Elliston Place Soda Shop: New Member Spotlight

EllistonSodaShop-0416Any place that can call itself Nashville’s oldest continuously operating restaurant in the same location is bound to have a tale or two up its sleeves.

Elliston Place Soda Shop’s story began more than 75 years ago, before it was serving homespun milkshakes, house-made pies and hearty helpings of the day’s meat & three selection from behind its famed counter. The Soda Shop first began as a grocery store, and in 1920, the grocery store became a pharmacy—whose biggest draw was its soda fountain.

In 1939, Lynn Chandler approached the pharmacy’s owner and sold him on the idea that the soda fountain could stand as its own business. Soon after, the pharmacy bricked off the far left side of the store, added an entrance and called it Elliston Place Soda Shop.

Chandler owned and operated the Soda Shop for 40 years until it was bought by a well-known politician by the name of Charlie Galbert. Under Galbert’s helm, the restaurant became a local hangout for the who’s-who of the state legislature. In fact, it was the first spot Al Gore held an interview after announcing his run for the presidency in 1999.

Skip Bibb took over the restaurant at the end of 2013, and continues to host the same kind of food and service that people all over Tennessee have come to know and love over the past 75 years.

“It’s such an iconic place for Nashville,” says Bibb. “One of the hardest parts about opening a restaurant is you have to create a story for it. But for Elliston, it’s been easy. This place already has a story—I’ve just got to remind people of it.”

And everyone has a story for the Soda Shop. Whether its splitting a plate of chili cheese fries with a friend after school, or rubbing elbows with Reba McEntire while slurping on a strawberry milkshake, Elliston Place Soda Shop holds a certain nostalgia for most Nashville natives.

Inside, the interior looks like it hasn’t changed since it first opened with original tile floors, red-top bar stools lining the lunch counter and individual jukeboxes in each booth.

So how is it something can remain unchanged for so long in a growing, evolving city—and food scene—such as Nashville?

Maybe it’s the food, Bibb says. Because good is good, no matter what decade you run across.

EllistonSodaShop-0476Now serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, the kitchen boasts a definite Southern repertoire. Popular classics include the 100% beef, hand-patted burger served on a bun made by a local baker, the grilled cheese sandwich and any of the homemade pies prepared in the back each morning.

The diner’s daily meat & threes are also a favorite, with selections like Southern fried chicken on Tuesdays, meat loaf on Wednesdays and turkey and dressing on Thursdays. You better come early for those though, Bibb says: they only make a limited amount of the day’s meat & three and they almost always run out by the afternoon.

And of course there are the homespun milkshakes, served thick in a diner-style glass with the leftovers saved in a cold silver tin for later—if you can make it last that long.

Elliston Place Soda Shop’s longevity could also be attributed to its location: 2111 Elliston Place is near three universities, it has ideal proximity from downtown and it’s smack in the middle of Nashville’s three largest hospitals.

A nurse once told Bibb that approximately 10,000 babies are born each year between the three hospitals. It’s not uncommon to find a beaming dad tucked away in a booth with a restless older brother or sister having a bite to eat while Mom’s in recovery.

“And they always leave with a chocolate milkshake to-go for Mom,” Bibb adds.

Or maybe the real reason for the Elliston Place Soda Shop’s success is the people. The restaurant has a reputation for its personable long-time employees, and you only have to come in once or twice before the waitress knows your drink order.

Linda Melton’s been working at Elliston Place Soda Shop for more than 20 years.

“Baby, I love my people,” she says. “There’s a happiness and goodness about the atmosphere here. You can really be yourself. You don’t have to pretend.”

Whatever the reason, the Elliston Place Soda Shop has a place in the hearts of generations of Nashvillians, and of the visitors who come for the stories.

To learn more about the restaurant, visit them at 2111 Elliston Place or check out their profile here.