Soda Fountain Drinks and Nostalgia at The PO

Cafe on the Green

The Cafe on the Green is a popular gathering spot for Gunnery students, who can easily walk there from campus during the school year for cold drinks, burgers and time spent with friends. This summer, “the PO,” as it is affectionately known to students and generations of alumni, is also drawing a steady stream of local residents and visitors, who come for coffee, breakfast and lunch, or perhaps just the opportunity to soak up a little nostalgia in this idyllic New England village.

According to longtime Gunnery Archivist Paula Krimsky, the PO has been in continuous operation since the 1900s, and functioned as a pharmacy and small grocery in the 1940s and 1950s. “David Hoadley '51, told the story of many trips to the PO as a student. His standard order was a 10-cent Coke and a Frisbie Pie,” Krimsky noted in her written history of the PO. “Henry Gibson '32 used to recall his youth every so often by sitting on the old turning stools and savoring a chocolate malt.”

The old-fashioned soda fountain and lunch counter are still there, although after many decades of service the machinery no longer works. Recently the cafe recently began serving up traditional soda fountain drinks, such as Barq's Root Beer floats, a Black Cow (made with Coke, chocolate syrup and ice cream, and a Boston Cooler (ginger ale and vanilla ice cream). There's even a drink inspired by The Gunnery's athletic teams, and school founder Frederick Gunn's Scottish heritage. Dubbed The Highlander, it calls for a chocolate protein drink, one banana and caramel syrup blended with ice. In August, the cafe also began advertising chocolate and vanilla milkshakes “for a limited time only.”

Customers can sit at the lunch counter or one of the high-top tables to enjoy a fresh fruit smoothie or one of the cafe's signature sandwiches, which are served with house-made potato chips or (for a small additional charge) french fries, beer-battered onion rings or a side salad. Current top-sellers include a crispy chicken, bacon and ranch wrap, the Philly cheesesteak, grilled burgers and the Reitman Wrap. Named for its inventor, Tim Reitman '14, who won a contest for the best sandwich idea, it includes cheddar and Monterey Jack, chicken tenders, french fries, bacon and Thousand Island dressing, all inside the wrap.

“It's very filling. I tried to eat one once and only got through half of it,” said Terry Childs, supervisor for the cafe's food services staff. Caesar salads and Cobb salads are popular, Childs said, noting that the Cafe also serves Farmer Brothers coffee, cappuccino, espresso and lattes. The choco-latte, a blend of espresso, chocolate syrup, milk and ice, is a student fave, and during the school year, the cafe goes through a case of milk every two days.

The breakfast menu includes everything from omelets made with cage-free eggs to pancakes, French toast, a breakfast burrito, fresh bagels and pastries that are delivered daily from New York. “Everything is made to order,” Childs said, but he noted the Cafe also offers grab-and-go salads, fresh fruit cups, yogurt parfaits, ice cream novelties, and Ben and Jerry's cups and pints for customers who are on the go.

This summer, Childs has noticed more local residents have been coming by as well as the landscapers, contractors and tree service employees who may be working nearby. Some are “discovering” the cafe for the first time, and others have been coming in for years. “When Pilobolus is in town, the dancers come up,” he said, and last week, a mother and daughter posed at the soda fountain for pictures. They were visiting from Israel and made it a point to stop at the cafe, which some fans of TV's “Gilmore Girls” claim was the inspiration for Luke's Diner.

“It's like a hidden gem,” John Wilson, director of the school's dining services, said.

Additional Images

vintage soda fountain

The vintage soda fountain at "the PO"

Terry Childs

Terry Childs serves a customer at the counter