We lucky Phoenicians have options when we want to doo-wop and bee-bop and slurp down some milkshakes at on old school soda fountain. Simple, rich ice cream is the base for any good malt or shake, but our favorite old school drinkeries offer a variety of flavors that range from classic to just plain strange. While MacAlpines and Bertie's both use vintage equipment to perfectly mix up their milkshakes, one definitely out-flavors the competition.
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In This Corner: Bertie's Vintage
The Setup: Half women's vintage clothing store and half soda fountain, Bertie's of Arcadia sprung up late last year and earned an instant place in our hearts. The tucked away location in the strip mall on the southeast corner of Thomas Road and 40th Street might take a little work to spot, but this slightly hidden gem is worth the search. The small vintage bar with surrounding tables behind the retail clothing section is definitely more throwback than legit vintage, but we love a little nostalgia now and then.
The Good: We love Bertie's friendly service. Nothing beats a tasty milkshake with some genuine conversation. It's something you just can't fake. Another plus for Bertie's is their use of Thrifty brand ice cream, which is a favorite of ours. Finally, we love their unique flavors named after era appropriate celebs, like the PB and banana Elvis Presley and the choco-mallow Buddy Holly. One of their best flavor combinations is the Marilyn Monroe, with pineapple, French vanilla ice cream and a wedding cake flavor shot.
The Bad: The only real complaint we could muster is that their whipped cream, which was delicious and homemade, could have used a touch more sugar to make it sweeter. We definitely weren't griping though.
In The Other Corner: MacAlpine's Soda Fountain
The Setup: MacAlpine's has been in Phoenix way longer than we even have. MacAlpine's endurance alone should be a testament to its goodness. Past the musty vintage furniture for sale in the entrance, the authentically old school joint serves up milkshakes, malts and egg creams the good old-fashioned way. The sea foam green milkshake machine alone should be cause for excitement.
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The Good: If you want tons of milkshake flavors, MacAlpine's can certainly keep you occupied this summer with everything from cherry cheesecake to dill pickle. The strawberry shortcake shake is smooth, creamy and exactly like it was when we were kids.
The Bad: The flavors are pretty much exclusively derived from flavor syrups, making them taste fake. Plus the whipped cream was watery and pretty disappointing--we don't care how many sprinkles you put on it. Plus the smell of old clothes and furniture coming from the adjoining store is unmistakable and distracting.
And the winner is... Bertie's. While MacAlpine's shakes are nothing to sneer at and their nostalgic digs are totally legit, we think Bertie's wins with unique flavor combinations, perfect consistency and a really swell staff.