The Spa-Rific Soda Fountain on Huntington Avenue resembles a í50s-era soda fountain the way PlayStation 2 resembles Atari. Primary elements remain the same: Spa-Rific has a long counter, red-topped stools, and an extensive frappe list, while the goal of Grand Theft Auto is essentially the same as that of Pac-Man. But both have evolved into something contemporarily complex, visually enhanced, and colorfully of the moment.
At Spa-Rific, the guys behind the counter wear short-sleeve, button-down shirts and those little paper soda-fountain hats of 50 years ago. You can imagine a girl in a pink poodle skirt coming in with a guy in his letter jacket, sharing a frappe with two straws, and disturbing the beatnik in blue jeans in the corner reading Ginsberg over coffee. Today, MassArt kids with creatively gelled hair and fantastic belts sit at tables next to Northeastern students in Pumas or pumps.
But there's more than people to look at in Spa-Rific. Indeed, the place almost overflows with oddities and objects from the latter half of the 20th century. Thereís an old dentistís chair in the back. Thereís a Betty Boop clock on the wall, a huge plastic silver bust in the window, and the mismatched tables and chairs look like they came from your great-auntís garage.
Unlike the setting, the food at Spa-Rific is as simple and straight-ahead as an episode of Leave It to Beaver. The blue-cheese-bacon burger ($4) comes on white bread, but you wonít miss the bun. The bacon and blue cheese give it a big, strong flavor, beefing up whatís already thick and juicy; the burger itself is nothing like a flimsy fast-food patty. The mushroom cheeseburger ($3.75) comes slathered in a cheesy-mushroom mix, everything melted to perfection. Breakfast is served all day, and diced and sliced veggies fill the vegetarian omelet ($5). All omelets and burgers are accompanied by a generous pile of home fries ó not-too-greasy, skin-on potato chunks. And then thereís the grilled cheese sandwich ($2.75). Itís bread and itís cheese. Itís crispy and itís gooey. And itís the best thing weíve tasted in months.
A soda fountain wouldnít be a soda fountain without, well, soda, and Spa-Rific certainly doesnít lack in that department. The 50 flavors ($1.50Ė$2.50) include a carbonated slew of variations on Coke (lime, vanilla, and coffee, to name a few), 7UP, and standards like birch beer. The handful of frappe flavors are tempting in the extreme. Four whole Reeseís peanut-butter cups are chopped up for the Reeseís frappe ($3.25) and combined with ice cream, milk, and other things sweet and creamy for a result thatís so thick and smooth you have to use all your sucking muscles to get it through the straw. Itís well worth the effort.
Spa-Rific Soda Fountain, located at 635 Huntington Avenue, in Boston, is open daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Call (617) 566-9088.