Serious Eats: Sweets

Milkshakes at Burgerville in the Pacific Northwest

"As you make your way to the bottom of the cup your straw will undoubtedly get jammed with chunks of fresh strawberry."

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[Photographs: Brad Thomas Parsons]

Last Friday I made the three-hour drive down I-5 from Seattle to Portland to take in the tail-end of the IACP conference. I had a lot going on that week and wasn't able to prepare for the trip beyond booking a hotel room for the night, but one thing was certain: I was going to bookend my road trip with milkshakes from
Burgerville
.

Burgerville first opened in Vancouver, Washington, in 1961 and they now have 39 locations in Washington and Oregon. With the mantra of "Fresh. Local. Sustainable." emblazoned across their mostly recyclable and compostable packaging, Burgerville champions their sources—the local farmers, suppliers, and sustainability partners who help them bring the word "fresh" to fast food. (They even give a shout-out to their pickle guy.)

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I had never visited Burgerville—the nearest one to Seattle is in Centralia, an hour-and-a-half drive away—but I had heard raves about their milkshakes. Made with ice cream from Sunshine Dairy, they're famous for seasonal specialties like Pumpkin, Boysenberry, Blackberry, Peach, Huckleberry, and a Chocolate Hazelnut shake that Jane and Michael Stern claim is worth planning a trip around.

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I was pretty close to Portland when I pulled into the Burgerville in Woodland, Washington. I had an afternoon of grazing food carts in my near future, so I bypassed a burger and tried the seasonal Strawberry milkshake. Adding malt wasn't an option, unfortunately, but the shake was pretty solid in its fruit-forward flavor. Two sips in and you know that summer's right around the corner, and as you make your way to the bottom of the cup your straw will undoubtedly get jammed with chunks of fresh strawberry.

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And it was a shake-only visit on the return leg of my trip as I had already waited out the long line at the Portland Saturday farmers' market for a breakfast sandwich from Pine State Biscuits, which, needless to say, is pretty filling.

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Otherwise I would've been all over that Tillamook Cheeseburger. And like the shakes, the food menu highlights seasonal fare like Walla Walla onion rings and sweet potato fries throughout the year. During this visit a crispy onion and spinach turkey burger, rosemary shoestring potatoes, and strawberry shortcake were the limited-time offerings.

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On the way back to Seattle I stopped off at the Salmon Creek location in Vancouver, Washington, and, as it turns out, the only Burgerville location which offers beer and wine (all local as well). Very cosmopolitan, but probably not the best fuel for a long drive, so I stuck with a milkshake.

This time I went with my personal favorite, the Black and White milkshake. It wasn't on the menu, but it's simply vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup. After a few rounds of "Oh, you mean a chocolate milkshake?" we squared away my order. I'll still take Shake Shack's Black and White, but the Burgerville version was smooth with just the right degree of chocolate flavor.

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So I went to two Burgervilles in a 24-hour window and didn't try a burger. Insane, I know, but I did get two killer shakes and got to enjoy the second one at the only Burgerville location with a sunroom. But, Burgerville, how about putting that 40th location right here in Seattle?

About the author: Brad Thomas Parsons is a Seattle-based writer who has interviewed many of the food world's biggest names, including David Chang, Anthony Bourdain, Mario Batali, Danny Meyer, Ina Garten, Jamie Oliver, Paula Deen, and Giada De Laurentiis, among others. He is currently at work on his first book, Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All, with Cocktails and Recipes.

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