Zaharakos’ remarkable authenticity caught the eye of film producer Robert Moniot, who used the ice cream parlor as the central set for his film The Ice Cream Man.
The Real Deal
Some buildings have it. A distinctive quality old-building lovers call “a sense of place.” It’s something that can’t be artificially replicated, though plenty have tried.
Some places consciously embrace that quality, proudly showcasing their historic features to attract attention. Others are less deliberate about it, quietly channeling their history via long use, tradition, and deep community roots. In all cases, these are places where original architectural character and authentic stories combine to create something unique.
In downtown Columbus, Zaharakos is one of these genuine articles, an old-fashioned ice cream parlor that’s lured patrons for more than a century with the promise of Green River floats and Gom sandwiches. With two early nineteenth-century Mexican onyx soda fountains, a Tiffany-style lamp, 50-foot Mahogany backbar, and Italian marble counter, the restaurant offers a visual feast to complement its culinary creations.
James, Lewis, and Pete Zaharako founded the Columbus institution in 1900, and members of the Zaharako family ran the restaurant for over a century, until Lew Zaharako passed away in 2006. Concerned that the fabulous interior fixtures might be sold off piecemeal, a group of Columbus residents explored purchasing and restoring Zaharakos. Eventually, local businessman Tony Moravec decided to buy the local landmark. His two-year restoration returned the place to its early 1900s grandeur, the era when the Zaharako brothers purchased two onyx soda fountains they’d seen on display at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. Moravec’s comprehensive overhaul included restoring the classic fixtures and marble counter, re-installing carved tin ceiling tiles, and refinishing maple woodwork and brass chandeliers.