The lush slurp of thick coolness through a straw – what says summer better?

1. Mr. K's. Its fans are legion and its service legendary, no small feat for such a small place. Shakes here can be made with hard or soft ice cream, a rarity, and malts are offered too. 2107 South Blvd.; 704-375-4318.

2. Tony's. Another legendary spot, another legendary shake, made with housemade ice cream. Worth a drive to Gastonia, no matter where you live. 604 E. Franklin Blvd.; 704-853-0018.

3. Pike's. The shakes here are made using vanilla Greenwood hard ice cream and flavored syrups – the way some of us think God meant them to be. 1930 Camden Road; 372-0092.

4. Elizabeth Creamery. Here you get rich, milky shakes made from housemade hard ice cream in flavors from vanilla to green tea to Smurf (don't ask). 1601 Elizabeth Ave.; 704-332-7776.

5. Cook Out, a small chain out of Greensboro, produces nearly four dozen flavors of soft-ice-cream-like shakes. Banana fudge lacks fudginess but features chunks of banana (“you don't need a straw, you need a shovel,” says an admiring friend); let me know if you see shakes in HiC and Chocolate Cobbler anywhere else. Four Charlotte locations, but they don't answer their (unlisted) phones, according to the Greensboro main office – which also would not tell me their street addresses! One's on Freedom Drive; others are on Albemarle, Sharon Amity and Sugar Creek roads.