Great Shakes lives up to its name

Great Shakes is convenient, accommodating, friendly and above all filled with a menu of both indulgent and refreshing drinks.

S’more Milkshake from Great Shakes, complete with fudge, vanilla ice cream, graham cracker crumbs and a mouth-watering mound of marshmallows
Catherine Yong/HIGHLANDER
Name: Great Shakes
Rating: 5/5
Location: 3540 Riverside Plaza Dr, Ste 330, Riverside, CA 92506
Price Range: $
Hours: Monday — Thursday 12 p.m — 10 p.m.
Friday — Saturday 12 p.m. — 11 p.m.
Sunday — 12 p.m.
Category: Dessert, Ice Cream & Frozen Yogurt
Credit/Debit Card: Yes
Takeout: Yes
Delivery: No
Other amenities: Free Wi-Fi, Accepts Credit Cards, Wheelchair Accessible, Gender Neutral Restrooms, Offers Military Discount  


With various restaurants, shopping stores and a Regal Cinema, Riverside Plaza is the prime location to treat yourself and a couple of friends after a long week or day. Now, with the addition of Great Shakes, it’s also the best spot to grab a refreshing and indulgent drink.

Originating from Palm Springs, California, Great Shakes, a family owned franchise, combines great ingredients and impeccable service to deliver an uplifting and cheerful milkshake experience.

Upon entering the restaurant, the colorful walls, patterned floor, retro chairs, psychedelic artwork and display of quirky candy gave me a visual sugar rush. The store itself is very bright and energetic, which suits the product it offers. Matching the restaurant’s energy are the workers, who were cheerful and attentive.

What makes Great Shakes unique (and ultimately, great) is that a majority of their toppings are handmade and the ice cream they use for their milkshake base is their own special recipe. Essentially, every Great Shakes milkshake begins the same way — as a serving of their plain vanilla ice cream. What makes each flavor unique are the toppings and syrups mixed into them. The result are endless flavor combinations, as depicted in their extensive menu. Customers are even allowed to concoct their own flavors! However, the artisanal aspect of the milkshakes is deceiving — just because something is handmade with simple ingredients does not mean it is healthy.

I learned this lesson when I feasted on the three drinks we ordered: S’more, Banana Caramel Graham and Cookie Butter. All of the milkshakes were decadently topped with a healthy dollop of whipped cream and garnished with toppings that represented their flavors. On each of the straws were Great Shakes’ signature mini donuts, which were also handmade. It was a cute little touch to an already visually appealing treat.

Unlike the milkshakes from Sonic, where there’s potential to acquire a jaw injury, the milkshakes form Great Shakes are smooth without being watery at all.

The S’more milkshake was an excellent ode to the campfire favorite. Topped with a mound of roasted marshmallows, every mouthful was a decadent combination of fudge, vanilla ice cream and graham cracker crumbs.

The Banana Caramel Graham milkshake was reminiscent of a banana cream pie and strangely refreshing despite its creaminess because of the strong banana flavor. The homemade pie crust bits that were mixed into the shake added to the drink’s pie effect. This was perhaps my personal favorite out of all the drinks we ordered, because it was not overwhelmingly sweet and was refreshing to drink.

Finally, the Cookie Butter milkshake was perhaps the sweetest of them all. A cookie butter swirl and a generous amount of Speculoos cookie chunks gave the drink its sweet yet gingery flavor. Though it was too sweet for my taste, the ginger in the Speculoos cookie cut through the sweetness a bit and added a fresh dimension to the drink.

Evidently, these drinks are sweet, sugary and intended to be indulgent treats. Considering the flavor profile, I thought I would get sick of the drinks rather quickly. However, the graham cracker, pie crust and cookie chunks mixed into the drinks kept the experience interesting.

Despite being completely different flavors with different fillings, all three shakes had the same easy-to-drink consistency. Unlike the milkshakes from Sonic, where there’s potential to acquire a jaw injury, the milkshakes form Great Shakes are smooth without being watery at all. According to manager and co-owner Scott Nelson, they achieve this by serving all their milkshakes at the same, prime temperature. This attention to detail is admirable and indicative of their dedication to creating quality shakes.

Luckily, if you’re not one for finishing large servings, Great Shakes provides their shakes in small, medium and large sizes, priced $5.50, $6.50 and $7.50 respectively. Furthermore, they accommodate for those who are lactose intolerant. They offer a lactose-free ice cream base option which allows every drink on their menu to be friendly to dairy-sensitive stomachs. Being lactose intolerant myself, I really appreciated this option since there has been numerous occasions when I felt left out because I would be the only one in my group of friends who couldn’t enjoy a milkshake or scoop of ice cream. This way, everyone can be included, there’s no risk of “FOMO” and friendships aren’t ruined.

Because of its location, Great Shakes is a great place to go after dinner, a movie or even school. Considering how brutal the weather in Riverside can be, it’s the ideal place to grab a refreshing and affordable treat with friends. Furthermore, the restaurant’s decor and service are bound to cheer you up after a long day at school.