MANHATTAN – A lot has changed since Lexington Candy Shop opened its doors for the first time nearly a century ago— including patrons trading in their pocket watches for cell phones— but a lot of what happens in the small Upper East Side luncheonette day-in and day out hasn’t changed-in decades. And that’s just the way it’s loyal customers like it.
Stepping inside the Lexington Candy Shop, at the corner of East 83rd Street and Lexington Avenue, you’ll enter a unique and charming time capsule of a bygone era of olde New York— when elevated train tracks still ran up Third Avenue, the stop just two blocks away at 84th and Third, and when the Lexington Avenue Subway was only seven years old.
Not your typical diner with a ten or more page menu offering everything and anything a hungry New Yorker can think off, Lexington Candy Shop has been an old fashioned luncheonette true to its core since the 1940s— dedicated to serving a smaller menu of made from scratch breakfast and lunch fare that’ll get you in-and-out in a jiffy.
Eggs, pancakes, burgers, air fried french fries, salads, soups and sandwiches round out the menu, which also features a long-forgotten treat that’s only served by a handful of restaurants in New York City— an authentic Egg Cream.
Containing neither eggs nor cream, an egg cream is a drink typically made by combining seltzer water, milk and chocolate syrup. While an interesting drink from New York’s past, Lexington Candy Shop is actually known for a different drink— it’s hand-squeezed lemonade.
When we say hand-squeezed, we mean it. Your server will literally squeeze the lemon for your lemonade right before your very eyes. A New York Times reporter eloquently described the drink’s preparation in a 1992 article.
“The counterman picks his lemons right in front of you, feeds them to a stainless-steel juicer, spritzes the juicer to get the last pulpy remnants, mixes it with water and sugar in a silvery malted milk container and pours it all over ice,” the Times wrote.
Thirty years ago a glass of the Lexington Candy Shop’s celebrated lemonade would set you back just $2.75 cents— now the price ranges from seven to nine dollars, depending on the size.
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A family-owned business since it was founded on the Upper East Side by Soterios Philis in 1925, the Lexington Candy Shop has been a labor of love passed through the generations.
Now run by Soterios’ grandson John, the shop has proudly maintained the luncheonette’s old-school style. Steeped in its storied history, John describes the Upper East Side eatery as being “a part of New York that has disappeared.”
And he’s right. Still preparing foods like they have for decades, Lexington Candy Shop uses real malt powder in its malts.
Original coke bottles line the storefront window and the décor has hardly changed since the 1940s when— even painted on the front windows are signs advertising a telephone inside.
Head inside the shop and it’s like a time machine to the past— a well-worn formica countertop on a pink base greets customers, a line of stainless steel stools in front feature the plasticky green vinyl upholstery of decades’ past to sit upon. Just don’t try to pull your stool up closer to the counter— its fixed to the floor.
On the walls, more reminders of the past— a New York Daily News front-page from World War II’s D-Day, when Allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy, France on June 6, 1944.
“INVASION BEGINS,” the large all caps headline reads below the Daily News masthead.
“ARMY LANDS IN NORTHERN FRANCE, STRONG NAVAL, AIR FORCES HIT NAZIS”
Hanging nearby you’ll also notice movie posters for Three Days of the Condor and The Nanny Diaries— both included filmed scenes inside the Lexington Candy Shop’s timeless interior.
John, the current owner, tells Upper East Site his son Peter has been coming to the luncheonette since he was eight or nine years old and has grown up along with their customers and their families.
Serving generations of New Yorkers for 97 years, John says the Lexington Candy Shop is part of the community.
“[People] come here with their grandparents or babies or teenagers and you can sit here and talk and eat.”
The Lexington Candy Shop name has also lasted through generations, the same since the store opened in 1925 and sold candy manufactured in the basement. Nowadays you can still get candy inside, though it’s not homemade— M&Ms, candy bars, mints and gum are packed into a small display near the front.
Stop by and take a trip back to olde New York at the Lexington Candy Shop luncheonette from 7:00 am to 5:00 pm daily.