Oddly enough, there’s no egg and (traditionally) no cream in egg creams. And there’s the rub. Like prunes with their unsavory associations, egg creams might benefit from a little creative rebranding — with a name like, say, milk chocolate soda. But for the initiated, egg creams are both delicious and nostalgic, reminiscent of Brooklyn pharmacies at the turn of the last century, soda jerks in the fifties and old-school delis.
Egg creams take three simple ingredients — flavored syrup, milk and seltzer — and whip them swiftly into a frenzy, until they come to a bubbly head. It's best to drink these quickly, and as cold and frothy as possible.
Once ubiquitous, and thought to have health benefits, the egg cream has gotten more elusive over the decades. Luckily, just when it seems like the egg cream may be going the way of the soda fountain, someone puts it back on the menu. In this case, Wexler’s deli in Grand Central Market recognized the importance of the drink in the classic deli pantheon and hopefully put the humble egg cream on a path to gaining back some of its former glory.
5. Brent’s Deli
Open since 1969, Brent’s Deli goes out of the way to give you what you want. Exactly what you want. In fact, Brent’s has over 650 items on the menu. One of those items is a delicious chocolate egg cream mixed with the classic Fox’s Ubet syrup — made in Brooklyn since 1885. This egg cream is so delicious that Brent’s gives you an extra sidecar of soda water so you can extend the life of the drink. And although only chocolate egg creams exist on the menu, vanilla egg creams are an off-menu item for those in the know, and while most prefer chocolate, vanilla, deservedly, has plenty of champions. 19565 Parthenia St., Northridge; 818-886-5679 and 2799 Townsgate Rd., Westlake Village; 805-557-1882.
4. Soda Jerks
It’s hard not to feel tugged back in time when you're sitting at the counter inside Soda Jerks. Nestled into a corner of the Hippodrome, built in 1916 and adjacent to the historic merry-go-round, Soda Jerks looks out at the Santa Monica Pier and the Pacific beyond. Serving quite a few classic fountain drinks, like lime rickeys and cherry cokes, this ice cream parlor also mixes up three kinds of egg creams: chocolate, vanilla and coffee. Smooth and creamy, the coffee makes for a light treat — and all of the egg creams are available in either small, for a mere $2.50, or large for just a buck more. Soda Jerks even has an old-fashioned candy counter with hard-to-find treats, like chick-o-stick. 200 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica; 310-393-SODA (7632).
3. Wexler’s Deli
Having opened the at the Grand Central Market in April of this year, chef-owner Micah Wexler’s deli focuses on a few choice items and gets every detail right. From pickles to pastrami to smoked salmon, the simplicity of the menu highlights the quality of the ingredients and the attention to detail, with everything made in-house (or in-stand, as the case may be). The $3 chocolate egg creams stay true to tradition, with the three classic New York ingredients: chocolate syrup, cold seltzer and cold whole milk. Mixed carefully to maintain the froth, the result is a pure taste that pairs strangely well with the absolutely gorgeous pickles (barrel-fermented in salt brine). 317 S. Broadway, DTLA; (213) 624-2378.
2. Langer’s Deli
Nothing makes you feel more like an Angeleno than walking down the sidewalk toward Langer’s while someone hisses “identicos” in your ear. Actually, drinking an egg cream at the historic deli (since 1947) during the lunchtime rush might be a close second. Available in both chocolate and vanilla, Langer’s takes their fountain drinks seriously. Large and frothy, with a good head of foam on top, the chocolate egg cream (made from Hershey’s syrup), pairs perfectly with a #19. And if you don’t know what a #19 is, your next trip to one of the city’s best delis is long overdue. 704 S. Alvarado St., Los Angeles; 213-483-8050.
1. Jerry’s Soda Shoppe
Smack dab in the middle of DeSoto’s Pharmacy, Jerry’s Soda Shoppe provides a new twist on tradition, conjuring the '50s in all their sock hop glory, while making egg creams in their own specific, spectacular way. The shop(pe) sports a long, cool, granite countertop lined with bar stools and many shining, silver implements waiting to turn the case of ice cream flavors into glorious concoctions. For the specialty drinks, like their chocolate, New York egg cream, Jerry’s begins with a frosted glass mug and then dips the top half of the glass into a pot of chocolate. The chocolate instantly melts irresistibly down the sides. Then, with precision, your server – if you are lucky you will get Edith, who appreciates the art of the egg cream – adds three squirts of Hershey’s into the vessel, pours 4-oz. of heavy cream over it and tops everything with soda water. After a vigorous stirring, the head of foam is impressive. The result is cold, bubbly and pure chocolate heaven. 20914 Roscoe Blvd., Canoga Park; 818-341-9515.