®With spring winding down and summer just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about how to cool off, and there’s no better way to beat the heat than to go with spoon in hand and eat some ice cream. With so many places serving the cold, creamy goodness in metro Detroit, it might be hard to choose your right spot to spend a humid afternoon. But that’s why we’re here. We’ve taken a few licks for you and have discovered that our city is full of parlors, bakeries and bars that have perfected the art of making and/or serving ice cream in refreshing fashion.
Astoria, Greektown and Royal Oak
The Inside Scoop: Go for strawberry on a waffle cone or a cappuccino milkshake.
With two locations, one in downtown Detroit’s Greektown and another in Royal Oak, Astoria is widely known for its delicious pastries that favor a European flair. Some of the cookies and cakes are so pretty, it seems sad to have to eat them. What some don’t know is that Astoria churns out tasty ice cream, too. Traditional flavors reign supreme here. The strawberry can’t be beat on a hot day. The festive birthday cake flavor, scrumptious vanilla with bits of cake and sprinkles, is a more adventurous choice. Astoria is open late on the weekends, so just in case you get a midnight hankering, we suggest a cappuccino milkshake or a fruit tea smoothie. Both are sure to satisfy.
Calder Dairy & Farm, Lincoln Park and Carleton
The Inside Scoop: Scoops are generous in size. Order a single; make it peanut butter.
A local favorite, Calder Dairy & Farm is known for its milk, chip dip and ice cream. It churns out deliciously sweet concoctions with fresh milk from cows on the Calder Farm (which you can visit in Carleton, year-round, seven days a week). All of Calder’s ice cream is processed to perfection in small batches. The dairy doesn’t use hormones, so you can feel good about constant consumption.
Tip: Grab a gallon of Calder’s chocolate milk to go. It’s five-star.
Erma’s Original Frozen Custard, Shelby Township, St. Clair Shores, Warren
The Inside Scoop: Dip a spoon into the nutty coconut parfait.
Originally a small, street-side frozen custard stand, Erma’s has retained its charm over the years and has developed into a thriving roadside stop. Erma’s might be known for its custard — a downright favorite to anyone who’s ever been — but it mixes it up, too, offering delights such as parfaits and coolers, while the rotating menu board makes every visit different. Sample the top-selling nutty coconut parfait, layers of goodness and scrumptious coconut flavor topped with whipped cream and a cherry. Prefer your ice cream with a serving of fruit and a straw? Try the banana milkshake.
Tip: Custard is richer than ice cream because of a higher concentration of egg yolks.
Detroit Lix, Various Locations
The Inside Scoop: Take a lick of a pumpkin vanilla chai or strawberry cream.
It’s hard to resist the trendy fad of artisan popsicles, especially when they’re a healthier and more guilt-free option. If you have a sweet tooth but don’t want to indulge too much, then keep a lookout for Detroit Lix. It’s a traveling popsicle stand, and when the weather’s right, it’s out at farmers markets, art fairs and various other events. Fun flavors include lemon basil, pistachio coconut and mojito lime mint. Can’t wait to pop in on the traveling stand? Visit one of Detroit Lix’s more permanent venues, including Second Street Sub Shop and Nutri-Foods in Royal Oak and Zap Zone in Utica.
Guernsey Farms Dairy, Northville
The Inside Scoop: Sample the mouthwatering butter pecan.
Guernsey Farms boasts one of the best butter pecans — most definitely buttery, the perfect balance of vanilla to nut with every bite full of crunchy pecans. All of its ice cream is creamy and decadent. This family business has been doing the ice cream thing for 70+ years. The milk used is hormone-free and made in Michigan. Lucky for us, too, Guernsey has branched out over the years, and its ice cream is now available in many local grocery stores.
Treat Dreams, Ferndale
The Inside Scoop: Wrap your lips around a cone topped with a scoop of salted caramel.
Raspberry jalapeno? Lobster bisque? Bacon? If you’re up for an adventure, then you don’t want to miss a stop at Treat Dreams. This creative creamery rotates its flavors weekly and doesn’t hold back with imaginative concoctions. “We strive to be unique, to be different,” said Scott Moloney, owner and flavor creator. “People from all over come in because our ice cream is so unusual. Here at Treat Dreams, we’re always pushing the envelope.”
Tip: Yes, the salted caramel is a best-seller, but with 750 flavors and counting, why stop there?
Ray’s Ice Cream, Royal Oak
The Inside Scoop: Ask about the Detroit Brew House Coffee ice cream.
