What’s an egg cream really, truly supposed to taste like? I have no clue. Sure, I’m from New York City—but I’m not from New York City between the wars, when children newly freed from the hunger of coupon book food rationing were fattened by kindly lingo-slinging soda jerks. My uncle Jack is from that era, and I’ve tried, again and again, to quiz him about egg creams, and he replies with various shades of indifference: They were fine, most people used Fox’s U-bet syrup, others did not; of greater interest was that you could play king of the mountain in the newly dug holes destined to be subway tunnels. Dunno. I guess safety for 12- year-olds looked different in a world that recently emerged from trench warfare—and the egg creams were just background noise.
Except now I need to know what egg creams, those chocolate sodas from the past, are really, truly supposed to taste like, because Eat Street Social has opened with a whole list of soda-fountain specialties of yore, including a Bronx Egg Cream, a Ginger Yip, a Raspberry Rickey, and a Green River Phosphate. What? Why? Because they’re squarely in the vanguard of a national trend, as bartenders freshly on fire with success in the culinary cocktail scene revive our lost soda-fountain history—book yourself a plane ticket to places such as New York City’s Brooklyn Farmacy or Philadelphia’s Franklin Fountain for further research on this topic.
If we don’t know what they’re supposed to taste like, can we talk about what they do taste like? I think they’re delicious! Fantastic. Well, as least as chocolate sodas go, they’re certainly the best I’ve ever had. They’re deep, dark, and densely chocolaty, yet still spritzy and light, a remarkable culinary effect achieved by remarkable culinary bartenders Nick Kosevich and Ira Koplowitz. The two met at the long-lost Town Talk Diner when Kosevich was bartending and Koplowitz was drinking, on vacation from his day job at legendary Chicago cocktail emporium The Violet Hour. They went on to form Bittercube, a company that manufactures artisanal bitters and consults with restaurants on their bar programs. This is how they connected with the owners of Northeast Social, Joe Wagner and Sam Bonin, and became part of their second spot, Eat Street Social.
At Eat Street Social, the Bittercube team was able to work the details of their dream setup into the architecture, so there are unseen elements like a basement prep kitchen and a special high-pressure, super-chilled charged-water dispenser that allow things like that egg cream to happen. For instance, the deep chocolaty flavor comes about by combining a house-made chocolate liquor—made by cooking down two sorts of chocolate nibs (roasted, unshelled cocoa beans) and Madagascar vanilla beans—with finely milled Dutch solid chocolate and sugar. This much chocolate can only dissolve in a soda with super-charged, super-chilled water—and that’s how a modern egg cream is born.
With your drink there must be architecture—here it's cozy and 19th-century barroom evoking—as well as food. In this case, the same solid, good, but never spectacular fare that Northeast Social has made its name with: a nicely charred burger topped with an oven-roasted tomato and a good smoked gouda, a whole small poussin chicken with crispy skin, and for dessert a perfectly nice olive-oil chocolate cake—or more spectacular cocktails or egg creams. Would this egg cream have passed muster with Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland in Love Finds Andy Hardy? Who knows. I believe in my lifetime scientists will create a mastodon, and then someone will grill a mastodon steak, and then someone will say that that’s not how the cavemen would have done it. Till then, ladies and gentlemen, either something very old or something very new has joined us, in a glass, sparkling.
18 W. 26th St., Mpls., 612-767-6850, eatstreetsocial.com
GETTING THERE, GETTING IN: Reservations are recommended. Parking is available in a back lot and on the street.
HOURS: M–F 11 am–1:30 am; Sa–Su 9 am–1:30 am
KIDS: It’s kid-friendly, but there’s no kids menu.
NOISE LEVEL: High.
CARDS: Amex, Discover, MC, Visa
ENTRÉE PRICES: $10–$20