Long gone are the days when you could savor an ice cream soda or sundae at an honest-to-goodness ice cream parlor/soda fountain — that is, unless you visit Zaharakos in Columbus, Indiana. This national historic landmark is known not only for its creamy homemade ice cream, but for its unparalleled atmosphere.
Originally, it was a candy store when the four Zaharako brothers, Greek immigrants, opened it in 1900. But by 1911, Zaharakos had transitioned into an parlor and fountain purveying some of the treats it still serves today.
In 2007, it was restored to its turn-of-last-century glory. Stained glass windows, a tin ceiling, marble pillars and counter, and refurbished woodwork add architectural charm. Two Mexican onyx soda fountains, which were originally used at the 1904 World’s Fair, are still dispensing favorites like Green River phosphates and flavored colas. The onsite player piano, designed to sound like a full orchestra, entertains with ragtime tunes.
An adjoining museum houses mechanical musical instruments and soda fountain relics. And the banquet rooms — which can accommodate small and large groups alike — are like a special treat with a cherry on top. For instance, the Whitman Room, which can seat 24 guests, is a private ice cream parlor with special seating for the kids.
But ambiance aside, Zaharakos — or “Greek’s” as it’s sometimes still called — is known for its old-timey fountain favorites like sundaes, floats, milk shakes and ice cream sodas. Those wanting to try for a massive brain freeze can order The Big “Z:” five scoops of ice cream with three toppings.
Visitors wanting something a bit more substantial before diving into the sweets, will find a generous menu of sandwiches, sides, salads, chili and macaroni and cheese. Zaharakos is famous for its version of Sloppy Joes, the Gom Sandwich, and its giant hand-cut, hand-breaded tenderloin.
Before devouring that whole tenderloin when at Zaharakos, though, it’s wise to remember the old adage: “save room for dessert.” You’ll be glad you did!