July 23, 2012
Vincent: Goddamn, that’s a pretty f*cking good milkshake!
Mia: Told you.
Vincent: I don’t know if it’s worth $5, but it’s pretty f*cking good.
I love Pulp Fiction and the above bit of dialogue is from one of my favorite scenes in the movie. Those halcyon days when paying five dollars for a milkshake was a noteworthy transaction are now far behind us. Trading an Abe for a ‘shake is pretty much the standard nowadays, but fortunately it is almost always worth it.
My deep love of milkshakes originated back when I was a small boy at the Denny’s Restaurant on Route 51 in West Mifflin. My parents would often stop there to eat before or after a visit to Century III Mall. Regardless of the time of day, I would always order a Grand Slam breakfast and a chocolate milkshake. One of the biggest reasons I fell in love with that Denny’s milkshake was the fact that it came along with the metal canister that was it was blended in. This complimentary sidecar essentially amounted to another half-milkshake. That’s like buying a Honda Civic and getting a Super Cub for free.
My epicurean tastes have matured as I’ve gotten older and I now look for treats with a little more nuance than that Denny’s* milkshake. Currently, birthday cake is my favorite ice cream flavor and I order it in milkshake form whenever it’s on the menu. Most ice cream purveyors’ versions of this celebratory ice cream involve swirls of yellow cake batter and frosting in a vanilla base. This somewhat bulky mixture can present a challenge when it’s translated into a milkshake and is admittedly best enjoyed as a waffle cone. However, I rarely let what’s “best” dictate my decision-making, especially when it pertains to dessert. Therefore, I have found myself enjoying a birthday cake ice cream milkshake just about every weekend this summer. The following are but a few of my recent favorites.
Let’s start with The Milkshake Factory since they put the dessert of focus first and foremost in their company name. This sweet shop is one of the true gems of Carson Street on the Southside. Though the impeccably displayed salted caramels, pecan turtles and chocolate-covered strawberries are quite eye-catching, I always head straight past them towards the back of the establishment to get in line for a milkshake. The birthday cake milkshake they deliver is thick, chunky and nearly enough for two**. The only downside is that there are inevitably some sizable lumps left at the bottom of the cup that are impossible to suck through the straw. Well, for me at least. Maybe you suck harder and won’t have the same issue. Final Call: 5 out of 5 straws.
Next up is Oh Yeah! Ice Cream and Coffee Company. This hipster-haven is located on the bustling South Highland Ave in Shadyside and has an awesome outside seating area. Oh Yeah! offers by far the highest amount of possible milkshake flavor combinations due to their long list of available mix-ins. Selections range from the sublime (graham cracker) to the savory (goat cheese) to the downright cray (turkey jerky). On my most recent visit, I decided on adding Nutella to my beloved Dave & Andy’s birthday cake ice cream. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. The consistency was a little on the thin side, but the traces of chocolaty-hazelnut elevated this milkshake to something akin to a religious experience. Final Call: 5 out of 5 straws.
Last up is the recently opened Sinful Sweets in Upper Lawrenceville. This gourmet chocolatier specializes in hand-made barks, caramels and creams, but they also offer up a mean milkshake. When I last stopped at Sinful Sweets, my requisite dessert of choice was quite literal since it was actually my birthday. The drink was extremely sugary-sweet and could probably be harnessed as an emergency treatment for hypoglycemia. I couldn’t drink one every day, but definitely every other day. Final Call: 5 out of 5 straws.***
* Denny’s has been much maligned in recent years due to numerous complaints involving cleanliness issues and racial discrimination. I for one don’t hold those negative criticisms against them. I mean, if I turned my back on everybody that had poor hygiene and/or was a racist, whom would I talk to at my family reunions?
** “thick, chunky and nearly enough for two” – just like ya mom! Oh snap!
*** If there ever was a television program named Milkshake Idol and I was a judge, I would most assuredly be the Paula Abdul of the show. I just love milkshakes too much to ever be critical.