When I was pregnant with my first daughter four years ago, a craving for chocolate milkshakes grabbed hold of me. I blissfully spent my pregnancy drinking shake after shake. When I was in the hospital for the delivery, a nurse asked whether I had tried milkshakes all around town and wanted to know where I found my favorite one. I stared at her and then slapped my forehead. What a wasted opportunity! How could I have been so lazy all those months with my boring, lame milkshake choices? I hadn't paid attention and would just grab anything — and this during a time when calories don't count!
So when I became pregnant this year, and the chocolate milkshake cravings kicked in again, I knew what I had to do. This time would be different: I viewed my search for the best milkshake in town as a research project. In the hospital, I would be able to answer unequivocally about where I got my favorite milkshake.
Here are the results of one craving-crazed pregnant lady's quest. But first, I must share with you how much I hate whipped cream and a cherry on top of my shake. Call me a purist, but when the perfect chocolate flavor is interrupted with whipped cream's roasted-marshmallow flavor, it distracts from what I am there to taste. I wish all shops would ask first whether I want whipped cream and a cherry instead of just plopping them on my shake.
1755 East Broadway Road, Tempe
5521 North Seventh Avenue
Lucky Boy Burger Shop
3430 North 16th Street
MacAlpine's Soda Fountain
2303 North Seventh Street
9822 North Seventh Street
1385 East Warner Road #103, Gilbert
Visit www.mcdonalds.com for nearest location
I visited nearly 25 joints over a six-month period. I'll start with those that clearly have no business making shakes. Coincidentally (or not), all are chains. At the top of this yuck list is Ruby Tuesday. Its shake was foamy, thin, and so mediocre that I left most of it and its cherry and whipped cream in the V-shaped sundae glass on the table. The following shakes came recommended, so I truly tried to give them my all. I went to all the fast-food joints in town, and the worst, by far, was In-N-Out Burger. I know everyone loves the burgers, but In-N-Out's shake tasted like warm, cocoa-flavored pudding. It was not cold and was so pudding-like that I could only think it was from an MRE box mix. The shake at Johnny Rockets was too thick, poorly mixed, and had a ratio of chocolate sauce to vanilla ice cream that was way off. I was so unhappy that I had to throw it away after just a few sips. It is sad that even a pregnant lady couldn't choke it down. The final place on the "please stop list" was 5 & Diner. Now, given that "diner" is in the name, you'd think it would make a good milkshake. It didn't happen, though. The shake had too much of an icy-crystal thing going on, it wasn't creamy, and the ice crystals made me think the ice cream was old. The flavor was bland and though I did finish it, I didn't leave satisfied. And again with the whipped cream on top. Don't assume, people.
Now, for those that deserve praise for their shakes' super-tastiness (based on a perfect ratio of vanilla ice cream to chocolate syrup, velvet creaminess, thickness, and smoothness — no chunks or bits allowed). Not surprisingly, it's the local indies who really know how to make a shake. My first mmm, yeah! goes to Ted's Hotdogs in Tempe. At only $3, Ted's shake is a good deal, and the size is just right. Ted's offers a creamy, well-proportioned shake that gets checks in most of the super-tastiness categories.
Lucky Boy Burger Shop also scored high for super-creaminess, a $3 price tag, and a smooth finish. Its too-large size made it a challenge to finish, but it was worth the effort. The restaurant, on 16th Street and Osborn Road, has a fun, old-school dive feeling that is worth a stop, even if you're not a shake lover.
MacAlpine's Soda Fountain gets points for style and substance, with a wonderful, old-fashioned feel — and its chocolate milkshake is the perfect consistency. The shake I drank really tasted as if I'd made it at home (if I wasn't so tired and could actually make myself a shake). MacAlpine's is also a cute shop, and I recommend a visit just to see the cute retro kids who hang out there. And you can afford lunch, too, with the shake taking only $4 from your cute retro purse.
Mary Coyle Ol' Fashion Ice Cream & Yogurt is another serious throwback, and the super-yumminess runs deep here. The shop makes its own ice cream, so the flavor is rich and the shake earns a checkmark in most categories. The cute hot-pink straws are so much fun that I wanted to take some home. My only words of advice to someone who orders a shake: Request that the extra scoop of ice cream be left off the top, because it's an annoying obstacle. Also, don't dare order the large shake. Seriously, no matter the thirst, no one can or should consume a large Mary Coyle shake alone. One day, I sat next to someone who tried and it wasn't pretty. Oh, and bring your wallet. The Pipette-sized shake the smallest offering an adult can order at Mary Coyle, and still quite hefty rings up as the most costly of all I tried, at $5.50.
Just a skip away from Mary Coyle's is a brand-new joint with something to shout about: the Burger Studio. Its chocolate milkshake has room for improvement, specifically in the ratio of chocolate syrup to vanilla ice cream. But the shake made up for taste discrepancies with a creamy texture. This shake rang up at $4, and that felt about right for this clean, urban-modern joint.
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Another worthy spot: Udder Delights in Gilbert. It is a haul from central Phoenix but is so worth it. The chocolate milkshake hit every category of yumminess for me. Udder Delights makes its own ice cream, and you can tell. I will head out there again to taste the potato chip-flavored ice cream. The price is high at $5, but Udder Delights gets props for its giant straws, which I used to suck down the creamy treat effortlessly.
For my final mmm, yeah!, I must raise a waxed paper cup to, McDonald's. Their chocolate shakes are under $2, are available all over town, and they get a big mmm for consistency. The ratio of vanilla "shake mix" to chocolate syrup is perfect, and the shakes are creamy, not too icy, and very smooth. Yes, it is a fake shake and contains seaweed as a suspending agent, but this treat hits the spot every time.
Note: This piece has been edited to accurately reflect the pricing for the milkshake at Mary Coyle Ol' Fashion Ice Cream & Yogurt, which was inaccurate in the print version. New Times regrets the error.