Green Line Apothecary: The “Aesthetic” of old school cool

Exterior photo by Meg Coss.

The moment you learn most soft drinks began their lives as medical elixirs is always an enjoyable experience. Yes, Dr. Pepper was invented by a licensed pharmacist. Pepsi gets its name from its medical claim to relieve dyspepsia. And, there is some historically medicinal basis behind your grandma prescribing ginger ale to calm a troubled tummy.


The soda fountain, a bar stocking flavored syrups, fizzy, and ice creams, was a staple of the traditional American drugstore for nearly a century. So it’s only natural that Green Line Apothecary – at the corner of Ever Green and North Main (right on RIPTA’s R-Line) – would merge the seemingly disparate establishments of eatery and pharmacy.

From the late 1800s up through the 1950s, the pharmacy was a natural “third place” for the teens of Anytown, USA to congregate. These neighborhood drugstores were where rural folks held their mail, where young kids picked up penny candies and comic books, and where teens found their first jobs as soda jerks.

A bartender will grab you a ’Gansett. And a mixologist will pour you a Manhattan. But at the same place where parents picked up their prescriptions, a soda jerk might make you a lime rickey, an egg cream or any of those classic virgin cocktails that have mostly fallen out of favor with the younger crowd.

But Green Line Apothecary is bringing back the old school cool. In Providence’s Mount Hope neighborhood, the neon glow of Green Line’s “Pharmacy” sign shines bright. Outside the shop, you’ll find a modest fleet of retro-styled Chevy HHR panel vans – all kitted out in green and white – offering prescription delivery to patients registered with Green Line.

You might remember the building as an aquarium and pet store a few years back, but now it’s a portal to an idealized past. From the brass and dark wood art deco doors, to the bubble gum machines that line the entryway, to the tinplate ceiling and stainless steel ice cream bar, Green Line is a beautiful place to be.

The soda bar. Photo: Meg Coss

And it’s beautiful for everyone too. If you sit for a while at the bar, you’ll see moms and their young ones sharing a bowl of ice cream, an elderly couple reliving their first date over a phosphate or a float, and highschool kids wandering in and out, debating which malted milkshake to get.

Whether you partake in Dry January or not, the neighborhood apothecary offers a pleasant alternative to bars and pubs and an invaluable neutral zone for meeting strangers somewhere other than bougie cafés saturated with studious twenty-somethings.

I have a personal creed to avoid restaurants where everyone there looks like they vote the same. And Green Line passes the test. As a neighborhood store that offers necessities and pleasures, it welcomes a healthy mix of folks and discourages no one.

As you might expect at a health-conscious eatery, all of the food and drink is allergy friendly. Most of their creamy ice creams are also available in an oat-based vegan option. And, the entire bar is safe for those with severe gluten allergies – the only gluten items being the malt… and the Weekend Waffles.

Oh, yes. Every weekend you can enjoy a hearty serving of fresh-made Belgian waffles, available all day (one will probably do for most folks, but get two if you’re really hungry). They’re dairy-free and vegan – made with just enough oat flour to give them a subtle flavor, but not so much that they taste like your earthy-crunchy friend made them before a day of hiking. If you’re not into the whole vegan thing, don’t worry. These are not “alternative” waffles. They’re delicious in their own right, and the fact that they’re vegan is just a bonus.

It’s not just the food that’s welcoming though. Everyone there – from the soda jerk to the pharmacist to the other customers – is kind and warm. There’s something about the nostalgia play that seems to make everyone happy to be there. From the little Green Line jingles that play between throwback songs on the PA, to the ’50s inspired cartoon adverts around the shop, Green Line’s aesthetic values style as well as substance.

As an apothecary, you can expect not just tasty soft drinks, but also a skilled pharmacist. You can pick up your prescriptions day and night (or get them delivered). You can get a quick and painless flu shot or COVID booster while you wait for your ice cream. And, Green Line also offers compounded medications.

If your doctor prescribes a medication in a dosage different than what’s available as mass-produced – or if you need a prescription free of certain allergens – the increasingly rare compounding pharmacy can be a life-saver. If you’re looking for a good shake, or a bottle of Advil or just someplace warm to wait out the winter blues, stop in on a Saturday morning for waffles and a flu shot. Say, “Hi” to Nasirah if she’s there. And pay that warmth forward. The world will be better for it. And so will you.

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