Friday, November 23, 2012

For Shake's Sake

Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction

"That's a pretty f*cking good milkshake. I don't know if it's worth five dollars, but it's pretty f*cking good." I won't pretend to know as much about milkshakes as John Travolta's Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction; but I think I can recognize a f*cking good shake when I taste one. We set out to find DC's best milkshake (both over and under five bucks, thank you very much.) Here's what we came up with...

Potbelly Sandwich Shop
: I've always had a soft spot for the shakes here, so what better place to start? Conveniently located (for me, anyhow) at 4300 Connecticut Avenue, near UDC, I try to visit Potbelly at least every other month. All I get is a shake, and for $3.19 (after tax) how can you go wrong? Classics (vanilla, chocolate) cost $2.90; Real fruit (strawberry, etc.) $.30 more. My most recent purchase was of the chocolate variety. I'm always amazed at how agreeable the sales associates are here, when you order a (time-consuming) shake. Kudos!

My Potbelly shake was gorgeous to look at (love the two tiny cookies wrapped around the top of the straw) but on the thick side. Some folks prefer thick (I don't.) I wish all places would ask how you like yours prepared: Thick certainly takes longer to consume. I normally order strawberry or vanilla, but the chocolate here has a distinctive bite that's hard to describe (other than it's not all that appealing.) It's still refreshing and sweet, but not one of my overall favorites, and certainly not my top choice at Potbelly. Stick with vanilla, and don't be afraid to ask for more milk if you like yours drinkable.

Grade: C-

Potbelly hand-dipped shake

McDonald's: Before you take me to task, consider this: Where else in the Washington Metropolitan area can you find a chocolate milk shake for under two bucks? $1.99 to be exact. It's been so long since I tried one, I came to find out they no longer make small, medium and large but rather a one size McCafé Chocolate Shake (fancy, right?) 12 ounces of reduced fat ice cream never tasted so... blah. Sorry, but I seem to remember McD's shakes as creamy, delicious and bad for you. Believe it or not, I had to talk the cashier out of putting whipped cream and a cherry on top. What's the world coming to? The McCafé shake isn't all bad, but the chocolate tastes fake and after 10 minutes, it started to taste like Hershey's syrup. I'm willing to try it again (vanilla, this time... and still no whipped cream and cherry) but for now, I have to give this milkshake wannabe a...

Grade: D+

McCafé Chocolate Shake

Burger King: Thank goodness Burger King didn't copy McDonald's shakes entirely. While the cups look suspiciously similar (both 12 ounces and see-thru) BK gets the edge for using soft serve ice cream, instead of McD's reduced fat alternative. BK's chocolate hand spun shake is blended with chocolate sauce (pretty well, although there was some at the bottom) and tastes closer to what fast food shakes used to. I skipped the sweet whipped topping, but still enjoyed my shake (a really good value for $2.19 + tax.) At least Burger King does something better than McDs.

Grade: C

BK's Chocolate Hand Spun Shake

Ray's Hell Burger: Best known for its overhyped burgers, Ray's true calling card should be/is their incredible shakes. Their chocolate shake with whipped cream and chocolate sauce is a true work of art... hands down, the best tasting shake in town. P.S. Love the blue straws!

Grade: A

Chocolate Shake at Ray's Hell Burger

Bobby's Burger Palace: It turns out, my favorite burger joint makes a pretty mean milk shake too. After witnessing a huge victory by the GW men's basketball team, I decided to celebrate with one of BBP's $5 shakes. My flavor of choice? Pistachio. Dare I top it with real whipped cream? Normally not, but how often does GW beat a 16-3 team by 28 points? The result? Pure deliciousness. For starters, it tastes of pistachio and whipped cream... Nothing else. Coupled with the thickest straw in town, my only disappointment was that it didn't come in a bigger glass. I can't wait to try blueberry-pomegranate and mango on my next couple of visits. Almost as delicious as Ray's Hell Burger.

