“Nostalgia” is not the prettiest word. It actually comes from Greek words meaning “homecoming” and “pain.” It’s a feeling we cannot control, but sometimes we can satisfy.
Candy is part of growing up, wherever you are. Problem is, you grow up, you move away, and you cannot find those sweets you remember. Regional candies have not completely disappeared, but they are an endangered species. And finding say, a Mountain Bar from Tacoma, is pretty hard once you cross the Cascades.
So, when I was in Big Top Candy Shop in Austin, Texas, and when I saw a carton of real Mountain Bars, I was impressed. I actually bought one or two. Not the whole carton. I’m not that kind of person. Really, I’m not.
The first two things to know about Big Top is that it is very wide and very, very long. Which means, it can hold very, very, very much candy. Yes, they have Junior Mints, but they specialize in American regional candy treats. They have those Mountain Mars from Washington, Goo-Goo Bars from Tennessee, Sifers Malomilk from Kansas, even Banana Licorice from Turkey. Big Top is a gift from God, at 1706 South Congress Street in Austin, 512-462-2220. Just minutes south of the famed Bat Bridge.
They do have some particular specialties, like the oversized goodies that appear to have attracted the eyeballs of my grandsons. The boys entered the store with money. They left with the money gone, bags in their hands, and actually some IOUs from them in my wallet. I can’t say I spoiled them. I was too busy shopping.
In New York City there are places that advertise themselves as nostalgic candy shops. For them, it means imported items from Europe or at least 200 flavors of Jelly Belly. Big Top is different. It’s real American heritage from the little places many of us came from. If you have candy flashback, do visit or give the friendly staff a call. They may be able to ease that pain.
I was lucky to find Big Top. It’s one of the specialty stores listed in Food Lovers’ Guide to Austin.