knoxville news
knoxville news entertainment rss linkedin twitter facebook contact smoky mountains knoxville legal notices travel knoxville sports business knoxville daily sun lifestyle food knoxville daily sun advertising about knoxville daily sun

Nashville’s soda shop for the ages saved for new generations
By Tom Adkinson
January 20, 2023

Elliston Place Soda Shop
This sign in Nashville’s midtown area has been a beacon for people seeking traditional plate lunches and ice cream treats since 1939. Image by Tom Adkinson

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Expectant fathers are a subset of patrons at the Elliston Place Soda Shop, complementing devoted locals and plenty of visitors to Music City seeking an authentic Nashville experience.

While the expectant mothers are in labor nearby at St. Thomas Midtown Hospital, the dads – presumably with permission – escape for a meal.

The knowledgeable ones bypass the hospital cafeteria and scamper across the street for a genuine, old-school milkshake, a plate lunch or maybe a burger and fries.

Craig Clifft, the general manager, can spot the “feed me quickly” fathers because they are wearing hospital wristbands, and he’s savvy enough to capitalize on the opportunity to turn a harried guest into a friend and longtime customer.

milkshake cards
Soda shop general manager Craig Clifft and Linda Melton show off the free milkshake cards they have for new mothers at a nearby hospital. Image by Tom Adkinson

His tactic is to give the expectant father a card that the mother can redeem for a milkshake of her own.

This act of hospitality – indeed the beset itself – almost disappeared in 2020. The cherished establishment, which opened in 1939, was on its last legs, and the owner was ready to throw in the dishtowel.

Its unlikely rescuer was Tony Giarratana, a developer of massive multi-million dollar high-rise apartments towers, not little-bitty local restaurants.

However, like many Nashvillians, Giarantana loves the soda shop. Stories about his interest in the place report how its simple fare and the staff’s friendliness were a comfort to him when he was new to town in 1984. Think of “Cheers” with milkshakes instead of beer and servers whose shirts read, “Where everybody calls you Darlin’.”

The rescue turned into a reincarnation. The old building housing the soda shop was beyond redemption, so Giarratana orchestrated a move immediately next door. That was no small task, especially since the goal was saving the character and soul of the old place and not creating a saccharine, make-believe parody of a “Happy Days” set.

The revived Elliston Place Soda Shop opened in May 2021. It mirrors the original so well that the unobservant might not see any differences – until realizing that it grew from 50 seats to more than 150. Some seats are outside, where you can enjoy a banana split or other ice cream treat in warm weather.

If you sit at the fountain, where the stools are originals, you can watch the staff perform a ballet of beverage and dessert creation.

Nikki Woods and Shanna Szaltzer are two of the stars. Clifft says they make the majority of milkshakes – sometimes as many as 4,000 a month. They drop scoop after scoop of Nashville-made Purity ice cream into stainless steel cups, add flavors and crank up the blenders.

The blenders’ noise is music to the ears of thirsty guests. What results is more than enough to fill an old-fashioned fluted glass, and the frost line forms on the stainless steel container as you consume the initial pour. One shake is enough for two people. Almost.

nashville pie lady
Linda Melton, known affectionately as the Pie Lady, has been creating meringue marvels at the soda shop for 30 years. Image by Tom Adkinson

Linda Melton is another soda shop star. She’s the Pie Lady and has been for 30 years. She makes many types of pies (pecan and chess pies score highly), but what will astound you are her chocolate, coconut and lemon meringue works of art. Whole pies – displayed with pride in a case right inside the front door – are sculpted with a mound of meringue so high that they seem the size of basketballs.

nashville milkshake
Young Nashvillian Eli Jackson barely took a break while consuming one of the soda shop’s famous milkshakes. Image by Tom Adkinson

nashville hot fudge sundae
Customers often stop servers while delivering ice cream sundaes and banana splits to photography their culinary creations. Image by Tom Adkinson

Beyond the milkshakes, pies, sundaes and root beer floats are breakfast platters that are fuel for a full day and a meat and three menu that is one of the best in a city famous for that style of down-home cooking.

nashville pies
Linda Melton’s massive pies fill a display case right inside the front door of the Elliston Place Soda Shop. Image by Tom Adkinson

Clifft says he and the staff refined the meat and three menu for nine months. Count on meatloaf, fried chicken, pot roast, and turkey and dressing every day. Add chicken and dumplings on Monday and Tuesday, pork chops on Wednesday and Thursday and fried catfish and hushpuppies on Friday and Saturday. The Pie Lady provides banana pudding every day, too.

Among the dozen side dishes are fried okra, squash casserole, turnip greens and creamed corn.

“Yes, we have a healthy salad with chicken, but other than that, it’s good ole Southern cooking,” Clifft said.

Trip-planning resources: and

(Travel writer Tom Adkinson’s book, 100 Things To Do in Nashville Before You Die, is available on

knoxville daily sun

Knoxville Daily Sun
2023 Image Builders
User Agreement | Privacy Policy