Grade: A-

BBP's Pistachio Shake

Shake Shack
: Word has it that Shake Shack makes the best milkshakes in New York. Knowing New Yorkers as I do, that's a mighty good endorsement; but does milkshake mastery travel well? I've yet to be impressed by their food, but Shake Shack's Caramel Shake ($5.50 after tax) proved tasty enough. It's a little pricey for 12-15 ounces (it's a small cup) but that's fast becoming the norm nowadays. Packed with 750 calories, 84 grams of sugar and 23 grams of saturated fat (115% of your RDA) this shake is a heart attack waiting to happen. Shake Shack combines soft serve and premium ice cream, which produces a drinkable shake (no spoon required.) There was a hint of caramel, but not enough to call it a caramel shake... It tasted more like plain 'ol vanilla to me. It's good enough, but nowhere near the best (Bobby's Burger Palace, Ray's Hell Burger.)

Grade: B

Shake Shack's Caramel Shake

Wendy's: Believe it or not, this was my first Frosty. Don't get me wrong: I've heard of it, but how often do you pop into a fast food restaurant to buy a milk shake? I ordered a small chocolate Frosty (very affordable at $1.39) to "wash down" my lunch earlier today (February 22, 2013.) Just one problem: It's not a milk shake. Evidently, I should have ordered a Frosty Shake (which comes with whipped topping, real cocoa and I assume more milk... to make it easier to drink. I decided to improvise and let it sit for 15 minutes, allowing it to melt a bit. I was surprised at how rich tasting it was (definitely more chocolatey than Burger King or McD's.) I may even go back for the "real thing."

Grade: C+ (Not bad, once you let it melt.)

Chocolate Frosty at Wendy's

: Arby's isn't telling tales when they label their shakes "thick and creamy." At least the thick part. You might as well just ask for a couple of scoops, or wait at least 15-20 minutes for it to turn into a shake. Take my advice: Bring your own spoon.


Arby's Vanilla Value Shake

Chug: When I first discovered Dean Diary's Chug Milk Shakes at Giant Food, I was a little skeptical. After all, it cost only $1.09 for 12 oz., and sat next to the almond and soy milks. How good could it be? Try really good, thanks to its whopping 440 calories and 66 grams of sugar. As close to a real milk shake as you're likely to find in a grocery store; but be prepared for a sweet aftertaste that takes some getting used to.

Grade: B-

Ben's Chili Bowl: Better than average 16 oz. strawberry shake sets you back $3.55; but what sets Ben's apart is their odd collection of flavors (banana, cherry, pina colada, pineapple... not exactly standard issue.) Thick & creamy, I was able to comfortably sip mine through a straw after about 5 minutes. Sweeter than most, at least I know they use 100% ice cream.

Grade: B-

Ben's Chili Bowl Strawberry Shake

BurgerFi: As if their burgers and dogs weren't reason enough to visit, BurgerFi ups the ante with one of the best shakes in town. Weighing in at 920 calories of deliciousness, the Coffee Mocha Shake redefines coffee and it's relation to all things sweet. Vanilla, coffee (Columbian Espresso, in fact) and chocolate syrup/sprinkles. Yes, I'm in love! P.S. Bonus points for easy to drink (Straw Test: ready to go, after less than two minutes.)

Grade: B+

Coffee Mocha Shake at BurgerFi

Burger Tap & Shake: My first shake at BTS was a winner (it cracked our Top 5) and I've come to realize... it's all in the straw. BTS sports the same monster blue straws as our #1 shake, Ray's Hell Burger... minus the whipped cream, but with all the goodness. Seriously, this is one heck of a shake... nice & creamy with tiny chunks of cookie. Yes, it costs five bucks; and yes, the big straw makes it go fast... but tasty is tasty, and BTS is Top 5.

Grade: B+

Cookies N Cream at BTS

Smashburger: I chose REGULAR over PREMIUM (Butterfinger, NutterButter and Oreo) but couldn't have been less impressed with the Häagen-Dazs-brand strawberry shake for $4.29. Tasted "watered down," with very little strawberry flavor (perhaps too much whipped topping?) Not terrible, but I'll stick to a soda or water next time.

Grade: C

Smashburger Strawberry Shake

and click below to see...