A spectacular ice cream float doesn't cure the pain of existence, but it goes a long way toward soothing the ache. Yesterday, while Leo Bloom was munching on mutton kidneys and we were sorting through the detritus of a life half-lived (that'd be our own), we wandered into Jerry's Soda Shoppe, a brilliant aberration in the midst of a Canoga Park pharmacy stocked with a Cronenbergian array of medical devices.
Food writers tend to equivocate. Should we really say this is the best something-or-other we ever ate? Maybe someday, in some far off land, we'll stumble on a better burger, a superior pancake, a more sublime scorpion taco. For one moment, let's forget we're a food writer and pretend we're a sports writer.
Jerry's Soda Shoppe in the De Soto Pharmacy serves the best ice cream soda in Los Angeles, if not the world.
It begins with a frosty glass mug dipped in chocolate sauce. It's filled with Lappert's vanilla ice cream, fizzy soda water and more chocolate syrup. The whole thing is crowned with whipped cream, chocolate sprinkles and a maraschino cherry, then served with a sidecar of soda water (in case it's too rich and you need to water it down or fizz it up). The ice cream soda, heavy in its glory, is served on a plate to catch the inevitable overflow as you dig in for the first bite. (Pro Tip: Take several long, hard pulls off the straw before trying to extract the spoon.) As you work your way through this behemoth — even the small size is a bellyfull — you can break icicles of hardened chocolate off the mug or scrape away at it like Rodin carving his Thinker.
If Jerry's Soda Shoppe looks old-timey — and it's menu of ice cream floats, sodas, egg creams and sundaes suggests a worshipful allegiance to a mythical Americana — it has only been around since the mid-1990s (or so we're told). These days, it serves three ice cream brands: Lappert's (a Hawaiian brand that's rare in Southern California), Cascade and good old Fosselman's (including our favorite flavor, chocolate-dipped strawberry).
We were prepared to work our way through their repertoire, but we sat next to a woman who had just ordered the ice cream soda. It looked so spectacular, we had to get one. She said she had driven all the way from Chatsworth just for this ice cream soda. After following her lead, we'd consider driving from San Diego, from Monterey, all the way from the Canadian border, if we had to.