In the previous chapter, I mentioned that a long-term goal for us doing this blog is to visit each of the twelve SEC cities, and write up one restaurant from each town. We accomplished this in Auburn on Saturday when we visited Toomer’s Drugs, one of the oldest soda fountains in the southeast. It was opened in 1896 across from what was then called the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Alabama, which is why Bear Bryant typically referred to Bama’s instate rival as “that cow college.” He was probably just jealous that he couldn’t get a lemonade this good in Tuscaloosa.
We lucked into a terrific parking space right beside Toomer’s, and on a Saturday, when downtown parking is free, too. We weren’t quite hungry yet, so Marie and my daughter and I enjoyed a nice walk around all the storefronts in the neighborhood. Downtown Auburn is quite small, but what the little village lacks in awesome record and comic and used bookshops like any college town should have, they make up for in downright friendly people. Nobody, no matter how decked out in orange and blue, even looked twice at my Bulldogs shirt. They were probably a little concerned about running up against that Lattimore fellow at South Carolina who was breaking tackles all afternoon long.
The ladies visited several dress boutiques, we turned up our noses at a disagreeable number of chain restaurants, we browsed textbooks at the unbelievably, delightfully jampacked J & M Books and eventually, having exhausted every possibility of a way to kill time short of wandering around campus looking for the stadium (which is a fine one, as 11 of 12 SEC stadiums are), we returned to Toomer’s Drugs for a snack.
As snacks go, this midday meal was one for the scrapbook. They sell a few sandwiches and light treats for lunch, but this is where you go for an incredibly decadent midday treat. My daughter had that ice cream sandwich between two very good chocolate chip cookies and Marie had that IBC root beer float. The beautiful black-and-white ice cream soda in the center was all mine, and it was amazing. It’s so easy to do a half-baked job on my favorite ice cream treat, so I’m especially pleased that Toomer’s knocks these out of the park. They even bring the steel mixing cup to the table, like they do with milkshakes at the Grill in Athens, to let you top off your treat as you get low. Man, that was tasty.
I have to say that after that amazing soda, the lemonade was a minor letdown, but don’t think that’s in any way a dismissal. We took both a limeade and lemonade with us and sipped on them all the way back to Columbus. Both were incredibly sour and wonderful, freshly squeezed right in front of us, and I imagine that one of these along with a chicken salad sandwich could well be the best meal on the plains.
Toomer’s Drugs doesn’t appear to be much of a drug store anymore. It’s really the soda counter and a few sundries, Tigers memorabilia and greeting cards, that sort of thing. They also do a roaring trade in toilet paper, for those tailgaters who didn’t wipe out the region’s discount stores on their way to town. It’s Tiger tradition, after a home win, to paper the trees of Toomer’s Corner. The streets are apparently packed with thousands of fans “rolling” the trees and buildings. I guess their mamas never taught ’em.
Other blog posts about this restaurant:
Chopped Onion (2009)