Egg Cream Challenge: Chompie's vs. MacAlpine's Soda Fountain
Vanilla and chocolate egg creams served at Chompie's in Tempe.
A drink called the New York style "egg cream" is thought to have been created sometime after the popularization of soda drinks and the birth of the soda fountain in the late 19th century, but fizzled sometime before the modern-day milkshake and 2-scoop waffle cones.
What is an egg cream? Well, it doesn't contain eggs, or any kind of cream - just chocolate syrup poured into a glass, followed by whole milk, frothed up with a spoon while seltzer water is slowly poured in. Let's call it a freshly prepared chocolate soda.
A skillfully prepared egg cream is characterized by a white, frothy head that resembles a roughly poured ale. You know a good egg cream by the ability to stand a straw straight up the center.
May the best egg cream win.
First Up: Chompie's
Of four locations in the Valley, we visited the Chompie's at 1160 E. University, between Rural and McClintock in Tempe.
The Good: Brooklyn born and raised, welcome: Chompie's egg cream is ultra-traditional. They use the U-Bet brand syrup (chocolate or vanilla) and prepare them in old school, small, stemmed tumbler glasses. The result is lighter and fluffier than any sodas you're used to, and the chocolate flavor tasted like the real deal -- not too sweet, rich, and it held up to milk and seltzer water. We ordered both flavors, stuck straws down the center and they stayed in place. Off to a good start.
The Bad: Not even a minute after delivery, the frothy head dissipated, and this was pretty disappointing, though we admit our expectations could have been high. Should an egg cream be chocolate froth, to be completely consumed in just a couple minutes? Or, should it be something a bit more decadent? We'd find out for sure at MacAlpine's.
Next Up: MacAlpine's Soda Fountain
2303 N. 7th Street, Phoenix
The Good: This downtown soda fountain and restaurant has been whipping up egg creams since 1928 - when they were in their prime. Sitting down on the joint's cushioned bar stools, looking at what might be 100 soda flavorings is all part of the charm, right in line with soda jerks dressed in pink vintage-style shirts. When you reach for the egg cream you ordered (chocolate, vanilla, or any other flavor), you'll notice instantly its heavier consistency - they use a bit of cream, their thick, house-made chocolate sauce, and a splash of olive oil -- really! The straw test succeeded here as well, proving there was skill behind the bar. The sipping was easy. Though you'd be tempted to order chocolate, tell your friend to order a vanilla (even a tad more refreshing) and split the drinks with four straws across two glasses, and scoop out the extra froth with a spoon once it's drained.
The Bad: MacAlpine's chocolate sauce felt the slightest bit overpowering in the drink, and flirted with losing its light airiness. It should learn from its vanilla sister. Can too many flavor options count against this drink? We're guessing most will stick with the traditional two flavors -- but this classic could really be distorted by throwing in some, say, banana or pickle flavoring. On the flip side, adding a splash of cherry to your chocolate could do the classic egg cream a favor from the future.
The Champion: By a long shot, is (say it on 3)...
1, 2, 3 - MacAlpines!
Jinx, you owe us an egg cream.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Phoenix dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.