Mint Chocolate Chip Milkshake at Gott's Roadside
We may be lacking in hot summer days in San Francisco, but we sure know what to do when we do get them. On a rare 90 degree-er this June, I hightailed it to the Ferry Building for an al fresco lunch at Gott's Roadside. Of course, no hot day is complete without a milkshake ($5.99), and nothing cools quite like mint chip ice cream. Gott's nailed this particular shake. A thick blend of excellent ice cream (Double Rainbow, the real San Francisco treat), the mint chip ice cream was full of dark chocolate chunks, substantial enough that they had trouble fitting through the straw. While I deemed this a negative at first, the resulting pile of mint-coated chocolate proved to be a huge, huge added bonus.
Vanilla Milkshake at the Palo Alto Creamery
The Palo Alto Creamery created my standard of milkshake excellence at a young age. The Creamery is a spot I always go when I'm home, for nostalgic purposes, in part, but mainly because everything there is undeniably excellent. So returning for a milkshake with this round-up in mind, I suspected that my childhood memories of perfection might be slightly disproportionate. I ordered vanilla ($5.95), in order to keep things as simple as possible. And I needn't have worried, for the shake that arrived was as simply, perfectly delicious as it had always been. Frothy and creamy, this milkshake is drinkable upon arrival, needing no time to melt down. It's a milkshake that causes you to slurp at the bottom of your glass, lest you miss a single drop. Whipped cream is an extra charge, but I say skip it—this milkshake needs no adornment.
Palo Alto Creamery
Black and White Milkshake at St. Francis Fountain
The Creamery may be my home base for milkshake perfection, but the St. Francis Fountain make a remarkably close second place. Their black and white ($4.00 for a small, $5.75 for a large) manages to be creamy and thick while still maintaining a drinkable consistency. Made with Mitchell's ice cream and chocolate syrup, this is a diner shake as it should be—simple yet decadent, and completely classic.
St. Francis Fountain
Anastaysia's Milkshake at Roxy's Cafe
Of all of the milkshakes I tried, Anastaysia's ($3.50 for el nino) at Roxy's Cafe was one that led to a revelation. "HOW IS THIS SO GOOD?!" I exclaimed, while slurping in another mouthful. You see, I'd had avocado ice cream before. And it was pretty good. And I love avocado on just about anything. But this blend of vanilla frozen yogurt, almond milk, and ripe avocado was so creamy, so rich, so deliciously decadent tasting that I had to remind myself that this milkshake I was drinking could be considered (sorta) healthy. The shake was nicely sweet thanks to the yogurt and almond milk, and the avocado flavor came through subtly.
Brownie, Pie, and Straight-Up Milkshakes at Chile Pies & Ice Cream
We've been hearing about the legendary pie milkshake ($8, pictured) at Chile Pies & Ice Cream for a while now, in which an entire slice of pie is blended up with Three Twins ice cream in an intensely caloric combination. So, we figured we'd give it a shot. We went for a slice of their lemon buttermilk pie, in part because it was one of the favorites in our recent San Francisco pie round up, and in part because it seemed like it would be a perfect pairing with Three Twin's lemon cookie ice cream. We prepared for the gimmick to taste, well, gimmicky. Instead, we found that we could not stop taking spoonfuls of the rich, creamy, shockingly good blend.
But what good is trying a pie milkshake without sampling a plain one? We tried a straight-up shake made with lemon cookie ice cream ($6). It was less creamy, less intense, but equally delicious—the quality of the ice cream really came through here, and we liked that this was a shake one could actually finish by oneself. But we didn't stop there—they also offer brownie shakes. We combined mint confetti ice cream with a fudgy, chewy brownie, and the result was excellent. Hunks of dense, chocolately brownie paired perfectly with the mint ice cream—this is a shake we shouldn't want to finish alone, but probably would.
We couldn't pick our favorite of the three—all are excellent options, ranging from the deliciously drinkable to the dangerously decadent.
Chile Pies & Ice Cream
Salted Coffee Caramel Milkshake at Greenburger's
Salted caramel might be all the rage these days, but that doesn't mean that all the milkshakes made with the flavor are created equal. Our favorite is the salted coffee caramel shake ($6.00) from Greenburger's, the shiny, newish burger joint in Lower Haight. Blended to a creamy, straw-friendly consistency, this milkshake is a stellar example of good caramel flavor balance. The coffee kept it from getting too sweet, and the hint of salt provided a delicious, interesting dimension.
Coffee Cookie Dream Milkshake at Fenton's
What is it that makes the coffee cookie dream milkshake ($5.95) at Fenton's so good? Maybe it's the coffee ice cream, so delicious that we kept drinking many sips after being full. Or the pile of cookies waiting for your spoon's eager arrival at the base of the glass. Or, maybe it's because Fenton's, being a serious Oakland establishment, knows milkshakes in a way that only true ice cream professionals can. I don't have a better answer than that for you, milkshake-lovers. All I know that Fenton's has been packed decade after decade, with milkshakes on every table, for a reason.
Fenton's Creamery & Restaurant
Dutch Chocolate Milkshake at Saturn Cafe
If you're looking for a good vegetarian diner, Berkeley and Santa Cruz would seem like good places to start. And you'd luck out, for in both of these veg-friendly college towns you'll find a Saturn Cafe, purveyor of delicious, down-home diner fare for the meat averse. Like any diner worth its salt, Saturn makes some pretty excellent milkshakes. We're big fans of the Dutch chocolate ($5.25), a thick, scoopable shake topped with a healthy dollop of freshly whipped cream. The Dutch chocolate flavor is excellent—not too sweet, and with the faintest suggestion of mint—and a sprinkling of chocolate chips add a nice texture to every bite.