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Holding It All Together-Vanilla: The Best And The Worst

By Amy McCollom
I like vanilla ice cream.  I especially like vanilla milkshakes.  Other flavors are good sometimes too, but if you don’t start out with a good vanilla base flavor, the ice cream just won’t taste right.  It’s all about how good the vanilla is to start with.

Have you ever had a vanilla coke?  You should try it.  Ever had ice in your milk?  Try a capful of vanilla in ice milk.  Next time you have ginger ale, you guessed it.  Add a dash of vanilla.  Vanilla just gives food and drink a touch of something creamy and wholesome.  Add it to your coffee, your tea, your ice water.  It would be a sad world without vanilla.

When I was a child, my first trip to a restaurant involved my mom ordering my food for me.  Later, I recall going to Burger King for the first time and when my siblings and I were asked what we wanted, this was said:  “I want a fish sandwich and a coke and fries!”  “I want a cheeseburger and a chocolate shake and onion rings!”  “I want a hamburger and a vanilla shake and fries” : to which my mom responded — “They will have three cheeseburgers, three strawberry shakes, and three fries.”  And it remained that way until I was over 18 and out of the house.

Once free to choose my own choice of food, I finally got what I wanted; I ordered my first vanilla milkshake!  It wasn’t just plain milk flavored like my mom had said!  It was delicious!  And ever since then, that has been my favorite ice cream splurge.

I love vanilla milkshakes so much that I wanted to find the perfect vanilla milkshake and share that information with everyone.  So, a couple of months ago I began a mission to do just that.  I used myself as a human guinea pig for the sake of mankind.  I have taste-tested a number of vanilla milkshakes in order to give you my personal opinion on how I would rate each one of them.  Yes it was quite a job, but you, my friends, are worth it, and quite welcome.

Number 6.  Worst on my list would have to be Burger King milkshakes, because everytime I tried to get one, the shake machine was broken. I tried to go to various Burger King restaurants in five different cities, and none of them had a working shake machine. So boo to Burger King.

Number 5.  Next to worst would be McDonald’s.  Although their shake machine was always working, the vanilla milkshake itself tasted chemically with a strange bitter end-note.  The whipped topping seemed to sink to the bottom of the cup quickly and the creamy texture had no ice-bite.  The last one I got even had a hair in it.  Gross!

Number 4.  Chick-Fil-A shakes were small and tasted funny.  I had trouble finishing it, honestly.  It almost had a pancake syrup taste to it.  I won’t be getting any more from there. And it was a little on the pricey side.

Number 3.  Steak And Shake.  You would think that a restaurant with the word shake right in their name would bring their A-Game when it came to shakes. But honestly, the best thing I could say about the milkshake I got was the cup was pretty good. It was styrofoam and my shake stayed cold longer than in any others. The taste was very plain and not very sweet. It didn’t have much of a true vanilla taste. It was like frozen milk with no vanilla. Not to mention, it was pricey.

Number 2.  Second place goes to Culver’s vanilla milkshake.  Although the ice-bite was good, the flavor was still a little off.  Like I said before, if you can’t get vanilla right, all the other flavors you add aren’t going to taste good either.  The vanilla has to be spot on. This shake was smaller than I had hoped, and the cup didn’t keep it cold.  The straw was strong though.

Number 1.  Number one on my list goes to (imagine an awesome drumroll here) Arby’s!  I know, right!  Famous for their roast beef, and their “We got the meat” slogan, this favorite stop of ours also has the best tasting vanilla shake that I have tried all summer.  Even the whipped cream they use on top of the shake is light and flavorful.  You can taste true vanilla and the texture remains consistent.  

I would be amiss if I didn’t mention that earlier in the year I did get a vanilla milkshake from Hardee’s over by Parkland College, and it was also pretty good.  I might even venture to put Hardees side by side with Arby’s as tied for first, if it weren’t for the restaurant’s limited locations.  But Hardee’s, you do it right too.  

I did not test out Dairy Queen for a few reasons.  One, being that the price of a medium milkshake there is almost $4, and the other is that I did not want to wait in a long drive-thru line to get a milkshake. High prices, and crowds are two things I can’t tolerate.  So no Dairy Queen review from me.  

I hope that this mission has been appreciated.  I am making myself available for further missions to taste-test tacos, sub sandwiches, macaroni, sno cones, donuts, or other assorted foods at the request of the masses.  Just email me at with suggestions.  Let’s keep holding it all together!

(The views and opinions expressed in the submitted columns are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of The Journal.) 

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