Freshness: Most places bake in the morning, so if you get there at 9 a.m. you might be buying yesterday's cookie. But at 2 p.m. they might be fresh. Get to know a place, and ask what time of day they do their baking.
Chocolate-to-dough ratio: Obviously, it needs to be high.
Warmth: If the cookie is sitting in the display case wrapped in plastic or under a little glass tray all day, it's not going to be warm. If it comes off a baker's rack in the back you know it's going to be good. You want to be able to bend the cookie and see the gooey meltedness when you pull it apart.
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Size: One cookie should fill you up. I always say it should be the size of a steering wheel or a manhole cover. And the most important part—don't share it. The biggest one I've had was on top of Mount Lemmon in Tucson at the Cookie Cabin. It was more like a pancake.
Bonus tip: A good cookie demands milk. Beware the creepy store at the mall that has only cookies and a soda fountain.
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3 Cookies Worth Your Dough
1. Fudge Brownie Cookie: Cafe Solterra at the Jekyll Island Club Hotel in Glynn County, Georgia
2. Chocolate Chip Walnut: Levain Bakery, New York City
3. Double Chocolate Chip: Meeting Street Cafe, Providence, Rhode Island
For Phil's full rankings, visit philthethrill.net.