The Franklin Fountain

The Franklin Fountain sign, showing a man in a white uniform, mixing sodas.The Franklin Fountain is that most wonderful of things, an old-fashioned American ice cream parlour. Yes, I know this is the Coffee Spot, but every now and then I’m allowed a little indulgence and this is one such occasion. Besides, The Franklin Fountain serves coffee. Not that I’ve ever had any, mind you; I’ve always been too busy scoffing the ice cream.

Although it celebrates its 10th birthday this summer, The Franklin Fountain recreates an authentic turn-of-the-century ice cream parlour and soda fountain. It’s a lovely spot, with a mosaic, tiled floor, old tinned walls and ceilings and two belt-driven ceiling fans. It serves some truly gorgeous ice cream, with 20 different flavours, as well as sorbets and various sundaes.

It’s also extremely popular. Most of the times I passed by, there were queues out of the door (keeping in mind that this was back in March and the temperature had just gotten above freezing; I hate to think what it’s like in the summer!). It does a brisk trade, a lot of it takeaway, but there is limited seating inside and a couple of tables out front, not that there’s much chance of getting a seat in the evenings!

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • The view from my hotel window in Philadelphia... I spy a familiar sight!
  • It's the Franklin Fountain, as seen from street level.
  • There's no queue because I took these shots in the morning before it opened!
  • And for comparison, from my visit in 2011.
  • Some of the vintage signs in the windows.
  • The counter, as seen through the front window.
  • With all the queues, it was hard to get shots at the front of the store. This is from 2011.
  • Mind you, nothing much has changed! Roughly the same view from 2014.
  • I had better luck from the back.
  • The Franklin Fountain through the looking glass.
  • One of the big tables at the back.
  • And the other one, as seen in 2011.
  • The rest of the seating is squeezed in beside the counter...
  • ... or outside on the sidewalk.
  • There are lots of vintage things in the store. I never did find out if the phone worked!
  • The till was my favourite though. It's gorgeous!
  • Here it is in action.
  • The espresso machine, behind the till, might be the most modern thing there!
  • Lovely stained glass.
  • I was particularly taken by the belt-driven cooling fans... And the tin ceiling...
  • ... and the lights, of course!
  • There were some lovely light shades.
  • I also liked the wooden display case at the back of the store.
  • Just time for a quick game of spot the syrup!
  • So, to business. Cake? Not today, thank you.
  • You can have your ice cream in a variety of cones...
  • although I had a box for my takeaway option. This is from the Friday night.
  • By Sunday night, I'd decided to sit in (and got a table!).
  • On no! My ice cream is escaping! What I am going to do?
  • Disaster averted! So that's what the spoon is for!
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My trip to Philadelphia in March might have been my first with my Coffee Spot hat on, but I had been, briefly, to Philadelphia once before in 2011, with my friends Jeannie and Mark. I didn’t see too much of the city, but I do remember finding a lovely, vintage ice cream parlour down by the river. The Franklin Fountain, I think it was called…

Fast forward to 2014 and my host, Greg of Coffee Guru App fame, arranged for me to stay at Penn’s View Hotel, at the bottom of Market Street, overlooking the Delaware River. It’s a lovely, old hotel and, as Greg drove me there, I thought I passed a familiar sight on the opposite side of the street. Sure enough, when I got to my room, facing Market Street, I opened the window and there it was, The Franklin Fountain! Now, if that’s not fate telling me to go, I don’t know what is…

Now, dear readers, with that sort of temptation, it was only a matter of time before I crumbled, but I want you to know that I was very restrained, only visiting once a day! In fact, I visited once each evening, saving The Franklin Fountain as my end-of-the-day treat. Twice I took the ice cream back to my hotel room, but on my final night (Sunday), I got a table and experienced The Franklin Fountain to the full. However, I’m getting ahead of myself!

The Franklin Fountain occupies a long, thin, corner plot on Market and Letitia. You enter through the main door on the corner, two big windows either side, one on Market Street, the other on Letitia Street, providing plenty of light. Immediately in front of you is the first part of the counter, where the ice cream is kept in big tubs. You order here and can also try the various flavours.

Once you’ve made your choice and told your server (clothed in white apron and old-fashioned hat), you move down the counter to pay. Meanwhile, your server makes up your order and then brings it out to you.

The counter itself is a thing of beauty. Marble-topped and with marble sides, it takes up most of the left-hand side of the store, running three-quarters of the store’s length along Letitia Street. The till’s also a beauty, old enough to rival my favourite in Soho’s Bar Italia. Unsurprisingly, The Franklin Fountain is cash only!

There are five two-person tables lined up opposite counter, then, beyond the counter, a small seating area at the back has two five-person tables (where I sat in 2011). There’s also a door to Letitia Street, so you don’t have to fight your way past the queues to get out.

So, to the ice cream. On Friday, I had two scoops, Vanilla and Maple Walnut. As gorgeous as this was, this was actually too much ice cream, so on Saturday I had just one scoop, Vanilla, with a classic Hot Fudge Sauce topping. On Sunday, it was Rocky Road with Hot Caramel Sauce, a delightful concoction that was soon collapsing under its own weight, requiring emergency propping with the spoon!

My only complaint is that The Franklin Fountain’s not open early enough for ice cream for breakfast. Unless, of course, I just get up later…

116 MARKET STREET • PHILADELPHIA • PA 19106 • USA +1 215 627 1899
Monday 11:00 – 00:00 Seating Tables, Tables Outside
Tuesday 11:00 – 00:00 Food Ice Cream, Cakes
Wednesday 11:00 – 00:00 Service Counter
Thursday 11:00 – 00:00 Payment Cash Only
Friday 11:00 – 00:00 Wifi No
Saturday 11:00 – 00:00 Power No
Sunday 11:00 – 00:00 Mobile N/A
Chain No Visits 7th, 8th, 9th March 2014
12th February 2016

Liked this? Then take a look at the Coffee Spot Guide to Philadelphia for more great coffee Spots.

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