If there's one underappreciated course in the fast-food canon, it's dessert. It's as if the only people who acknowledge a good shake are suits who try to out-grip each other's hands in business meetings.
Despite being relegated to boring trade shows and the bottom-right corner of menu boards, frozen desserts deserve love too. We've already ranked the best fast-food burgers, fries, and overall desserts -- the time has come to taste-test the coolest dishes in the fast-food universe. Read on to learn who reigns supreme: Chick-fil-A, Wendy's, McDonald's, Sonic, Burger King, Dairy Queen, or In-N-Out.
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Price: $1.59 (small) Coldness: Not very cold at all, except for the M&M's which seemed frozen. Strengths: Includes an innovative utensil that serves as both a spoon and straw. Weaknesses: That innovative utensil doesn't work on small-sized McFlurries.Lacking in flavor. Scores very high on the throat-coat scale. Tasting notes: When I was a kid, I would throw handfuls of M&M's in the snow, and they'd melt and turn the snow different colors. I mention this not to try and inspire a scene in Michel Gondry's next film, but rather because the same thing happened with the McFlurry. The M&M colors quickly dissolved into the creamy pool, coalescing into a sickly mauve hue. Perhaps the M&M coloring tainted the vanilla, but the McFlurry ended up tasting like absolutely nothing at all.
6. Wendy's Chocolate Frosty
Price: $1.69 (medium) Coldness: Very, very cold. It numbs the back of your throat. Strengths: Ability to pair with French fries. Slurpability. Weaknesses: Low-quality chocolate. Tasting notes: On the chocolate spectrum, the Wendy's Frosty lands somewhere between Hershey's Kiss and granola bar chocolate chip. It's still a satisfying taste, but authentic chocolate it is not. Texturally, the Frosty is basically a giant cup of soupy soft-serve.
5. In-N-Out's Neapolitan shake
Price: $2.15 (medium) Coldness: Not very cold. You probably won't want this while the sun is up. Strengths: Variety. Friendly service. Weaknesses: Temperature, consistency, ball-hogging strawberry flavors, severe throat-coat. Tasting notes: A fresh Nea-swirl is a joy to look at, but as soon as it hits your mouth the first thought isn't sweetness, it's thickness. This shake is as thick as a "Yo' Mamma" joke. Texture aside, at first the triple threat of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry flavors gracefully three-man weave like a well-oiled 7th grade basketball team, and, also like a high school basketball team, a star quickly emerges. That star is strawberry. After a dozen sips, the strawberry overpowers all the other flavors, and you're essentially drinking a strawberry shake.
4. Chick-fil-A Cookie Sundae
Price: $1.79 Coldness: I don't know if "heartfreeze" is a thing, but this caused it. Strengths: It's a sundae! Weaknesses: No single ingredient is strong enough to stand on its own. Tasting notes: The Chick-fil-A cows might be adorable mascots, but they don't get off that easy. Chick's got dairy on the menu in the form a sundae speckled by corners of cookie. The cherry's got a tart bite that brings to mind maraschinos, but not really fruit. Regardless, it's on top, and you'll be happy it's there. The chocolate fudge is more bitter than I'd like, but it adds a crucial bit of complexity to the mountain of soft-serve.
Price: $1 Coldness: Minor tooth chill. Poor heat tolerance. Strengths: Simplicity. Weaknesses: Requires lots of napkins. Not ideal for drive-thru situations. Tasting notes: I was at a loss over which flavor to order. I asked for a swirl, but they didn't understand, so I just said "soft-serve." At BK that means vanilla, and, surprisingly enough, it actually tastes like vanilla despite an overload of sugar. The cone tastes exactly like every other cheap cone you've ever eaten, which is to say not that bad, but a little cardboard-y. Pro tip: eat very quickly, or face the melty consequences.
2. Sonic chocolate shake
Price: $1.79 (medium, half-off Summer promotion!) Coldness: Not bone-chilling, but cold enough to temporarily offset a broken AC unit. Strengths: Voluptuous flavors. Weaknesses: Sub-par cherry. Tasting notes: The puff of whipped cream and cherry on top just got in the way. Whereas many shakes hide behind their toppings, the Sonic shake transcends them. In other words, the cherry looks better than it tastes, and the whipped cream melts by the time you're out of the parking lot, but that doesn't matter because this is a delicious milkshake. The chocolate tastes far richer than the $3.17 price tag would imply, buttressed by the creamy shake base. Bonus points for enough flavor options to make a man go mad.
1. Dairy Queen Oreo Blizzard
Price: $3.69 (medium) Preface: For several years in the late '00s, the DQ location that sold me this Blizzard was featured as the Alamo Freeze in the critically-lauded TV show Friday Night Lights, of which I am a big fan. So when the kind counter woman turned the Blizzard upside down before my very eyes, I imagined her as star running back Smash Williams. I'm sure she imagined never seeing me again. Coldness: It is not suggested you try to turn the Blizzard upside down yourself, because it starts melting immediately. Still, this thing is cold enough that your teeth will hate you afterwards. Strengths: Amazing flavor, texture, and temperature. Weaknesses: None. Tasting notes: Holy cow this is good. These things should come with a severe weather warning because this Blizzard could do some serious damage. It's the perfect deconstruction of the Oreo: big, crunchy chunks of cookie, ice cream that tastes like the white stuff, and textural bits of chocolate. It succeeds on every level and thus is worthy of being crowned the king of frozen desserts.
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Dan Gentile is a staff writer on Thrillist's national food and drink team. He has a new-found respect for Dairy Queen and ice cream stains all over his car. Follow him to sugar highs at @Dannosphere.