Sweet Nostalgia

Step back in time to a vintage Old City soda counter serving a gourmet array of ice cream and deliciousness from days gone by. 

If you’ve been to Philadelphia and craved ice cream, there’s a good chance you’ve made your way to Franklin Fountain in Old City. The historic old-fashioned ice cream bar seems like it’s been there for decades, maybe even centuries.

With homemade flavors and hand-mixed sodas made with syrups and carbonated water and antique-looking décor, I wouldn’t have been surprised if Ben Franklin himself had gone and ordered a banana split or mint chocolate chip milkshake. Unfortunately, our founding fathers did not get to enjoy a refreshing ice cream cone after a long day of planning our country because the shop has only been on Market Street since 2004.

While the ice cream shop is not ancient, its home — 116 Market Street — is a turn-of-the-century building that has been there since the early 1900s. About a year before the shop opened, founders Ryan and Eric Berley’s father purchased the building, at the time a bakery, charmed by its tin walls and porcelain floors. Eric was finishing his studies at William and Mary College, and Ryan was working as an antique trader when they proposed the idea for Franklin Fountain, heavily inspired by their childhood home, which was filled with antique ice cream shop pieces.

After college, Ryan studied under an ice cream chef in New York. Inspired by the leadership of the businessman and Founding Father Benjamin Franklin, the brothers decided to use him as a namesake for the shop, contributing to the legacy of Franklin in Old City. (In fact, Ben Franklin’s grave is only blocks away at Christ Church Burial Ground!)

The storefront officially opened in the summer 2004, featuring homemade ice cream with all local ingredients and old-fashioned sodas. The milk for the ice cream is sourced from farms in Lancaster and Berks County, while fruits, nuts, and chocolate for flavoring are obtained locally. The honey used for some of the flavorings is produced on the roof of the building! Cones for the ice cream are also homemade, but if you opt for a “bowl,” you’ll be served in one of their easily identifiable custom Chinese takeout containers. Somehow, the ice cream just tastes better that way!

The founders’ family passion and work history in antiquing helped them source amazing old-fashioned ice cream shop pieces. All the décor inside the store looks antique, and it is! When you visit, take a moment to notice even the tiny details like ceiling fans, ice cream scoops, and soda syrup bottles. Even the servers’ uniforms make you feel like you stepped outside Philadelphia and into a nostalgic time in American history. It’s an immersive, old timey experience that’s fun for locals and tourists, alike.

My favorite ice cream flavor at the shop is either Sea Salt Caramel or Chocolate Fudge Brownie. There’s also a wide variety of toppings, add-ins, and vegan flavors. For soda, you can try classic flavors like cola or venture out for a specialty flavor like Rose Soda or one of their ice cream soda concoctions. Whatever your style of nostalgic, cold, sweet treats, Franklin Fountain has you covered!

Franklin Fountain
116 Market St|
franklinfountain.com for menu, delivery, history, more.
Open every day 11am to Midnight
Ice Cream Bar Open Weekends (Fri 5pm – 11pm; Sat 2pm – 11pm; Sun 1pm – 10pm)

COMMENTS WELCOME! Any other Franklin Fountain fans out there? What’s your favorite treat? Any other great ice cream spots in town? Always open to your tips and recommendations for great local places and menu items to try. Please chime in below, or catch up with me on Instagram, @gingersliketoeat.

Read Eleni’s last Local column, “Philly Fresco,” here.

About Eleni Finkelstein 21 Articles
Eleni Finkelstein (aka @gingersliketoeat on Instagram) is a South Jersey and Philadelphia-based food blogger and journalist. She loves traveling, trying new foods, and cheering on Philly sports teams. You can check out her book, "Eat Like a Local: South Jersey" on Amazon.

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