It’s high summer here in Philadelphia, and that means it’s hot, sticky, and sweaty out — which is the perfect excuse to duck into your favorite air-conditioned establishment for that holy grail of summertime sips: the milkshake. Part ice cream, part beverage, all cooling, creamy deliciousness to help take your mind off the heat.
We’ve put together a list of some of our favorite spots to indulge in a drinkable midsummer sweet treat. With (multiple!) vegan options, gelato frappés, and even (omg) pie-boosted versions, our list will guide you to the perfect milkshake.
Bassets Ice Cream, Market East
The city’s oldest ice cream maker, located in Reading Terminal Market, is a tourist go-to. But Philadelphians love its thick shakes in classic flavors like butter pecan and updated flavors like salted caramel pretzel and ponegranate-blueberry chunk. That’s how you stay open for more than 150 years.
Franklin Fountain, Old City
Old-timey brothers Eric and Ryan Berley offer a dazzling array throwback dairy treats and drinks from a bygone era, from egg creams and sundaes to phosphates, punches and rickeys — and of course, milkshakes are on the list too. Get yours in flavors like black raspberry, caramelized banana, or Hydrox cookie (it predates the Oreo!), with malted and vegan options available, too.
Frankford Hall, Fishtown
We suppose any of the milkshakes on our list could get you tipsy if you surreptitiously add a little booze when your server isn’t looking. Luckily, the geniuses at Frankford Hall thought of everything and decided to take care of this for you. The beer hall offers up shakes in orange creamsicle, honey graham, and Jack (as in Daniels) with s’mores, plus seasonal options — all of which come pre-spiked but can be made without alcohol by request.
Capigiro Gelato, Midtown Village, Rittenhouse, East Passyunk
Okay, so they’re not technically milkshakes, since Capo’s best-in-the-world frozen goodness is gelato, not ice cream. But you’ll find this cool, creamy option on their menu as “frappé (gelato milkshake),” which is good enough for us. We’re dreaming of their oh-so-rich avocado gelato all buzzed up with local milk — and maybe a swirl of dark chocolate.
Magpie, Graduate Hospital
In our opinion, Philly is utterly blessed to have a pie-focused spot like Holly Ricciardi’s Magpie — but she’s got so much more going on than just baked goods. At Magpie, they’ll throw a whole slice of any of their sweet pies — like butterscotch bourbon, blueberry crumb, or key lime strawberry — into the blender with a vanilla ice cream base. We’re seriously not worthy.
Shake Shack, University City, Rittenhouse, King of Prussia
Hey, it’s right there in the name — and the frozen treat game of this New York-based paragon of ethical fast casual backs that up. They use cage-free eggs and natural sugar (not corn syrup) in their frozen custards, which form the base for their hand-spun shakes. Grab one to go with your antibiotic-free burger in flavors like salted caramel, strawberry, vanilla, and fair trade coffee.
We’ve already waxed poetic about the dairy-free shakes at CookNSolo’s latest fast-casual venture. But these sweet treats, made with tehina from Philly-based Soom Foods, are so next-level we’ve gotta say it again. Great for vegans and non-vegans alike, these ultra-creamy frozen drinks come in plain, chocolate, Turkish coffee, and coconut, served with a sprinkling of crispy, crunchy halva on top.
Village Whiskey, Rittenhouse
Jose Garces’ tony, burger-and-brown-liquor-focused spot elevates everything it serves to be just a little extra special. And of course, their desserts get the same treatment: finish your meal with decadent shake made with toasted marshmallows, Nutella, or (our favorite) butterscotch made with Maker’s Mark.
Joe’s Steaks + Soda Shop, Fishtown, Torresdale
The old-school sandwich and shake joint revamped its name and added a Fishtown location recently, but its classic vibe harks back to its founding in 1949. Their shakes — in classic flavors like black and white, banana, and mint chip — are the ideal next move after a steak and fries. It’s a perfect midcentury meal.
Millie’s Burgers, Steaks, & Shakes, South Philly
This luncheonette-style spot just west of Broad Street and Oregon Avenue serves up just about everything — and that variety extends to the specialty shakes section of the menu. Order up a shake in Orange Blossom, Fluffernutter, German Chocolate, or Tropical Storm. (We’re partial to the Reese’s Pieces option.)
Hip City Veg, University City, Rittenhouse, Washington Square West, Avenue of the Arts
It’s a fact that patron saint of Philly vegans Nicole Marquis knows how to make our favorite foods vegan without sacrificing taste, texture, or overall deliciousness. And the shakes at Hip City Veg are no different. In addition to her so-creamy-I-can’t-believe-there’s-no-dairy banana whips, her shops serve up soy cream shakes in three standard flavors — chocolate, vanilla, and orange creamsicle — plus a rotating menu of seasonal flavors. This July and August, it’s a cold-brew mocha shake made with La Colombe coffee, perfect for a steamy summer morning.