Dr. Jazz Soda Fountain & Grille

Opened several months ago in downtown Webster Groves, Dr. Jazz Soda Fountain & Grill is just that: an ice-cream parlor that serves up a few grill items burgers, fries, brats as well as sandwiches and a dazzling array of ice cream creations. Proprietors Merrille MacLellan and George Hessler brought their little bit of nostalgia to Webster after the success of its first location in Lebanon, Ill.

    World’s Fair and Norman Rockwell posters, wooden booths, a long ice-cream bar with stools and wall-mounted tin menus dating to days when a slice of pie cost 15 cents set the mood.  This is a fun place to take the kids, but you might want to call ahead since there are only five booths and about four tables.

    The menu is strictly short-order, but the food is fresh and well done. There are fried starters—mushroom caps, mozzarella sticks, chicken strips, chili cheese fries—and dinner salads like chef’s, chicken Caesar and BLT. A big sandwich menu runs the gamut from Italian sausage with sweet peppers ($8) to Southwest chicken with pesto and provolone ($8.39). There is no alcohol, but phosphates, shakes and malteds to your heart’s content.

    We started with the sample platter of fried goodies ($10), which included onion rings, cheese sticks, fries, mushrooms and chicken fingers. Although they were basically bar food that comes frozen ‘to the trade,’ they were pretty good, and the dipping sauces were house-made. The chicken and onion rings were very heavily breaded, but the mushrooms and cheese sticks were lighter, with a crunchy coating that worked well with the tender mushroom caps and the hot, gooey melted cheese.

    Soups and salads were nice and fresh. We sampled the side salad ($5.39) and the cream of broccoli soup ($4.29). The salad had romaine lettuce, tomato, cucumber, red onion rings and tiny slices of white cheddar, a nice touch. The house-made raspberry vinaigrette and ranch dressings were good. The soup was very thick and tasted like a potato potage base mixed with broccoli. It had a hearty potato flavor with a mild cheese undertone. The cheese was not overpowering, always a plus.

    For main dishes, we ordered the cheeseburger ($8.39) and the daily special, pasta with broccoli ($9.39). The burger was fine, served with lettuce, tomato, pickles and onion, but it looked smaller than the one-third pound promised on the menu. The pasta was passable, but being a casserole dish, the noodles were quite soft. It had a pleasant, creamy flavor with some mushrooms and maybe a touch of tomato sauce.

    Dessert is where this place excels. The ice cream is trucked from from Cedar Crest Creamery in Wisconsin, which has been making the rich frozen treat since 1976. The flavors, we sampled Coconut Joy, maple nut, pumpkin and vanilla, are concentrated and very creamy. You can order them plain or as part of one of the restaurant’s special creations. We had the S’Mores ($5.59) and the beignet sundae ($5).

    The S’Mores had vanilla ice cream topped with marshmallow and hot fudge on graham crackers, crowned with plenty of whipped cream and ground graham crackers  The sauces were good, not artificial tasting and even in a field overpopulated with gelato, frozen yogurt, frozen custard and sorbetto, the ice cream was notable. The beignet was also good, with a couple of the legendary puffy, fried doughnuts stuck in ice cream and drizzled with caramel sauce and a big dollop of whipped cream.

    Clearly the biggest attraction at Dr. Jazz is the soda fountain treats. It also delivers on that promise of taking us back to the good ole’ days with its intimate size and very friendly, homespun service—an old time eatery in an old building in Old Webster. One note about the service: Ours wasn’t all that efficient, with too much food coming out at once (some of it not what we ordered!). But hey, it’s a family diner, and as long as the ice cream was as good as promised, we didn’t much care. 

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