Watson's Drug & Soda Fountain - Orange
There are few places like Watson's Drug & Soda Fountain left in America, and even fewer in Orange County. So it's no wonder when movie crews and politicians need a Norman Rockwell backdrop to go with their stories of bubble-gum American folksiness, this is the place they flock to. And that's exactly what Tom Hanks did in making "That Thing You Do" -- a movie about how a small-town rock band made it big.
In 1995, his film crew set up camp and used the whole of Old Towne Orange to double as Erie, Pennsylvania circa 1964. In it, he found a perfect character actor in Watson's Drug and Soda Fountain. With formica and chrome, "Liver and Onions" on special, and red checkered tablecloths with swivel stools to match, it oozes nostalgia without even trying.
Both a functioning drug store and a diner, its interior is a space so eeriely classic, so suspended in a long forgotten decade, that I half expect Andy Taylor to mosey in, saddle up at the counter, and order a slice of apple pie and a chocolate malt -- which just happens to be a specialty of the house.
Made with Carnation ice cream, cold milk, and malt powder, this is a shake that costs $4.95. That's right. A five-dollar shake. But it's one that Vincent Vega himself would approve of.
It's served up in the frosty metal container from the mixer, with an empty soda glass into which it's to be poured. The first sip is transcendent, full of memories and fondness. The malt -- more refined than a regular old shake -- has a nutty, milky sweetness to it; the kind of cozy flavor which transports my brain back to the innocence of childhood and warm-fuzzy recollections of watching Saturday morning cartoons in my pajamas, a cool glass of Ovaltine in my hands.
From Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction"
Goddamn! That's a pretty f***in'
good milk shake.
I don't know if it's worth five
dollars, but it's pretty f***in'
And since the concoction is hand-spun to order, the consistency of the chilly brew is simultaneously creamy and icy, charmingly imperfect with miniscule pellets of frozen milk that melt on the tongue the moment it's detected.
I inhaled the first glass through my straw, but realized I had another full glass coming when I poured out what was left in the metal cup. It was then that I discovered: there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.
While the first glass was heaven, each successive drag of the second was exponentially less enjoyable. By the time I had sucked down half of it, my body decided it had just about enough of the malt. Overloaded, overstimulated, and overindulged on butterfat, I summoned all of my strength to suppress my body's resistance to it, and to drink the rest without throwing up.
So the next time you see me at Watson's, I'll be sharing my two-serving malt -- ideally out of the same glass with two straws, as if I was in a Norman Rockwell painting myself.
Watson Drug & Soda Fountain
116 E Chapman Ave
Orange, CA 92866