A classic Columbus creamery
Zaharakos has been dishing the good stuff since 1900.
At Zaharakos Ice Cream Parlor and Museum in Columbus, delights await from the second you sit on a swiveling barstool. "Soda jerks" wearing white button-ups and black bow ties whip up treats using their own "tricks of the trade," says Clayton Monroe, Zaharakos host. "I like to twirl the glass when I'm making a brownie sundae so the chocolate sauce gets as close to the rim as possible."
People have traveled from England, Tokyo, even Australia to visit Zaharakos, partly for the homemade ice cream -- it won the award for Best Ice Cream in Columbus this year from LocalEats, a worldwide guide to the best locally owned eateries.
This parlor sticks to the classics: sundaes, floats, fountain sodas, malts and scoops served in old-fashioned tulip glasses or homemade waffle cones. "People come just for the ice cream, even in the winter," Monroe says. "In the summer, we have lines out the door."
Don't be surprised to overhear customers reminiscing about popping in for an after-school soda back in the day. They can still order the original Zaharakos sloppy joe-style Gom Sandwich and the lime-flavored Green River fountain soda. Today, the parlor affectionately known as "The Greeks" seems untouched from when it opened in 1900.
The three Zaharako brothers emigrated from Greece to open the parlor on Washington Street, and it remained in the family for 106 years. In 2006, with no immediate heir, a third-generation Zaharako closed up shop and sold the beloved self-playing 1908 Welte Orchestrion organ before passing away. But it didn't remain closed for long -- businessman Tony Moravec bought it that same year.
Three years of top-to-bottom restoration returned Zaharakos to its original 1900s decor. The renovators cleaned and repainted the white ceiling panels, which had blackened from years of billowing cigarette smoke. They tore out the black-and-white-checkered linoleum floor installed in the '50s to reveal the original hardwood underneath, now slightly warped with age.
A 50-foot-long mahogany and marble bar lines one side of the parlor, propping up a pair of onyx soda fountains from the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair and a 1905 Tiffany-style lamp. Now a historic landmark, Zaharakos doubles as a museum, displaying Moravec's collection of late 19th-century soda fountains.
And the organ? Moravec tracked it down in California. It's now sitting back where it was, paper roll spinning as all 184 pipes toot away to Rossini's William Tell Overture.
The Cream of the Crop
Brownie Sundae Prepare for a food coma. A warm, homemade chocolate-chip brownie topped with two scoops of vanilla ice cream, a drizzle of hot fudge, whipped cream and a cherry.
The Big "Z" The quintessential Zaharakos sundae. Five scoops of ice cream with a choice of three toppings, whipped cream and five cherries.
Banana Split There's nothing like a classic. Hefty scoops of vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice cream wedged in a split banana topped with pineapple, chocolate and strawberry sauce, a dollop of whipped cream and a cherry