Call this My Summer of the Cheeseburger. I ate at 27 fast food burger joints in Pierce County to come up with a top-10 cheeseburger list, which I’m revealing Friday. No chains, no taverns, no bars, no places with table service. I’m talking burger stands, drive-ins and hole-in-the-wall burger joints across the county.
While on my burger mission, I ordered 25 chocolate shakes and malts to find the best. Here are my top picks in several categories.
Main Street Dairy Freeze
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1402 Main St., Sumner; 253-863-8010
This downtown Sumner eatery blew it on the deluxe with cheese ($5.19), with too much sauce and a sad patty, but shakes clearly are the highlight here. I spotted more than 40 shake flavors on the menu — the longest menu on my tour of 27 restaurants — and a dozen choices of hard-scooped ice cream. I dug the chocolate malt ($2.99-$4.99), but the cookies and cream was outstanding. Also find banana splits ($5.99); sundaes ($2.99-$3.99), floats ($2.99-$4.99) and ice cream cones ($1.69-$2.99).
BEST USE OF CHOCOLATE FLAVOR
3801 E. McKinley Ave., Tacoma; 253-302-3587 or burgerbroiler.com
No malts and only a handful of flavors at this sleek burger stop gave me pause, but of all the chocolate shakes on this tour, Burger Broiler wins for the richest chocolate flavor. Only malt would have made the creamy chocolate shake better ($2.99), but the restaurant doesn’t offer it. They do have frozen yogurt, though. Find this restaurant off 38th and McKinley.
Two restaurants earned nods for shake flavors that went well beyond the fast food standards.
Gourmet Burger Shop
4120 Harborview Drive, Gig Harbor; 253-858-5205 or facebook.com/GourmetBurgerShop
Shakes at Gig Harbor’s Gourmet Burger Shop, a tiny, hole-in-the-wall place off Gig Harbor’s Harborview Drive, were $4.50 each and served in fun flavors — peanut butter banana, Nutella and bananas Foster among the 11 flavors. There also was a grownup boozy shake. I liked that shakes came with an annex glass of more shake. Spillover shake is always a good thing.
Shake Shake Shake
124 N. Tacoma Ave., Tacoma; 253-507-4060 or shakeshakeshake.me
Shakes ($4.59-$4.89) at this Stadium neighborhood burger restaurant tasted chef-inspired, with unexpected flavors such as miso butterscotch, red licorice and mocha banana malted. The menu is constantly evolving with new additions at least monthly, but 14 shake flavors are standard. A trip to Shake Shake Shake should include a chocolate malt or a Tiger shake made with Almond Roca. This is my go-to place for malts.
MOST MALT FLAVOR
I love a good malt, especially one that’s fully blended and carries an extra dose of malt powder. Here are two places besides Shake Shake Shake that made the best use of malt powder.
308 E. 26th St., Tacoma; 253-203-6753 or friesenburgers.com
Thick, rich and it comes with an extra annex glass filled with more shake? I’m a fan. The chocolate malt ($4.10) here was creamy and thoroughly mixed with malt powder.
4306 Pacific Highway E., Fife; 253-922-5599 or pick-quick.com
I wanted more chocolate flavor in the malt ($3.10), but there was more malt flavor in the shake here than on any other stop.
FIND YOUR MALT HERE
All these restaurants offer malts: Big Daddy’s in Graham, DeLong’s Deluxe in Lakewood, Don’s Drive-In in Puyallup, Frisko Freeze in Tacoma, Lefty’s Burger Shack in University Place, Mikey Burger in Tacoma, Out and About Burgers in Puyallup and Wally’s White River Drive-In in Buckley.
3702 Sixth Ave., Tacoma; 253-752-5722
If I found a shake under $3 on this tour, I felt lucky. At Goofy Goose, you can get a malt for $2.69 and it’s a good one.