William Barber Goolrick founded the pharmacy in 1869 after returning from serving in the army of the Confederacy in the Civil War. The business has been in this location since the 1890’s. The soda fountain was installed in 1912, making it the oldest continuously operating soda fountain in the U.S. The May family bought the place in 1990, and Steve May has been manning the pharmacy for the last 18 years.
Goolrick’s is a fixture on Caroline Street, and you often see visitors taking photos of it. On the bleak February Saturday that we stopped in, the place was doing a good lunchtime business. Tourists visit for the vintage experience, and locals stop in for a quick bite. The soda fountain’s menu is completely classic, featuring a few breakfast items, simple sandwiches, sodas and ice cream treats. No burgers, no fries, nothing fancy. It’s a great place to take kids, because there are plenty of kid-friendly choices: hot dogs, grilled cheese, PB&J, and ice cream for dessert. And what kid doesn’t love to sit on a big stool at the counter? My husband and I shared a big bowl of chili, we each had a sandwich (BLT for him, egg salad for me), and we shared an egg cream, because what else would you order at the oldest soda fountain in America? All for a total of $13.48, about what you’d spend for lunch at a fast food chain. And about that egg cream: the classic recipe includes neither eggs nor cream, just milk, seltzer, and flavored syrup, mixed up to give it a frothy head.
And here we end our series of iconic eateries. Oh, there are many more little family-run restaurants that we plan to go to, but on reviewing the list more closely, I realize that they are all old-timey, small town Southern places, but they can’t all be “iconic.” Allman’s, Carl’s and Goolrick’s stand out as being uniquely associated with Fredericksburg, and all have gotten some attention from food or travel writers from outside the area. But whether the other places are iconic or not, we’ll continue eating in as many as possible. Luckily, I’m on the all-carb diet.
A big bowl of chili to warm up with on a cold day:
Two sandwiches, egg cream to share:
Soda fountain up front, pharmacy in back:
The friendly staff behind the counter: