Crown Candy Kitchen, St. Louis
In today’s world, it seems like restaurants go for whatever they can to get attention and customers. There are places that put together an insane menu, places that make outrageous claims and places that manufacture a food challenge, all in the name of business.
But there are some places that don’t need to resort to those kinds of gimmicks. They keep things simple because they can, having built up a reputation from simply doing a job right for many years. That’s what you have with Crown Candy Kitchen, which has been in business in the Old North part of St. Louis since 1913, closing in on a full century in business.
During that near-century, Crown Candy has been famous for one thing: milkshakes. Crown Candy also serves sandwiches and gets busy for lunch, but the main thing you’re here for is an old-fashioned malted milkshake, the way it’s been made for 99 years.
Crown Candy starts with real ice cream, allowing you to make any flavor you want from their ice cream choices on the menu. Coffee, Oreo, black walnut and chocolate-raspberry are a few of the choices not listed among their shakes, or you can go with one of the classics, such as marshmallow, vanilla, strawberry and chocolate.
Each shake starts with three scoops of smooth custard-style ice cream, which is as popular in Missouri as it is in Wisconsin. From there, toppings can be added, such as bananas, butterscotch and hot fudge, or you can keep it simple and stick with additions of milk and malt powder. The malt sweetener adds a new dimension to the shake and alters the flavor a little. If you’ve ever tried Whoppers candy, that’s what the malt flavor is.
So naturally, with that bit of information, I had to go with chocolate, topped with whipped cream. This is a bit of a difference between Crown Candy and most places. Normally, when you order a milkshake, you’re given a glass of your shake and the tin with some leftovers. At Crown Candy, the shake is assembled in the tin, and you’re given an empty glass to pour the shake into, if you so choose.
Either way, spoon is recommended over straw. These shakes are thick and delicious. With the malted powder, the chocolate shake tastes exactly like a Whopper with whipped cream. The shake is ice-cold, and it didn’t come anywhere close to becoming sippable during my visit. This could be because I made the choice to visit in December, but I have no way to know. The point is, it seems to be more sundae than shake, and it’s so good despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that it’s so simple.
Each tin has enough milkshake to fill the glass three times over, and this glass checks in at 8 ounces, making for a 24-ounce milkshake for those of you who swore off math after college. The sheer size led Crown Candy to create what might have been America’s first food challenge. Almost 50 years before the Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, Texas created what is now recognized as the premier eating challenge in the country, Crown Candy began its famous challenge, which has been around since the restaurant’s beginning in 1913.
For those brave or foolish enough to try it, Crown Candy requires a competitor to drink five of its malted milkshakes, with the ability to change flavors if they wish, or go with one flavor the whole way. That comes in at a full 120 ounces of milkshake, which would be roughly about two gallons of dairy. Oh, and did I mention that you have only 30 minutes to accomplish this monstrosity of a feat? Yeah, there’s a reason that only 30 people have beaten this thing in 99 years. If you can manage it, you get your name on a plaque in the restaurant.
Beyond the ice cream, Crown Candy also offers a basic sandwich menu, full of classic deli favorites. In fact, their BLT is considered so good that it found a spot on a different Travel Channel show, possibly making Crown Candy the only place that has been on different shows for different menu items. It’s definitely something I’ll have to try when I find myself in St. Louis again.
But the main reason you’re here is the shakes, because after 99 years of doing it one way, if they’re still doing it, they’ve got to be doing something right. Even in the dead of winter, Crown Candy is always worth a trip.
Time to go: Avoid lunch at all costs. Crown Candy goes 10:30 to 9, and the lines thin out drastically when you’re not there for the lunch rush. It closes at 5 on Sundays.
Wait during my visit: Minimal, but I was there at 5 p.m. on a weekday in the winter. Might not always work that way.
Location: Crown Candy is at 1401 St. Louis Avenue in St. Louis.
Cost: Most shakes cost a little less than $5, and most sandwiches are about $6. Not too bad.
Parking: Not much. It’s only street parking, which is because the restaurant was built so long ago. Still, you can get lucky.
Seating arrangement: This is a new category suggested by Carli Carson, and it’s very appropriate to begin it here. Being 99 years old, the booths are wooden and very small. Fitting into them can be difficult.
Website: Crown Candy Kitchen
Signature items: Milkshakes