Wiles-Smith Drug Store
1635 Union Avenue
Even though it was a bit chilly outside, I had a hankering for a milkshake. Mostly because a foodie friend of mine had just reminded me that the Wiles-Smith Drug Store existed and that the cherry milkshakes were to die for.
What a great place to take the monkeys! (Satchel, 5, and Jiro, 3) I thought enthusiastically. So enthused was I, that I invited our friend, Vanessa, and her three-year-old monkey, Miles, who are in town visiting, to join us.
When we walked in, it was bigger than I remembered. (I only remembered the counter, not the 4 or 5 tables and three booths.) It was Saturday morning, around 11:30am, and the place was packed. (With several families I might add.) It was packed enough that we couldn't sit at the counter, but thankfully not so packed that we couldn't get a table. We had to borrow a couple of chairs and immediately launch into negotiations to get the monkeys away from the adjacent shelf-o-goodies.
They all played dumb, like, "What do you mean we can't eat Life Savers before lunch? Who said anything about lunch anyway? All we heard was milkshake. How is candy different from a milkshake?"
Once in their seats with their hands and pockets empty (except for Jiro who 100% refused to relinquish his stash), the monkeys started making demands. Satchel, who can now read about 25% of a menu immediately said, "I want a hot dog." Jiro quickly said he wanted a grilled cheese, but inexplicably changed his mind, committing to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Miles requested ham, just ham, on a plate.
Our deliberations had lasted a good 5-10 minutes and we hadn't seen hide nor hair of a waitress which was worrying me. (Okay, we could see her, but she was not making eye contact with us.) "Maybe they only serve one table at a time," I tried.
Meanwhile Warren and Vanessa were seemingly looking at me for some sort of recommendation of what to order, but all I said was, "Melissa said to get the cherry milkshake, that's all I know."
"That sounds gross," Warren said.
"Well, apparently it's not," I replied.
"But you don't even like cherries," he said.
"That's not true," I replied.
Before he could open his mouth again, I said, "Why do you care?"
"Oh, I see, you want to split a milkshake with me, don't you?"
"No," he lied.
Vanessa said she wanted to order hers after she ate her soup, which certainly made sense.
Both of these were good things because Satchel, Jiro, and Miles all asked for milkshakes and we were not prepared for the immenseness of them. Like, we probably should have ordered one or two for the six of us to share. I should also mention that when we ordered, the waitress (who happily came over once we let her know we were ready) was very sweet to the children and had no problem handling Vanessa's special request for a "ham sandwich, minus the bread, no, make that half of the bread, but plain" as well as her later request to turn the remaining half of Miles' milkshake into a chocolate one.
I had a hunch that when we walked through the door and stepped back in time about 70 years, that we were not going to be able to use our credit card. The waitress confirmed this. "Cash or check," she said. Warren was dispatched to the money machine and I took on the task of getting the monkeys' paws free of filth.
We headed back to the restrooms, which were adjacent to (and within easy reach of) the pharmaceuticals that give Wiles-Smith Drug Store its name. A few years ago, the monkeys would have surely run wild through the pharmacy, jumping on shelves, shaking prescription bottles, and generally wreaking havoc, but today they dutifully went potty and washed their hands.
Back at the (most awesome Formica) table, Vanessa and I tried to keep the monkeys entertained with a game of "I Spy." After a few rounds we switched to "Guess the animal." When it was my turn, I was at a loss until I saw the stuffed porcupine on top of a shelf in the back of the store. (I actually thought it was a beaver, but Warren, who now had $40 in his pocket, set me straight.)
Our food started to arrive. Somehow Vanessa, Warren, and I all ordered vegetable soup, which turned out to be not at all what I expected. (I expected a tomato base.) It looked and tasted like they had dumped a can of peas, a can of corn, a can of green beans, and a can of cubed potatoes in a pot and heated them up. (Judging from my bowl, they might have used 10 cans of peas to every one can of something else.) Vanessa and Warren politely ate theirs, possibly even enjoying it, but I couldn't.
My grilled cheese was good--pretty much what you'd expect from a grilled cheese--but I had to give half of it to Jiro, who insisted that he did not order a PB&J but a hot dog. Satchel, who did order a hot dog, said that it tasted "weird" and he did not want it. Warren, who was now eating Jiro's PB&J since he couldn't get any of my grilled cheese, offered to trade the PB&J for the hot dog. Satchel took him up on the offer, but said he couldn't eat the PB&J because it was too "sloppy."
"And what's wrong with your cherry milkshake?" I asked.
"It's too sweet," he said.
Clearly he wasn't hungry.
So now in addition to the hot dog and my soup, Warren inherited over half of a gigantic cherry milkshake. And later, most of Jiro's chocolate one.
Once everyone was done, Satchel finagled a bag of chips off of the shelf-o-goodies and very sweetly shared them with Miles. I grabbed the check and Warren's money--all of it--and went to pay at the pharmacy register. There was a young woman ahead of me who actually had a prescription filled so I had a moment to read the funny little jokes that were pinned on the wall.
I also took in the inventory a bit--the shelves were thinly lined with soap, shampoo, toothpaste, and other necessities. There was a large unit about 30% full of greeting cards that were worn yellow with age. (Had I been monkey-free, I would have wandered over and read through them.) Behind the counter was a nice selection of condoms, personal lubricant, and the "morning after pill". (I wondered if this supply was in response to staff's demands for fewer children in the restaurant or the parents' demand for child spacing.)
Charlie, the pharmacist, looked at my bill, hollered over to the waitress to check a few prices, and then started to ring up my order on his old-timey cash register. (I made sure he added the candy and chips that the monkeys pilfered.) Our grand total? $37.53.
How did that happen? Everything on the menu appeared to be cheap, cheap, cheap. The milkshakes were the most expensive item at $3.25.
Next time, we'll stick with the "one milkshake per every two or three people" rule and maybe skip the food entirely. Unless one of my dear readers can steer me towards something worth eating on the menu.