This ice cream parlor is a Royal Oak gem. Opened in 1958, Ray’s has retained its soda shop charm. With more than 40 flavors and counting, there’s a little something for everyone. If you’re a sweet-toothed coffee lover, you won’t find a better coffee ice cream than Ray’s. It’s one of a kind and utterly delectable.
When combining a love for ice cream and a love for a good time, nothing is as tasty or as fun as an ice cream drink. Many metro Detroit bars and restaurants are eager to pair the two for you.
- Bayview Yacht Club: The original Hummer was created by Bayview Yacht Club employee Jerome Adams in 1968. It’s a drink that will make you want to “hum”: 1 1/2 ounces rum, 1 1/2 ounces Kahlua, 2 scoops vanilla ice cream and a few ice cubes blended to perfection.
- Frita Batidos: Located just outside Detroit in Ann Arbor, this Cuban restaurant adds just the right amount of tropical spirit to its milkshakes, or batidos. All are made with fresh fruit and Guernsey Dairy vanilla ice cream. The best part: You can add dark rum to just about any flavor. Coconut cream batido with rum, anyone?
- Mercury Burger Bar: Not just a place for burgers. This trendy little treasure, located in Corktown and overlooking Michigan Central Station, packs a full bar, and they’ll let you add liquor to any milkshake. The Faygo orange Creamsicle with vodka (above), or a Boston Cooler with rum, are ordered frequently. Mercury owners David Stiekne and Dennis Fulton keep it local, and their passion for Detroit is contagious.
- Pub 1281: When we say Elvis lives, you better believe us. Pub 1281 in Clinton Township features its own rendition of the Fat Elvis, a decadent banana drink made with ice cream from Ray’s in Royal Oak, crème de cacao and Frangelico. Yum.
- Vinsetta Garage: Sure, this converted mechanic shop in Berkley has adult milkshakes. Even better is its house-made liquid nitrogen-churned ice cream. Throw some liquor in, and you’ve got yourself a special treat. P.S. Vinsetta serves Faygo Rock & Rye ice cream with those explosive Pop Rocks candies atop. You gotta try it.
Sanders & Morley Candy Makers Tour
Anyone who is anybody has tried Sanders hot fudge, and if you haven’t, then you’ve missed out on one of the tastiest toppings to ever cover ice cream. Every time you indulge in a sundae, it should be slathered with Sanders hot fudge. Period.
If you’ve ever wanted to ascend to chocolate heaven, Morley Candy Makers is your place. Anything chocolate, delicious and labeled Sanders is made here. It’s your chance to see behind the scenes. Self-guided “Stop & Shop” tours Monday through Friday during regular business hours. Free samples, too. Guided tours require reservations.
The Inside Scoop: You can buy Sanders products at grocers and many other retailers in metro Detroit. Fan favorites: Milk Chocolate Hot Fudge, Extra Dark Chocolate Hot Fudge, Classic Caramel, Caramel Apple Topping, Dark Chocolate Peppermint Pattie and Cinnamon Pear Caramel.
Soda and a Cooler
The D has its fair share of bragging rights. We’ve got great sports teams, thriving industry and a hopping music scene. What’s best about this city, however, is its pool of creators, makers and innovators, past and present.
In these parts, we celebrate Detroit’s own Fred Sanders as the rightful creator of the ice cream soda. (Yeah, we know there are other claimants. Let them claim.)
And no one argues that Detroit — not Boston — is the origin of the Boston Cooler. James Vernor, pharmacist and founder of America’s oldest soft drink, Vernors, came up with that one back in the 1800s. The classic is one part vanilla ice cream to two parts Vernors blended to perfection.
Traditionally, ice cream sodas were made with syrup, seltzer water and one or two scoops of vanilla ice cream. Today, mixing any yummy flavor with soda can do the trick.
If you’ve never had an ice cream soda, try this traditional favorite first.
- Two tablespoons chocolate syrup
- Two scoops vanilla ice cream
- Seltzer or club soda
- Directions: Pour syrup into a large glass and fill it about halfway with the seltzer or club soda. Stir vigorously. Top with ice cream. Enjoy.
Don’t Miss These Other Detroit Favorites!
Burk’s Igloo in Hamtramck • Crooked Creek Farm Dairy in Romeo • Dairy Deluxe in Birmingham • Stroh’s Ice Cream Parlors in Bloomfield Hills and Wyandotte • Vicky’s Homemade Ice Cream in Redford • Yogurt Palooza in Plymouth • Zingerman’s Creamery in Ann Arbor
Read more about Detroit restaurants.
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