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Marshall’s Drug Store Soda Fountain: ‘Back to the Future’

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by Robert Mason Jr.

Dining at the Marshall’s Drug Store Soda Fountain is a “back-to-the-future” experience.

The triple-counter is nestled inside the drugstore, surrounded by books, stuffed animals, toys, gifts, rows of sundries and the pharmacy. The stools are the traditional retro-style, metal and orange-top variety—but wait, they aren’t imitation. They’re for real.

I swear, they’re the same I sat on 50 years ago. That’s when soda fountain cheeseburgers, grilled corned beef sandwiches, hot dogs, shakes and sodas still ruled the fast food arena. Most soda fountains went the way of the diner, pushed out by fast-food chains, convenience store delis and the microwave.

Marshall’s hung on and today, Miracle Gordon and Hannah Clark man the station, prepping, cooking, serving, cleaning, squeezing fresh lemonade and limeade, and dipping ice cream—10 flavors of Hershey’s.

They pride themselves in offering a “humble, quaint” dining experience with a modern twist. You see, it’s not just a matter of serving up a sandwich hot off the grill. Nowadays for Miracle and Hannah, made to order could present challenges associated with vegetarian, gluten free, low fat, sugar free, or any combination of dietary needs, or culinary desires.

Instead of a milkshake, you can order a healthy smoothie. I can’t, you can.

The menu still offers burgers, hot dogs and ice cream cones, but read a little closer and you’ll see a Bristow Club, The Mighty Moo, The Harbor, shrimp salad and pulled pork barbecue. Daily specials might cover anything fresh from the local market, field or boat, including flounder, crabs, oysters, tuna, scallops, deli meats, fruits and vegetables. Options are numerous, wheat, white, wrap, quesadilla, gyro, sub roll, soft roll, toasted, grilled, blackened, fried, carbonated or plain. Take anything on the menu or special board and have it your way, even in a salad.

On this trip to the soda fountain, I met my friends Lady Mary and Azalea Grant for a late lunch to avoid the rush. Of course they’re using pseudonyms. You would too if you had seen all the food we tried. I’m just glad my doctor didn’t witness it after the scolding I just had.

Diets aside, I ordered a medium rare cheeseburger with mustard—for old-times sake; The Harbor, a crab cake on a soft-toasted roll; ice water and coffee. Foregoing the tartar or cocktail sauce, I requested the red pepper relish, an optional condiment for The Mighty Moo.

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Lady Mary opted for the Bristow Club of ham, turkey, bacon, cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise on three slices of toasted wheat. Azalea Grant chose a house salad, green leaf lettuce and garden vegetables; and The Mighty Moo, a hot roast beef sub topped with provolone and horseradish dressing on the side. Along the way, we also sampled the chicken salad; a fresh fruit cone; a pound cake a la Marshall’s, a mint chocolate chip chocolate ice cream sundae; and another cheeseburger. The sandwich platters were served with chips and a dill pickle spear.

We shared it all. As promised, it was all fresh and good to the last bite.

For starters, the cheeseburger was not the flat-grilled slab from days gone by. It was big and juicy, yet still had that fresh-grilled flavor.

The giant crab cake was handcrafted behind the counter, from fresh lump and claw, with just a hint of fill to hold its shape on the grill. “It tastes just like my grandma’s, and they’re the best,” said Lady Mary.

The club was a plateful of great proportions—real meaty.

The salad was crisp and the roast beef was flavorful.

The chicken salad was a traditional blend of rotisserie and mayonnaise.

The fresh fruit cone was a work of art. Picture a bed of strawberry syrup, fresh strawberries and whipped cream, with a waffle cone stuffed full of blackberries, grapes, pineapple, mandarin oranges and cantaloupe.

The pound cake stood tall on a bed of chocolate syrup, with fresh strawberries, more syrup and whipped cream.

The mint chocolate chip chocolate ice cream sundae, served in a tall ice cream soda glass, was topped with whipped cream and a cherry. It was rich and heavy, absolutely not a light and healthy smoothie.

Miracle noted some of the more popular items are the crab cakes; flounder; chicken salad; cheeseburgers; shrimp salad; pulled pork barbecue; and bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich.

The chocolate milkshake, made with vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup, is a top seller, he added.

Seasonal soups include potato, chili, chicken and dumplings, cream of crab, oyster stew, fish chowder and asparagus.

Popular breakfast items include the biscuits with homemade sausage gravy. The eggs are made to order, including omelettes, said Miracle.

He and Hannah are a good team. Their daily goal is excellence and they’re on target.

Marshall’s Drug Store is a family business. Third and fourth generation Marshalls and extended family members work the pharmacy side. The fifth-generation, still in diapers, welcomes folks with a smile. At the soda fountain, everybody is treated like family. No matter how far you roam, or how long you stay gone, you’re always welcomed home.


Marshall’s Drug Store Soda Fountain
50 Cross Street, Urbanna
804-758-5344

Open
Breakfast – 7:30-11 a.m.
Mondays-Saturdays

Lunch – 11 a.m.-3 p.m. – Mondays-Fridays
11 a.m.-1 p.m. – Saturdays

On the Menu
Sandwiches, salads, fresh seafood,seasonal soups, breakfast biscuits, and traditional soda fountain shakes.

Daily specials posted on Facebook- Marshall’s Soda Fountain

Did you know?
Marshall’s has been serving Urbanna since 1929.
The lemonades and limeades are fresh squeezed.
At holidays, customer appreciation is observed with special foods and treats “on the house.”

posted 07.05.2016

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