Columbus, IN: Christmas at Zaharakos Ice Cream Parlor

The last Christmas-themed post I have for you this year is a big one. On Christmas Eve we went to Zaharakos Ice Cream Parlor for lunch (warning: link has auto-play old-timey ice cream parlor music). Zaharakos is one of my family's favorite places to go in Columbus (my dad is obsessed with ice cream and they have a great sundae). Zaharakos has been here since 1900. It was intensely renovated a few years ago (a good chunk of the work was done by a good family friend) to bring it back to its glory. In terms of novelty, it's definitely the best place in town (says the girl who adores old time soda fountains!). The food is good too and dessert is even better, if you have room.

And if you go at Christmastime, the decorations will blow you away. Zaharakos is located on Washington Street downtown, right across from the Commons Mall. Parking on the street in downtown Columbus is free but you may wind up parking a block or two away to get a spot, depending on what time you go.

My favorite view of the restaurant is right after stepping in the door. The soda fountain counter, which stretches on for ages, is Italian marble. Several times in high school and on break from college, my friends and I (and sometimes just me, after going to the library) would pop in here and sit at the counter for a chocolate coke from the fountain. The counter is my favorite place to sit when at a soda fountain (I feel like maybe if I changed my clothes, it would suddenly be 1950). We were here with my parents, brother, and his girlfriend, so we took a normal table instead of the counter (much easier to talk at a table).

There are three rooms on the main floor. The counter (above), a back room (below), and the room where the museum is (farther below). The back room's entrance is amazing even without Christmas decorations, but it looked even better like this.

At the back of the back room is one of the highlights of Zaharakos - a player piano. Growing up, this was THE reason to go here (besides the ice cream, of course). The original player piano is unfortunately sold and gone, but the new owners bought this one to replace it and it's just as good as the old one. Player pianos are so cool and they sound good, too.

The newest section of Zaharakos is the museum room. The new owners started collecting old soda fountains (and some other old things, like cash drawers) and started a soda fountain museum in half of the restaurant. It's such a cool room. The soda fountains are all completely gorgeous, and with the decorations up they look even better. You are not allowed to touch the fountains (for good reason) but each of them have a description that you can read and appreciate the beauty.

The museum side also has a little store where you can buy candies, old time toys, and some Columbus history related items and books.

Here are a bunch more soda fountains and Christmas decorations from this room:

The other really cool part of this room is that there's a banjo-orchestra and it really works!

Put a quarter in and out comes music.

It was set up to play Christmas tunes. For each quarter you got one song, and it played them in the order below. If you scroll to the bottom of this post, I put in two videos I took of the orchestra playing.

We were seated in the museum room for lunch and enjoyed being surrounded by the museum collection and right next to the banjo-orchestra (our playing it the first time set off a long chain of families coming to put in quarters).

There are all kinds of options for eating (I had the pork tenderloin) and drinking. Obviously I recommend getting something from the fountain. I originally got a chocolate coke, but unfortunately it didn't taste the same (not sure what was up; normally I love chocolate cokes) and the server let me switch it out for a chocolate ice cream soda. It was great!

My brother got a Green Monster, which looks insane (it's violently green) and his girlfriend Mikala also got a chocolate coke (which she liked, so maybe something was just up with my taste buds). Eric got a vanilla coke which was tasty.

If you need a spot for some beautiful Christmas photos, you should definitely go here and get some. The trees are just gorgeous! This was next to the banjo-orchestra and we had quite the photo shoot.

The whole place is gorgeous and fun (all the time, not just Christmas). I definitely recommend coming here if you are in Columbus. They close early -- 8pm -- so time appropriately. And come hungry so you'll have room for an ice cream sundae.

Zaharakos closes for a couple of weeks every January for winter maintenance, so they are actually closed right now until January 24th (when they reopen). But put them on your to-go-to list!

Columbus, IN: Christmas at Zaharakos Ice Cream Parlor Columbus, IN: Christmas at Zaharakos Ice Cream Parlor Reviewed by Maria on 11:17:00 AM Rating: 5


  1. We've only been there a few times, but we love Zaharakos. I was hoping there would be sound with your videos!

    1. Brian, thanks! There was definitely supposed to be music - it should be fixed now!

  2. Cool -- that's much better. I haven't seen the banjo orchestra; we've only ever sat by the piano.


© Maria Schwartzman. Powered by Blogger.