Just across the way from the small, mid-century Model Pharmacy is a huge, modern Walgreens. We have nothing bad to say about the latter (At 3am in a strange town, where else can you count on finding club soda, Raisinettes, and Chapstick?), but we have everything good to say about Model Pharmacy. Here is a small neighborhood store that seems unaffected by modernization and conglomeration in the retail business. You walk in past an old-fashioned drug counter, past shelves of perfumes, toiletries, and tasteful souvenirs, and behold: a beautiful little dining area where ladies and gents come for breakfast and lunch, or quick snacks at the counter or a scattering of tables.
According to Jane, the inventory of hair-care products and make-up includes rare items she’s seen in no pharmacies anywhere else in the world (and Jane is a pharmacy fanatic). Michael lets her be in charge of all that, because he is busy at the lunch counter, choosing a meal from the enchanting retro menu. Most of what the kitchen makes is classic quick-eats fare: sandwiches of tuna salad, egg salad, chicken salad; peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat with a small bowl of potato chips on the side; lovely grilled cheese with or without ham. Beyond the “ladies-lunch” repertoire, this is a fine place to have a taste of true New-Mex green chile stew: a chunky meal made of spoon-size pork nuggets and rough-cut vegetables veiled in pepper-sharp potage.
Soda fountain capabilities are impressive. You can have a sundae, a split, a milk shake, a malt, a soda, a float, an egg cream, a phosphate, a Rickey, or an ade. When we asked for a chocolate shake, we were queried: “black-and-white?” (made with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce) and “Did you say shake or malt?” Blended in copious quantity using a groaning Hamilton-Beach mixer, shakes are served in a tall tulip glass accompanied by a second helping in the silver mixing beaker.
There’s a full menu of espresso drinks, which is especially useful to know about because Model is a great place to come for a cup of coffee and a serving of the justly-famous house specialty: hot fruit cobbler. Made with peaches, cherries, or blackberries, big pans of it are set out under spotlights near the counter for all customers to see and admire; and when you order a serving, the aroma of the dish as it is set on the marble counter before you will bowl you over. As for the taste, it is virtually intoxicating, so intensely fruity it reminds us of high-proof dessert wine.