For as many times I have complained along this quest about how the holiday gods has conspired against me to make my pursuit of holidays more difficult, I have to say the gods were in my favor today. I needed that. I needed an easy day. Not only was it National Vanilla Shake Day, but it was also National Ice Cream Soda Day too. As far as holidays go, those are pretty easy to celebrate. With the shake, I always had the option of going to McDonald’s. Not that I wanted to go to McDonald’s. I just knew that if at the end of the day I was up against it, I could get one there (although it would be my first McDonald’s shake ever, I think). Even if the shake thing fell through, I had the option to go up the street to Cumberland Farms, grab a coke and some vanilla ice cream and make my own Ice Cream Soda. Again, not what I wanted to do, but in a pinch, it would work for celebration purposes. No matter what I did, by the end of the day, it looked like there would be ice cream in my belly. That’s always a win for the day.
I decided to go the Vanilla Shake route because of the two (shake or ice cream soda), I prefer the shake. I’m still not 100 percent sold on either, but given the choice, I’ll take the one without soda. I like soda. I like ice cream. I just try to keep them separate. I was never really a big shake fan either but in recent times, and thanks to this quest, I’ve been coming around. What’s not to like? It’s milk and ice cream blended together. I guess I just prefer my ice cream on a cone or by spoon. But maybe learning to enjoy ice cream via a straw will serve me. I’m coming up on peak stroke or coma age, so getting ice cream into my system through a straw may serve me right.
The last shake I had was for National Chocolate Shake Day and that came from Frosty Freez. It was delicious and the perfect little break in the day. That was back in early September, the waning days of summer. It seemed apropos to take up the shake again as we were on the eve of the summer solstice. I just had to find the right venue to serve me my shake and I was really hoping it wouldn’t be McDonald’s. I started thinking about places to get a good shake and I admit, I wasn’t that knowledgeable here. I never pay attention to shakes because I’m not a huge fan. The idea that came to mind was that of the burger place or local diner. I’m not sure if that’s really the place to get a good one or if I have been conditioned into thinking that thanks to pop culture. I thought of Pop’s where Archie and Jughead would indulge after school. I thought of Arnold’s where Ralph Malph would have one dumped on his head every week. I thought of The Max where Zack would stop time to discuss how he wanted to share one with Kelly K. It was that classic drive-in image. It’s a completely fabricated image, at least in my world. I’ve never know that life, but that was the image of where I had to go. That made me think of Johnny Rockets. I didn’t think there were any Johnny Rockets in the area, but I looked them up online just to see.
Johnny Rockets is a burger restaurant that was created in the same image of what I was envisioning – that classic 50’s burger joint with employees in paper hats, clean and bright red and white décor and of course, a menu where the stars were burgers and shakes. I have seen them around but usually don’t stop. I think the first one I remember seeing was at the casino. People were making a big deal about it. They said the burger was amazing and the best part was the show – the employees. There was talk about great shakes too. I don’t think I ate there though. The line was too long or something like that. I associate them to be in bustling areas, like casinos and airports and major tourist cities. When I looked online I was shocked. There was one in Warwick. In fact, it was right around the corner from my office. It was less than a mile away! The holiday gods are good.
As I thought about it, I realized I had seen it before. It’s in the food court of the Warwick Mall. When I first saw it there, I remembered thinking that can’t be a Johnny Rockets. It’s too small. They’re too big for a kiosk in the Warwick Mall. I hadn’t even considered it as a place to stop because I didn’t think it was real. It was probably a copycat, like Donny Pockets or something like that. But no, it really was a genuine Johnny Rockets. That’s where I was going to go for lunch. I walked in through the doors, past the carousel and past the Toy Vault and sat down at the lunch counter. The restaurant is tiny compared to a usual Johnny Rockets. There were only two or three tables in the dining area, about six stools at the lunch counter and then a roped off pick up line where you could order to go and eat in the main promenade of the food court (that sounds way more elegant than it deserves). It was after 1 PM so the lunch rush was over and the server came right over to me. I ordered a vanilla milkshake. She went to go make it and in a minute or two, it was ready for me. I ordered a cheeseburger to go with it.
I’ll give them this – they know what they are doing. Or at least they know their way around a drink blender. It was thick and full of flavor, but not too thick. I was impressed with the vanilla flavor. They must add some vanilla extract to the mix to give it more flavor. You could tell. It actually was one of my most enjoyable milkshakes ever. I’m a fan of vanilla as a flavor. Vanilla gets a bad rap as being plain. It’s really not. It’s a deep, sweet flavor with a lot of nuances in there. It’s complex so when you get something that is vanilla flavored, you get that depth in every bite (or sip in this case). They topped it with whipped cream too which was good, although to be honest, unnecessary. People get a little overzealous with whipped cream on beverages these days and I think that’s because it makes it look bigger. This shake was fine on its own. The burger was good too. It was a little less-salty than I expected, but perfectly cooked and fresh veggies on top, especially the crispy pickle. A pretty nice little lunch if I do say so myself. My only regret was that I didn’t have time to check out the new novelties at Spencer’s while I was there (#MallLife).
Praise the holiday gods for they are good. Just when I needed an easy day, they delivered and they made sure it didn’t come with golden arches on the label. It came with a retro-signature of someone named Johnny. Somehow that was perfect for a vanilla shake. It was almost what I imagined. It was the spinning red stools at a lunch counter, it had the waitress in paper hats and red aprons. It was burgers and French fries and handmade shakes to order. It was just missing the jukebox alongside Moose, Reggie and the gang. Oh, plus it was smack dab in the middle of a mall, directly across from Panda Express and Auntie Annie’s Pretzels. I wasn’t envisioning that. No matter, I found a really good vanilla milkshake. Not that I found a hidden gem or special local treasure, I had just found one of the best vanilla shakes out there. That’s what it was all about today and it just goes to show you that good food is good food, no matter where you get it. Give the little guys a chance, but don’t ignore what the big guys can bring to the counter. Do it for Johnny, man.
Next up: National Daylight Appreciation Day