Time has been unkind to purveyors and fans of freshly mixed sodas and malts. Most soda shops have closed, beaten to death by decades of increased rents and changing tastes. What's left always seems to come up flat -- a collection of short cuts and cheap ingredients dumped together into old-fashioned glasses, hardly an upgrade over what flies out of a McDonald's drive-thru.
But maybe the biggest reason soda fountains have died is their failure to offer anything new to their customers. The way we dine out has changed a lot since the days when cars had fins. We serve pork at temperatures that would terrify our grandparents, who got away with tipping 10 percent when they were young. The idea of replicating this decades-old restaurant model in the present day seems, at first blush, about as viable as fat-free whipping cream. At least, not without some updating and adapting.
That, it turns out, is exactly what Elias Pope accomplished when he opened Remedy on Greenville Avenue. He's an unlikely apothecary. He owns HG Sply. Co, a restaurant that focuses on Paleo-friendly plates loaded with fluffy quinoa, and an adjoining gym filled with cross-training carb-counters. But his newest restaurant hits the sweet spot, reaching far beyond the standard offering of sugary sodas, ice cream sundaes and pies by the slice.
Pope hired Danyele McPherson -- who previously served as chef at The Grape, a Dallas restaurant with a long history of its own -- and tasked her with developing a menu tailored for a modern soda fountain. She promptly set out to reinvent the basic dishes associated with the typical American childhood -- classic sandwiches and snacks that would resonate with adults, transforming them into 5-year-olds with the promise of an ice cream sundae topped with whipped cream and a house-made maraschino cherry.
McPherson's cooking honors the familiar, but her ingredients are anything but. Fried bologna sandwiches ooze with melted American cheese, but that's not Oscar Mayer sliced razor-thin and fan-folded between toasted slices of challah bread. It's house-made charcuterie griddled with plenty of butter, making for a decadent take on a classic that has graced millions of lunchboxes.
The House Filet O' Fish is a near copy of the blue paper-wrapped sandwich that has been consumed in cars by the hundreds-of-thousands, complete with an oozing amount of lap-soiling tartar sauce. But instead of pollock, the cheap substitute for cod from North Atlantic waters, the square of fried fish tucked into the soft, golden bun is redfish from the Gulf of Mexico. The fries have gotten a significant upgrade too. Cut on-site, the potatoes arrive glistening from their oil bath. Eat them quickly, while they're still blistered and crispy.
McPherson may have nailed a fast-food classic, but don't expect a giant purple monster to come steal your dessert while you sit at the bar. Decked in etched glass and sparkling chandeliers, the mint green dining room nods to a time before corporate America took over casual dining. A small patio provides outdoor seating, while a loft inside offers a few tables with a bird's-eye view. The best seats may be at the bar, where you can watch sodas and cocktails take shape. Vintage soda fountains protrude from the bar top, ready to top off a glass filled with kaffir lime, Texas grapefruit and other flavored syrups. You can even order an old relic, the egg cream, though the $5 price tag is iron-clad assurance that it's still the present day.
So are the mustardy deviled-eggs served on a bed of sprouts, and chicken liver pâté, served with house-made marmalade and pickled onions. McPherson makes use of embellishments to smartly modernize classics that would still seem at home at a lunch counter.
Her partner in crime, Guillermo Tristan, will have grandmothers all over Texas throwing in the towel with his pie-making. Tristan offers pies on rotation, from peanut butter and other creams, to an apple that's difficult to turn down. When stone fruits hit their peak this summer, there's a good chance a line will form for a slice of classic peach pie. The coconut cream, topped with repeating miniature peaks of toasted meringue, boasts a custard that's not overly sweet and a crumbly crust. If a slice is available, you should take advantage; it sells out often.
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Pie shortages should not be lamented for very long, because they offer a reasonable excuse to return to Remedy soon. They also create an opportunity to indulge in the massive ice cream sundaes, which may otherwise be too decadent to order. Built with house-made ice cream and topped with everything from runny caramel sauce, to honey that's been gently laced with bourbon to potato chips, the sundaes should always be ordered with company, because no matter how many diners are on hand, it will disappear quickly. If gluttony isn't in the cards, some entrées offer responsible dining. The pork chop is particularly good, with soft and buttery fat you'll want to scrape from the bone. Sautéed trout is also lighter, and fried chicken, while certainly not diet food, is portioned with restraint. But Remedy isn't really the sort of place you want to approach with caution. Instead, its walls confine a permanent Thanksgiving -- a year-round food holiday for anyone craving sweet excess. It's an excuse to order a burger with not one slice of cheese but two, a place where you hope your sundae-maker's finger lingers a little longer than usual on the whipped-cream trigger.
Remedy is an old-school restaurant filled with energy and excitement, which is exactly what other soda fountains lack. Sure, sometimes history is cool, and places like Highland Park Soda Fountain offer a window into the past. But while the old shops look backward, Elias Pope is looking ahead; Remedy is so fizzy it's spilling over.
Remedy 2010-B Greenville Ave., 469-294-4012, remedydallas.com, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-midnight Friday-Saturday, $$$
Deviled eggs $7 Chicken liver pâté $11 Fish sandwich $15 Cheeseburger $13 Pork chop $26