Ice cream: a quintessential summertime treat. Give one of these shakes a go and you’ve got yourself the perfect way to main-line an icy treat on a hot summer’s day.
1936 42nd St NE, Cedar Rapids
An expansive menu can create a spell of ordering-induced anxiety for me. The menu board in Parlor City’s front windows boasts an overwhelming 50 flavors for shakes, so I was in rough shape when I approached the order window. Without a seasoned pro to guide my choice, I landed on Chocolate-covered Pretzel. The shake was sweet and thick and required a bit of work to pass through the straw due to the big chunks of pretzel, but armed with a spoon and the luxury of time, it was no problem. I consulted the menu again with the pressure off. While perfectly pleased with my choice, perhaps Red Raspberry would have been even better. Or Key Lime Pie. Or Pistachio.
Verdict: Go with a regular and take their suggestion — you’ve got all summer to sample the menu.
Hamburg Inn No. 2
214 N Linn St, Iowa City
I’ve lived in Iowa City for 14 years and miraculously had never consumed a famous pie shake. What took me so damn long, I’m not sure. Soft-serve ice cream is thoroughly blended with Yoder’s Bakery pie in a stainless steel tumbler and topped with whipped cream and a cherry. The Chocolate Bourbon Pecan pie shake had buttery crumbles of pie crust — a delightful combination with the light, blended ice cream; the chocolate-y filling provided just enough contrasting flavor without overpowering. I was pleasantly surprised that most of my shake could be sucked up with a straw aside from a few stray pieces at the very end; as a newbie, I was expecting a chunkier mix. I’ll be back again soon to make up for lost time.
Verdict: Choose Hamburg for a bit of nostalgia and a classic diner treat.
Great American Popcorn Company
1121 3rd St SE, Cedar Rapids
Trying to ignore the wafts of hot buttered popcorn was an exercise in willpower, but I reminded myself I was there for the ice cream. Shakes start with Madison, Wisconsin-based Chocolate Shoppe ice cream offered in a manageable variety of flavors, blended with milk, resulting in a smooth and creamy drink. Pistachio ice cream would have been great scooped in a cone or a dish, but in liquefied form, with no chewing or lifting a spoon to my mouth repeatedly, I wolfed down my shake in record time. When I finished, there was hardly a drop of ice cream and only a few crumbled pistachios. Embarrassed by the speed at which I consumed my shake, I thought it best to leave those last few nuts at the bottom rather than sheepishly asking for a spoon.
Verdict: Slow down and savor — if you can!
Zombie Burger + Shake Lab
180 E Burlington St, Iowa City
Spiked shakes are a recent addition to the menu at Zombie Burger’s Iowa City location. I was eager to try one of these liquor-infused concoctions in the comfort of my own backyard sprawled on a lounge chair. Unfortunately (but understandably) these adult shakes are only available for dine-in with proof of ID. The shakes boast swirls of cereal and cake batters; the Human Centipeach mixes vanilla ice cream, white cake batter, peach puree and graham cracker crumbs with a shot of cake-flavored vodka. Everything is perfectly blended so you can sip it all through a straw, and the alcohol is well-balanced by the other ingredients, so you hardly notice you’re sucking down booze with your ice cream — which could be good or bad.
Verdict: Order a spiked shake on a lazy summer afternoon when your sugar crash and alcohol-induced lethargy won’t spoil your plans.
This article was originally published in Little Village issue 222.