A quick hop off Interstate 80 in eastern Iowa, the Wilton Candy Kitchen might be the oldest soda fountain in the nation. The building in which it’s located was built in 1856, and fiz-biz historians trace a candy shop on this spot as far back as the 1860s! Today’s Candy Kitchen dates back to 1910 when a young immigrant named Gus Nopoulos came to town and rented the place to make chocolates and sell soda and ice cream.
The old chocolate molds are now in storage upstairs, and the Egg Malted Milk is no longer on the menu as a morning special for those who didn’t have time for breakfast, but the Wilton Candy Kitchen continues to serve ice cream treats as it has for more than a century. Now run by Wilton native Lynn Ochiltree, the Candy Kitchen is a trip back to a world of long-forgotten concoctions such as a pink lady (strawberry, cherry, and vanilla flavoring), an oddball (strawberry and vanilla), and a dipsy doodle (six different flavors). You can also get a hadacol (root beer and cola), the name of which the late George Nopoulos explained: “They ‘hada call’ it something.”
In this mixological wonderland, when you order a Coke or a cherry Coke, it is not poured not from a glass or bottle. It is mixed to order, using water carbonated on-premises and Coke syrup. Many years ago when we met him (he was in his 90s then), Mr. Nopoulos lamented that Coke syrup, once a fountain staple in every American town, was getting hard to find. “We’ve got to go all the way to Cedar Rapids for it now,” he told us as he deftly constructed our triple-ice-cream, double-syrup, whipped-cream and nut-sprinkled, cherries-on-top banana splits.