You’re riding in your ’53 Corvette, top down, two of your closest friends riding along. You pull up to your favorite diner, order the fizziest root beer float on the menu, and twirl the blonde you’ve been eyeing all night by the jukebox.
Think less “You’re the One That I Want,” and more “Blue Suede Shoes.”
Now, the greatest generation and millenials and everyone in between can experience that old-school Americana without the need for a time machine.
That’s because the smiling soda-sweet faces behind Worthington’s Sock Hop Soda Shop are keeping that endless summer going, a 1950s-style mobile diner available for private parties that go wayyyyy back. From chili dogs to root beer floats, it’s like American Graffiti on four wheels.
“I remember doing a 75th birthday event for a guy who used to be a country club caddy back in the ’50s, where he wasn’t allowed any food—they only got the scraps,” said Andy Marks, longtime grill cook at the Sock Hop Soda Shop. “When he was sitting with his Frostop root beer cone, he literally had tears in his eyes remembering when he was 13 or 14-years-old and couldn’t enjoy one.”
Creating an unforgettable yet immersive experience for multigenerational clientele is what Sock Hop employees hang their paper hats on. Motivated by her late grandfather’s unfulfilled dream of owning an ice cream parlor, founder Terri Levine, soda shop “queen,” also wanted to see a real ’50s-era diner in Columbus—so she created one herself.
“The fashion, the food, the music—I wanted all of those things,” she said. “I wear saddle shoes and a soda jerk uniform—clothes from a period where soda jerks were typically men.”
Soda jerks in the ’50s were fountain attendants who served soft drinks and ice cream, so seeing a 50s-inspired dining experience being pioneered by a woman just goes to show that Columbus has a true gem on its hands.
Marks thinks Levine deserves credit for pioneering such a novel homage to the past.
“Imagine if Happy Days came to life on your front yard or the lobby of your office building—she recreated an entire era,” he said. “It’s one thing to start a business, it’s another thing to invent one.”
Even though Sock Hop only does private events and company parties, if you have the pleasure of seeing their truck in person, Levine and Marks have a couple of recommendations you must try.
“The ice cream float—it’s refreshing, sweet, and reminds me of the ’50s,” said Levine. “The pairing of the Velvet ice cream with the Frostop cone; to me, that’s our symbol.”
While Levine sticks to the classic keystone float, Marks leans toward the heartiest “World’s Greatest Dog,” piled high with sweet peppers, melted cheese, relish, chili, fresh grilled vegetables … and just about everything else on-hand, topping-wise.
This isn’t just a tribute to the old days—it’s a tribute to Ohio, too. Above all, Sock Hop Soda Shop prioritizes homegrown ingredients in all their made-to-order menu items.
“We’re multigenerational Buckeyes born and raised in Ohio, and it’s been our home since the day we were born,” said Marks. “Our truck was made in Grove City, our ice-cream scoops were made by a craftsman in Cleveland; and being a small and growing business in
Columbus, we have a real love and appreciation for this town and small business owners and entrepreneurs.”
Even though Sock Hop operates as a mobile diner with a truck, don’t confuse them with any other food truck you’ve ever seen in Columbus.
“Everyone has walked over to a food truck and bought food before,” Marks said. “But when people come up to the soda shop they don’t just get food—they get stories, an experience … we are the event and that’s why people love us!” •