Old-school burger-and-shake joint a crown jewel of Black Diamond

Located about an hour southwest of Calgary is Black Diamond, Alta. On the town’s main drag you’ll find Marv’s Classic Soda Shop, just before the four-way stop on your left.

Immediately a friendly waitress named Ruby, dressed in a uniform that reminds me of the movie “Grease”, greets me.

The walls are spotted with nostalgic décor including posters of legends from Marilyn Monroe to Elvis Presley. Even on a Wednesday afternoon in the middle of winter, over half of the nine booths are filled with customers.

“If you never lived in the ’50s, you can live it here. It’s alive here,” said Marv Garriott, shop owner.

(From left to right) Shop owner Marv Garriott, Ruby Fortier, and Lori Clarke dressed in their authentic uniforms at Marv’s Classic Soda Shop.
Photo by: Donella Swan

The menu features options like the hot and spicy “Marilyn Monroe” burger, the quarter-pound “James Dean” burger and the “Elvis” burger containing peanut butter, banana, lettuce, mayo and tomato.

Each time the “Elvis” is ordered, Garriott will come out and sing a tune for the whole place to hear, since “Marv himself is quite the musical man,” said Lori Clarke, a cook at the diner.

She also said that all of the burgers are freshly made, and can include their freshly cut, homemade fries which are soaked in a special seasoning overnight to give them their unique flavour.

Then comes the dessert. The shop has quite the selection of ice creams, milkshakes and malts. The most unique dessert is the carbonated ice cream. This is something that Garriott has been working on for years to get it right.

The ice cream is served in an old-fashioned glass dish, and topped with the shop’s own brand of malted milk powder. This concoction of carbonated ice cream and malt powder, which Garriott calls a “Dusty Trail,” is the creamy consistency of regular ice cream, but sits a little lighter in the stomach.

Garriott said it offers fewer calories than the average ice cream due to less sugar added. He mentioned that there have been customers that claim to dislike ice cream but fall in love with this dessert.

The “Dusty Trail” is just one of the wonderful treats offered at Marv’s Classic Soda Shop.
Photo by: Donella Swan

Besides the mouth-watering menu, there is a social aspect to the soda shop. Garriott mentioned that the booths are purposely built lower so that people can interact with one another.

“You can’t help but get into people’s business that way,” Garriott said, with a chuckle.

There has been a new addition to the shop since October of last year. Garriott and his wife adopted Pecos, a 35-year-old African Grey Parrot after going on a vacation together. Pecos was only meant to stay the duration of their trip, but he made a lasting impression and is now a permanent resident in the shop. He chats with the customers and sings along with Garriott.

Gwenn Smith enjoying her strawberry milkshake.
Photo by: Donella Swan

Gwenn Smith, a regular at the soda shop, said the bird adds a nice touch.

She said that the place offers an atmosphere that is second to none and that when she has company coming, she is sure to bring them there for a special treat. Smith likes the place so much, that she and her husband celebrated their 50th anniversary at the shop.

“I have to get my milkshake fix,” said Smith.

After enjoying a good meal and dessert, you may want to leave with more. The shop is stocked with over 150 unusual choices of old-fashioned candy. Some of these include Raspberry Drops, Beemans Chewing Gum, Horehound Twist and more.

For more information visit Marv’s Classic Soda Shop’s website.

dswan@cjournal.ca