I wasn’t born with the proverbial silver spoon in my mouth, but instead a plastic straw. I came into the world with a taste for frozen Cokes, one I’d acquired in utero. And not just any frozen Coke, but the ones from that Little Rock institution, the Hop. My mother drank them when she was pregnant with me, as did I when expecting my own daughter. Now she too craves them. Call it a sugar addiction if you want to, but I like to think of it more as a sweet continuity.
I’m not proud of this. And I would never suggest that pregnant women should ingest something so unhealthy. I’m just stating the facts.
Let me say at the outset that a distinction must be made between a real frozen Coke and that poor imitation they call an Icee. The difference is vast, like that between pure driven snow and sidewalk slush. One has just the right balance between ice and cola and holds its shape, while the other quickly melts into a syrupy mess.
When I was pregnant with my first child and living elsewhere, one of my first and last stops while in town was the Hop. Now, the frozen Coke has proven to be an effective bargaining tool with my children, a reward for good behavior and an incentive to complete household chores. Not that I’m advocating a rewards-based system of behavior modification either, but in our house, it’s cold, hard currency. Coke is also, as everyone in the South knows, a tonic for the sick child. Southerners have long attested to its medicinal properties, and a frozen one? That’s downright therapeutic. Sore throat? I’ll just hop over to the Hop. General ennui? Same cure.
The Hop also offers what is, hands down, the best malt in town. Their secret? Soft-serve ice cream. This translates into manna for the malt lover. And we haven’t even mentioned the tots, Frito pie or burgers.
Now they’ve opened a new restaurant downtown (right beneath the offices of this publication at the corner of Markham and Scott). For the nostalgic among us, this change is a sad thing, even though they will just be a hop, skip and jump down the road. They’ll keep the Cantrell spot open through June. Thereafter, though, there will be no more loitering on that hot asphalt in the summer waiting for a cold drink. No more leaning into the counter like a barfly, watching the eyes of the frozen Coke machine spin like tape reels. No more placing your order through the small screened window, like you’d place a bet on a horse you know is a sure thing.