This has been a difficult year for small businesses. With the no-indoor-dining rule still in effect, Mom & Pop restaurants, with none of the financial reserves of the big guys, have had to be creative. With the Metropolitan Museum of Art opening soon, we thought it a great time to visit the oldest family owned luncheonette in New York City, right around the corner from the Museum.
Walking into the Lexington Candy Shop is almost like walking into a Museum of a different kind. Now owned and operated by John Philip, the grandson of the original owner, it has been lovingly preserved.
The display windows are filled with vintage bottles and cans, and also include Coca Cola toy trains and trucks. The collection is constantly growing. Framed pictures of customers over the years have included Sir Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, Matt Dillon, Tome Brokaw, Al Roker & many many more.
Behind the counter, customers will find the original coffee urns dating back to 1948 (below) and the original Hamilton Beach milk shake mixer from 1940 (above), where real malt powder is still used for malteds. Lemonade and orange juice are freshly squeezed and the syrup for your Coca-Cola still comes from a pump.
Chocolates were made in the basement until 1948, when the home-made candy was discontinued, and the shop turned into a full-time luncheonette, serving milkshakes and burgers, with breads made just a few blocks away at a bakery founded in 1916.
John has seen a lot of changes in the neighborhood since he first started working for his father and his grandfather in the shop. Of all the local businesses on Lexington Avenue when he started, the only one remaining is the Lyric HiFi, across the street.
The luncheonette is a favorite among locals on the Upper East Side, and also a favorite in movies, commercials and TV shows, including Fading Gigolo, Three Days of the Condor, and The Nanny Diaries. It’s also a great place to rent for a very cool party.
The Lexington Candy Shop has had to be creative, with indoor seating still off-limits. But when you’ve been around for 95 years, you have a lot of fans happy to still be able to do takeout and take advantage of outdoor dining on a nice summer day.