Hadley Fruit Orchards: Date Shakes

The road to Palm Springs is dotted with three inevitable roadside attractions: Indian casinos, outlet malls and date shakes. None of these are much fun, but date shakes may be the worst. Date palms aren't native to the region (you'd have to travel to the Persian Gulf area to find their roots), but the Coachella Valley has taken to the crop with ferocity and now produces about 95% of the dates consumed in the United States. Unfortunately, the region's signature preparation of the fruit, the date milkshake, is possibly the worst way to experience the fruit.

Hadley Fruit Orchard: Menu

The date shake is a monotonous concoction, drowning all the subtlety of date varietals in a sea of sugar and ice cream. It's sweet on top of sweet on top of grit. That hasn't stopped restaurants and roadside stands from marketing the hell out of the date shake, and few places are better known for it than Hadley Fruit Orchards.

Hadley Fruit Orchard: Exterior

As the Coachella Valley's own version of Casa de Fruta, Hadley trades in dried fruit, candy, nuts, snacks and, naturally, dates. They sell several varieties — medjool, barhi, deglet noor, abbada — but it won't matter if you're getting a date shake. The employees won't know what kind of dates they're putting in, and even if they did, you probably wouldn't be able to taste the difference.

Order a date shake from Hadley's and you get a styrofoam cup of sweet, gritty milkshake flecked with the occasional tidbit of chewy date and rife with an intense but undistinguishable sweetness. There's no fast-food chain on the planet that makes a more mouth-puckeringly sweet dessert than the typical date shake. Hadley's also offers a date-banana shake, which simultaneously paradoxically has the effect of giving the shake more depth of flavor but further blanketing the date flavor. Why not just cut out the middleman and pour a half a cup of sugar straight into your mouth?

Dates have a profound sweetness but a subtle flavor. If you want to enhance a loaf of bread or a lamb tagine or even a milkshake, they're excellent natural sweetners. If you want to actually experience the date qua date, skip the milkshakes and stick to the fruit.


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