The Soda Shop

The Soda Shop

When our daughter Maggie was young, she and I decided to have a date night every Thursday. Looking for a place to eat dinner and have some fun, I thought of the Elliston Place Soda Shop.  

The Soda Shop had special memories for me, because my dad used to go there when he was taking education classes at Peabody College, before Peabody became part of Vanderbilt University. The nearby Soda Shop opened in 1939, but my dad used to eat there before that, in the mid-1930s.   

How was that possible? It was because the Elliston Pharmacy had been in business for years, and when it closed in 1939, local businessman Lynn Chandler bought the soda shop portion of the pharmacy and opened it as the Elliston Place Soda Shop. 

The Soda Shop, still in business over 60 years later, was the perfect place for our date night, and it happened to be right across the street from the hospital where Maggie had been born.  

Then and now, the menu featured hamburgers, fries, and milkshakes, plus the curious but wonderful foods, unique to Nashville, known as Meat and Three, in which diners could select one meat item plus three sides. Maggie and I especially enjoyed the Thursday night special of roasted turkey and gravy, with cornbread stuffing, sweet potatoes, and cranberry sauce—Thanksgiving dinner that we could eat every week. 

Better than the food was the Soda Shop staff: our waitress Miss Barbie, who let Maggie come behind the counter to make sodas; and Mr. Carl the dishwasher, who each week would emerge to see Maggie and give her a shiny silver dollar. I would send Maggie to the jukebox, where she would select records by Elvis Presley or Branda Lee or Buddy Holly. 

Maggie went off to college in 2015, and in 2019 I was upset to read that the Soda Shop was struggling and about to close. 

It turned out that I wasn’t the only person upset, because at the last minute, local developers Tony and Lisa Giarratana, who always had loved the Soda Shop, bought the place to fix it up and give it a new lease on life. The old building was no longer available, so Giarratana purchased a historic building next door that was not only beautiful but bigger than the original location.

I was skeptical of the new Soda Shop, imagining a sleek, modern restaurant, and so it wasn’t until recently that I tried it. Maggie was visiting from Chicago, and she suggested that she, Yvonne, and I give the place a try. We walked in and immediately fell in love. 

The new Elliston Place Soda Shop looked bigger but otherwise identical to the original, thanks to the loving restoration work of Craig Clifft, who not only hunted down original and duplicate items for the building, but researched the original dishes served eighty years earlier—including Maggie’s and my Thanksgiving favorites. 

Maggie hurried to the jukebox and played an Elvis Presley tune. The three of us sat back and smiled. We would be returning soon.


Blog: Music