Saturday, January 10, 2009
Brookdale Soda...The Best I've ever tasted
Growing up in Newark New Jersey in the 60's and 70's, I was exposed to the best food and drink you could ever imagine. I knew it too, and I can look back now and realize now how magical of an era it was in America's history. I could spend weeks and weeks talking about the different foods and beverages the inner cities of the Northeast had at their fingertips but for this post, I will discuss the greatest soda I have ever tasted. First and foremost, Brookdale Soda's main plant was located in Clifton, New Jersey. As the company grew through the years, they built locations to buy the product in Bloomfield, Newark, Fairfield. When I was real young, one of my older brothers Richard, worked for them. In the early days, the soda came to you. It was usually on a Saturday morning that the big truck with all the blue crates of colored soda would pull up to the house, all exposed of course. What a highlite to pick out your own flavors for the week. The driver we had was this big man whose name was "Gus". He became a friend of the family, and he would go into the cellar and get the empty bottles and after you picked out your 12 bottles, he would carry it on his shoulder back into the cellar. The flavors chosen were usually the same and went like this. 3 bottles of "Cola" which was a excellent substitute in case you didn't have any Coca Cola in the house. Because everyone in the family loved "Orange", we had to have 3 bottle of it. . Had to get 1 each of Birch Beer and Root Beer. Black Cherry wasn't my favorite but it was for most people, so I had to get 1 of those. It was also called "Cherry and Cherry Pit". Had to get at least 1 Cream, it was so good. And my all time favorite soda Lemon/Lime... After Brookdale went out of business, I have never had any brand of soda make anything that came close to Lemon/Lime. I miss it to this day. Sometimes due to house parties, we had to get the Quinine, or Tom Collins mix and I never got Grape soda. Once in a while my mother had to get the half and half which was a Grapefruit Soda. It actually tasted real good. Years later when I had my restaurant in Montclair, New Jersey, I displayed a bunch of Brookdale bottles both large and small with a few blue crates. Customers would comment all the time on how it was the best soda they ever tasted. One day a gentleman came in the store and asked me where I got the bottles. I told him I collect everything under the sun especially if it has a link to my childhood. He then said he was the owner of Brookdale and as joke I bowed to him and he laughed. We talked for a while and he said the soda business of course got too big and competitive, and since Coke and Pepsi were now gigantic companies, Brookdale couldn't compete. So of course my obvious question to him was what made that soda taste better than any other. He said that there was water supply over in the Brookdale Section of Bloomfield that was only available to Brookdale. I also asked him where is the 30 foot bottle that was displayed for years on Route 46 in Fairfield. He said someone did have it he didn't know who. If you lived in the greater Newark area which included Bloomfield, Belleville, Nutley, from the 1950's to the 1980's, it was a good chance that Brookdale soda was in everyone's cellar. It really was the best soda I have ever tasted. As a matter of fact, after they closed, I have never even tried a bottle of Orange Soda. When I had my store in the early years, I had the old-fashioned Coke Dispenser that made soda taste the way it's suppose to. The best soda out right now is Boylan since they still use Cane sugar and not Corn Syrup, but it still doesn't beat Brookdale.