Young and Hungry

Gut Reaction: Potbelly’s Cherry Blossom Shake Is a Drab Sip For a Good Cause

Global warming may have D.C.'s famous cherry blossoms busting out early this year—and maybe even earlier into the future. But Potbelly Sandwich Shop is right on time with a promotional spin to capitalize on Washington's famous flowers. From now until May 1, the national sandwich chain's 22 D.C. locations will be selling cherry blossom-themed shakes for $3.50 a pop. Twenty cents of every shake sold will benefit Casey Trees, an organization that's trying to protect the city's tree canopy. It sounds like a good cause and all. But, is the shake any good?

Initial impressions: Sadly, no real cherry blossoms are used in the making of the shakes, even though the aromatic flower petals are edible. At least the drink is a similar shade of pink.

A PR rep for the company tells me the shakes are made using a simple recipe: fresh cherries, vanilla ice cream and milk. I don't know how fresh the cherries really are. It's not quite cherry season, though I suppose it's possible that global warming is now impacting the fresh fruit shake sector as well.

When I pop by the Potbelly in Columbia Heights on Thursday, however, the guy behind the counter tells me that—shocker!—the cherries come from a can. Indeed, the tiny, chewy fragments embedded in my shake more closely resemble the sticky super-sweet form of preserved fruit usually found suspended in syrup inside the garnish tray at your local dive bar.

Which makes perfect sense as I sip. The overall flavor recalls the Dairy Queen strawberry shakes from my childhood, made with syrupy sundae toppings, not fresh fruit.

Make no mistake: Potbelly's cherry blossom shake is certainly not a bad thing to have in hand on an 80-degree day in mid-March. If nothing else, the twenty cent donation to Casey Trees just might make up for the paper cup.

Photo by Chris Shott

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