In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, sometimes you just want somewhere to sit and relax with a delicious meal. Soda fountains and lunch counters in Michigan are some of the best places to do just that!
Soda fountains and lunch counters may be from a bygone era, but there are still several in Michigan that are still operating, serving up comfort food with a heaping dose of nostalgia.
Whether you’re craving ice cream sodas, a freshly-made sandwich, a malt, or a milkshake, lunch counters in Michigan offer up friendly smiles and generous portions.
Soda Fountains and Lunch Counters: Innovation + Deliciousness
The drug store soda fountain originated from pharmacists who waited on customers ordering different kinds of fountain drinks as a way to cure various physical ailments.
The drinks, which contained drugs such as caffeine, offered customers a way to put a little pep in their step and pharmacists often experimented with different flavors of sodas and shakes at their fountains.
By the 1920s Prohibition period, soda fountains became part of nearly every drugstore in the USA, and the soda fountain business proved very profitable. Syrup flavors such as cherry and orange were added to carbonated soda water and phosphate by soda jerks and served up as a delicious treat.
The lunch counter is also a throwback to older times when fast food dominated American eateries. Much like the soda fountains found in pharmacies, lunch counters dominated five-and-dime stores as a place to catch up and enjoy a good meal.
In Michigan, especially in Detroit, Coney Island restaurants were popular lunch counters and many Michiganders have fond memories of former spots such as De Kruil’s Drug Store in Grand Rapids, Woolworth’s in Jackson and Lansing, and even Pfaff’s in Grand Haven.
13 Soda Fountains and Lunch Counters in Michigan
Caruso’s | Dowagiac
Those who love sweets will absolutely be in heaven when they visit Caruso’s, a Dowagiac institution since 1922.
Recipes here have been handed down through generations, so the old-fashioned ice cream and phosphate sodas served from original soda fountains are just as delicious now as they were in 1922.
Choose from more than a dozen traditional shake and malt flavors and nearly a dozen specialty flavors. So pull up a seat and enjoy a little sip of history.
Chocolate Bar Cafe | Grosse Pointe Woods
This old-fashioned soda fountain is a sweet lover’s paradise with a menu that features Detroit-made ice cream and a dazzling array of candies, pastries, chocolates, and more.
The menu will make eyes widen and mouths water with ice cream delights including the Tin Roof sundae, the banana split, the cream puff sundae, and so many more.
Doncker’s is all about putting people first and customers will feel welcome from the minute they walk in the door.
The main attraction is the soda fountain menu. Pairing premium Wisconsin-made ice cream with old-fashioned soda recipes, Doncker’s serves up floats, more than a half dozen flavors of phosphate soft drinks, malts, shakes, and more.
If your sweet tooth is still not satisfied after a delicious float, stop by Doncker’s candy shop, which includes caramels and a lot more.
Customers looking for something new will enjoy this cozy lunch counter. Order your favorite sandwich and a side of soup and make sure to leave room for a scoop (or two) of your favorite ice cream.
If you don’t know what to order, the staff makes daily lunch suggestions, so you may just find a new favorite and this may just become your go-to lunch spot in Mt. Pleasant.
Ernie’s Market | Oak Park
Ernie’s offers build-it-your-way sandwiches, ranging from the one-meat special to the seven-meat monster. The options are numerous, so customers can build their favorite sandwiches sky-high.
Customers will feel the history the minute they walk into Ernie’s and much of the store’s interior looks the same as it did back in 1955. So come for a delicious lunch and stay to soak in the history.
Fourth Avenue Inn & Bistro | Lake Odessa
This old-fashioned storefront features exposed brick, a tin ceiling, and ice cream served up the old-fashioned way.
Stop by on a summer night — this eatery is open seasonally — and enjoy your favorite ice cream treat, whether it’s a simple scoop in a bowl, a tasty scoop in a cone, or a yummy banana split.
Frank’s | Zeeland
From the minute customers step foot inside Frank’s, they’ll be washed in waves of nostalgia, from the counters to the booths to the old-time decor on the walls.
Choose from your favorite burger (you can make it a single or a double) or choose one of Frank’s signature burgers, including the ‘F-Bomb’, a loaded triple burger!
Save room for dessert, including sundaes, root beer, and Coke floats, and hand-dipped shakes and malts.
Horton Bay General Store | Boyne City
In older times, general stores were the perfect spots to find a little bit of everything and that’s exactly what customers will find here.
Inside the store, customers can find stationery, spirits, candy, beach gear, and more. They also have a soda fountain, where visitors can enjoy a malt. Afterward, they can check out the accompanying Inn, where famed writer Ernest Hemingway once stayed.
Lafayette Coney Island | Detroit
Any longtime Michigander knows how iconic the coney dog is in Michigan and this longtime Motown institution is one of the state’s best.
Take a seat at the lunch counter and taste the deliciousness that is a Lafayette coney, with its combination of Spanish onion, mustard, meaty chili, and flavorful hot dog. They’re so good, that you may find yourself ordering up another one (or two).
Lipkas | Montague
Nestled in West Michigan, just 20 minutes from Muskegon, Lipkas serves up lunchtime staples at affordable prices (half and whole options are both offered).
The menu includes salads, soups, chili, and sandwiches, including old-fashioned fountain sandwich options, egg salad, grilled cheese, bologna spread, and more. It’s a simple but effective menu that’s sure to fill you up!
Red Knapps | Rochester
For more than 70 years, visitors have frequented Red Knapps for its famous burgers and milkshakes, turning this eatery into a generational favorite.
Take a seat at the counter, order a juicy burger, and pair it with your favorite milkshake. Red Knapps has specialties like cookies and cream, but can also mix and match any flavor combination.
Romeo Townhall Soda Fountain | Romeo
Take a seat and refresh yourself with handcrafted ice cream cones, milkshakes, floats, and more, including non-dairy and gluten-free options.
The soda fountain is all about variety and customers can enjoy their favorite flavors or choose from an ever-changing list of seasonal and weekly specials.
Saugatuck Drug Store & Soda Fountain | Saugatuck
For a century, the Saugatuck Drug Store & Soda Fountain has been offering service with a smile to residents and visitors alike in the form of soda floats and malt treats.
Customers love the prices, the employees, and the tremendous customer service. The delicious sodas and malts that are served up are just the icing on the cake.
Visit a Nostalgic Michigan Lunch Counter or Soda Fountain Today
With its inviting stool seats, yummy food and drink offerings, and comfortable atmosphere, lunch counters and real soda fountains in Michigan are the perfect places to take a load off and enjoy your favorite comfort food.
So whether you’re longing for a taste of the cherry soda you enjoy as a kid, you’re looking to warm with a hot sandwich or a cup of soup on a hot day, or you’re dying to indulge your sweet tooth, hop in the car and head straight to one of Michigan’s many soda fountains and lunch counters.