An ice cream parlor established in 1941 continues to serve up frosty treats along with a host of heartier fare, now including pizza.
Millie’s Burgers, Steaks & Shakes began its tenure at 1441 W. Shunk Street as an ice cream parlor. The space once featured a jukebox and old-style soda fountain. Millie D’Annunzio, the shop’s namesake and original owner, passed away in 1967. The ice cream parlor evolved and the menu expanded as it passed on to new owners. One thing has not changed: current owner Joe Viola remains committed to serving quality food to neighborhood residents.
Viola, a South Philly native and current Southwest Philly resident, was a dedicated customer before he became owner 14 years ago. He’s proud to continue Millie’s legacy and has worked to expand its offerings and reputation. He describes the shop as “our little treasure in the huge world of food preparation.” He explains, “We know that people have always trusted Millie’s to give them a great selection of menu items, so we respect that trust and do everything we can to make them happy.”
Viola’s culinary journey includes 13 years with Lucky 13 Pub, 1820 S. 13th Street. At Millie’s, he’s continued to rely on its dairy delights while giving other foods a chance to shine as well. To that end, six years ago he altered the name to tout burgers and steaks. Burgers include the popular bacon-and-guacamole-centric California burger.
If you like heat, try the aptly-named Diablo Burger, topped with pepperjack cheese and jalapenos. Or, go for broke and try the Surf & Turf burger—a crab cake served atop a cheeseburger with Millie’s special sauce.
More recently, Viola has begun to focus on pizza, which has reaped huge rewards. “We’re not known as a pizza place, but we do well with our assortment,” he noted. Options include tomato, white, meat lovers, and classic margherita. Gourmet toppings include eggplant parm, shrimp, sharp provolone, and prosciutto. A variety of strombolis are also on offer.
Given the shop’s beginnings, it’s no surprise that the ice cream offerings are extensive. You can make-your-own sundae or shake from the shop’s selections of Bryers and Kemp’s ice cream paired with a number of toppings. Or purchase pints of select flavors of Ben & Jerry’s and Talenti Gelato. Birthday party? Try one of two sizes of ice cream cakes.
Millie’s specialty shakes include the Fluffernutter (peanut butter ice cream, marshmallow and vanilla syrup), German Chocolate Shake (chocolate ice cream, cherry syrup and crushed cherries), and Orange Blossom (orange sherbert, vanilla ice cream, rainbow jimmies). There’s also an homage to a South Philly bakery treat: the Cannoli Milkshake (vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup, cannoli cream, topped with crushed cannoli shell).
You can also choose-your-own flavor to top Belgian waffles or squeeze between chocolate chip cookies.
While the pandemic has been challenging, Millie’s has persevered. By Thanksgiving Day, Viola will end the 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. schedule that he’s been following and replace it with the usual hours: 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday-through-Saturday and 11 a.m.- 11 p.m. on Sunday.
“It’s a tough, tough business,” Viola said, “For us to be on [customers] minds constantly, that blows me away, and I’m thankful for it. Along with the stuff in our name, we have grilled sandwiches, seafood options, wraps, stromboli, hoagies, and other things to make you happy. Everything moves here, and I think that should make everyone who’s ever had anything to do with Millie’s pretty happy.”
Viola concluded, “Seventy-nine years is a long time to be a part of anything, and I’ve been fortunate to attach myself to this place since 2006. We’re preserving history and looking to make some, too.”
Millie’s Burgers, Steaks & Shakes
1441 W. Shunk Street