Nifty Fifty’s reminds me of my younger days. There used to be one on 10th and Reed Streets. Someone’s parents would drop us off there for dinner, and then pick us up again to chauffeur us to the movie theater. In high school, we would walk up there on early dismissal days. When Bridget, my aunt, and got back from a day in New York, someone would pick us up at 30th Street Station and we’d stop by for takeout.
The burgers and fries were decent but the milkshakes were the star of the show. They had every flavor imaginable, from basic chocolate and vanilla to the “exotic” concoctions like Strawberry Cheesecake and Peanut Butter Oreo.
What made these milkshakes so special? My 13-year-old self didn’t really think critically about it. I probably just liked having ice cream with dinner.
All I know is that after the South Philly location closed a few years ago (and became a Rita’s Water Ice, of all things. I’m anti-Rita’s, especially when there are so many real water ice places in South Philly), I could never find a milkshake to fill the void. Sure, there were some that I liked, but when compared to Nifty Fifty’s they would come up short. They were too icy, not thick enough, too sweet, or just boring.
I didn’t go to Nifty Fifty’s again until we were planning our wedding and stopped by the location on Grant Avenue, in the Northeast, after a visit to Glen Foerd Mansion to meet with our event coordinator. I was so excited to get one of my beloved milkshakes again. But, what if it wasn’t as good as I remembered? Was it just the nostalgia of thinking about being back in high school that made me think they were the best thing ever? Maybe it would be no better than the poor excuse for a milkshake that comes out of the machine at McDonalds.
I ordered the Oreo milkshake, which was always my favorite. It was just as good as I remembered.
Yesterday, when I needed a milkshake fix, we drove there again. I branched out and got chocolate chip cookie dough, but still helped myself to Chester’s Oreo shake. Happiness. It magically got rid of the dull headache that I typically get from sleeping too late on Saturdays.
Now that I’m a grown up and I think more about the food that I eat, maybe I might be able to figure out what makes them so special.
Okay, I’ll try.
It could be the ice cream. I’m not sure what the brand is, but it tastes like it has a pretty high percentage of butterfat, it’s definitely good quality. Maybe it’s the fact that it comes to your table in a fun silver cup, and is blended to perfection. It’s not too thick to drink through a straw, not to runny eat it with a spoon, and the mix-ins are all distributed evenly so you get some candy, cookies, or fruit in every bite. Or, it could be that fluorescent lighting and loud music clouds your judgment and makes everything taste better.
Obviously, I still don’t really know. It’s pretty much just the best milkshake ever. End of story.