But the balance is right and kudos to Tony for offering all the classic egg creams.
1556 Stockton Street, SF
Cowgirl Creamery's Sidekick
Cowgirl Creamery's brand new Ferry Building cafe, Sidekick, is a take-out venue for all things cheese, from challah rolls filled with the stuff to a fresh mozzarella bar where you can choose which mozza type you'd like to heap over salad. Sidekick starts with a San Francisco egg cream (chocolate and hazelnut syrups for four dollars), then offers three non-traditional versions: raspberry, coffee cream, and caramel cream ($3.75). The SF soda enhances that light, chocolate-drenched froth with a whisper of nuttiness. Consider it egg cream with a California twist.
1 Ferry Building, SF
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