After last week’s egg cream controversy stirred up by the City Room’s article “Can the Egg Cream Make a Comeback?” in which the proprietor of Chocolate Bar offered to reinvigorate the lost egg cream for New York City by fancying it up with flavors like hazelnut and espresso, many people replied that the egg cream never died, so it isn't lost and doesn’t need any reinvigorating. An egg cream fan, I decided to embark on a tour of the Lower East Side to check in on the true state of this New York delicacy.
A map of the following can be found on Eater.
I talked with Fred Austin, co-owner of Katz’s, who assured me, “The state of the egg cream is good. But it has to be served by a middle-aged Jewish guy with an unlit cigar clenched between his teeth and a wet napkin draped over his arm. Otherwise, it’s not a real egg cream.” Traditionally, because they didn’t serve dairy, Katz’s didn’t do egg creams until about 15 years ago. Fred, who grew up on Grand, used to get them from kiosks on the street. “Those were the best.” What does he say to the claim that Chocolate Bar is bringing the egg cream back to life? “Not if they’re making them hazelnut they’re not.”
(As for those perennial whispers Katz’s might be vanishing, Fred says, “Every so often I drop the rumor we might be closing, just to boost our business, but I like this place too much. We’ll be around for a long while.”)
Fox’s U-Bet, seltzer from the soda machine, $3.50
russ & daughters
Next stop, Russ & Daughters. Here my egg cream was prepared in the most romantic way. The seltzer came out of a blue glass siphon bottle and was delicately poured over the basin of a long spoon. The lady asked, “Do you want it more seltzer or more sweet?” I like sweet.
Fox’s U-Bet, Castle brand seltzer from glass siphon, $3.50
At Yonah Schimmel’s, they give you the best presentation. Syrup is added in the back kitchen, milk and seltzer comes from a fridge in the dining room. It is not entirely mixed and a little swirl of chocolate graces the foam. If I were handing out points, they’d lose for the Canada Dry, but the finished product is lovely. Washes down a knish very nicely.
Fox’s U-Bet, Canada Dry seltzer from a plastic bottle, $3.00
Veselka was the only place I went where you can get it in a glass, instead of a plastic or waxpaper cup. Tastes cold and frothy.
Fox’s U-Bet, seltzer from soda machine, $2.50.
The B&H Dairy does a fine enough egg cream, though they lose theoretical points for using Seagram’s seltzer from a can.
Fox’s U-Bet, Seagram’s, $2.50
The Stage restaurant was the only place I visited that didn’t use Fox’s U-Bet syrup. They used Hershey’s, a big faux-pas. Still, a good-tasting egg cream.
Hershey’s, seltzer from soda machine, $2.25.
Gem Spa is known for its egg creams, but mine was a little too seltzer and not enough sweet. A good newsstand egg cream nonetheless.
Fox’s U-Bet, seltzer from fountain, $2.00.
While all of the above places offer only the traditional chocolate or vanilla, Ray’s Candy has 20 flavors to choose from, including Coca-Cola, Mango, and something frighteningly called Sky Blue Raspberry. These sound more like slushies than egg creams, but they’re so outlandish and low-brow, I can’t hold it against them. Besides, Ray’s is my usual egg cream source. They’ve also got the best value.
Fox’s U-Bet, seltzer from soda machine, $1.25 small, $1.75 med, $2.50 large.
Finally, I tried the egg cream from Chocolate Bar. I passed over the hazelnut and espresso for a traditional chocolate. I must admit, it was tasty, they prepared it well, and the price was surprisingly low. It won't reinvigorate the already thriving egg cream, but it shouldn't do it any harm, either.
Fox’s U-Bet, seltzer from a stainless siphon, $2.00 vanilla and chocolate, $3.00 hazelnut and espresso.
I'm sure I didn’t try every egg cream in the neighborhood and there are many others all over the city--please add your favorite in the comments--but even this short list should go to show that the egg cream is alive and well, and in no need of rescuing any time soon.