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Food & Drink > Short Order

Nice dreams

Gelato joints, roadside stands, custard counters and other ice cream stops

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Published 6/17/2009

Bob Jo's 4071 Fort St., Wyandotte; 734-282-6818: A fixture on Fort Street for 50 years, this Downriver roadside stand specializes in custard and yogurt, and patrons aren't fussy. Most people seem to like their "twist cones," the familiar combination soft-serve treat. You can get a medium twist for $2.01. Bob Jo's has vanilla and chocolate custard, but each week they'll have one of more than 20 special flavors. Expect sprinkles, but no hard-shell ice cream topping.

Burk's Igloo 10300 Conant, Hamtramck; 313-872-6830: The corner cone booth adorned with a cartoon igloo and a friendly penguin attracts people of all ages with popular short-order menu items ranging from a coney dog and fries to their best-selling Avalanche ice cream dessert. The Avalanche (similar to Dairy Queen's Blizzard) starts with a small ($2.85) and ranges all the way up to a monster-sized Avalanche ($7.50), which comes complete with 46 ounces of soft-serve ice cream crammed with whatever kind of candy you and the kid inside of you crave. Burk's has kept locals lining up for their ice cream since the 1960s, and is open this summer from noon to 10 p.m., seven days a week.

Calder Brothers Dairy 1020 Southfield Rd., Lincoln Park; 313-381-8858: Having logged 62 years of operation, the Calder Brothers' spot may be the last remaining Downriver dairy. They still make their ice cream fresh and serve it up in cones, malts and shakes in their own ice cream parlor. Whether you're just getting a scoop to go or loading up by the gallon, their 38 flavors, ranging from reliable vanilla to cinnamony horchata, aim to please. The ice cream is reportedly notable enough to draw the occasional out-of-state visitor. 

Clark's Ice Cream & Yogurt 3312 12 Mile Rd., Berkley; 248-541-6560: With about 60 different flavors, Clark's is a well-stocked roadside stand with a small lobby inside and benches and picnic tables outside. The stand has been in business for about 30 years, as Clark's for almost 20. They sell Blizzard-like Clark's Chillers, with soft-serve, Oreos and Butterfingers, as well as a host of hand-dipped cones. The most popular flavors of ice cream include "moose tracks" (a vanilla-chocolate mixed with peanut butter cups), amaretto cherry and butter pecan. Cones come in regular, sugar and waffle. A two-scoop cone runs between $3 (child's size) and $3.75 (adult size). Open from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m., with expanded hours as summer gets hotter.

Cold Stone Creamery 420 S. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-547-1876: Cold Stone Creamery takes ice cream very, very seriously. The servers sport T-shirts that read, "Friends don't let friends eat grocery store ice cream." A glossy franchise with more than 1,400 stores nationwide, this place serves some damn good ice cream; whatever Cold Stone lacks in mom-and-pop authenticity, it has quality product. Servers add countless "mix-ins" to the premium ice cream on a frosty granite slab, folding in everything from fresh cake pieces to fruit to Gummi Bears. The store's Royal Oak location is larger than many of the chain's stores (which helps keep lines short) and has a cool, comfortable ambience, unlike some of the smaller locations. 

Culver's Frozen Custard and Butterburgers 11001 Belleville Rd., Belleville; 734-699-6100; 30820 Little Mack Ave., Roseville; 586-415-8804: 14800 Racho Rd., Taylor; 734-287-3147; 6500 Newburgh Rd., Westland; 734-595-1883: The popular "Turtle" sundae is made with hot fudge, hot caramel and pecans over vanilla custard. Or try the sundae with hot fudge, peanut butter sauce and Reese's Pieces. There are about 100 flavors. Each store arranges its own flavor of the day as it sees fit; some schedule a monthly calendar, others pick a new flavor each morning. They try to select flavors suitable to holidays, like the Red, White and Blueberry on Memorial Day (vanilla ice cream with strawberries and blueberries). The menu includes the burger that made them famous, the ButterBurger (natch).

Erma's Frozen Custard 6451 Auburn Rd., Utica; 586-254-3080: This roadside custard stand stocks a few flavors a week, but what flavors! Cashew cluster or tangerine, anyone? Located between Mound and Van Dyke roads just north of M-59, open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily. One of our fellow employees recommends the "Custard Puff" highly.

Family Treats 2010 Springwells St., Detroit; 313-841-3522: This southwest Detroit ice cream joint serves your favorite heat-busting sweet treats, but also has savory fare, including burgers, dogs, fries and even tacos, all at affordable prices. That should explain the line that often queues up outside. 

Guernsey Farms Dairy Family Style Restaurant 21300 Novi Rd., Northville; 248-349-1466: Nestled between Eight Mile and Nine Mile roads, Northville's Guernsey Farms Dairy has kept families lapping up quality ice cream since 1940. With 60 flavors to choose from and an assortment of cones, sherbets, sorbets and other ice cream desserts, you'll probably have a hard time deciding what to order. There's no need to worry — free samples are available upon request. If you're stunned by the selection, ask for butter pecan, take a seat outside in the shade on one of the many boulders and lick it up — you won't be disappointed. For a fruity sensation, try their recent flavor, Grandpa's Blueberry Way — a combination of blueberry and pomegranate blended with dark chocolate pieces in honor of the founder's 100th birthday. Their newest is Key lime pie. If you can't get enough of the creamy delights, most flavors are available in both half-gallon and 3-1/2 gallon sizes for purchase. 

Leason's Dairy Bar & Grille 11475 E. 13 Mile Rd., Warren; 586-977-2680: If the neon-orange sign doesn't attract you, then the nostalgic ice cream shop atmosphere certainly will. Family-owned and -operated since 1970, this shop's menu has a variety of soft-serve and yogurt delights, but also offers eight classic ice cream flavors, including cookie dough and "moose tracks." The "Glacier" is a popular item that mixes some of your favorite candies with vanilla soft-serve. Soft-serve wonders at Leason's include the "Gold Digger," with your choice of vanilla soft-serve or yogurt with hard chocolate topping, caramel and pecans; and the "Hot Fudge Crème Puff," a crème puff topped with your choice of vanilla soft-serve or yogurt, hot fudge and additional toppings. In addition to frozen treats they also serve pitas, gyros, burgers and hot dogs, and even "Chicken Sliders."

Ray's Ice Cream 4233 Coolidge Hwy., Royal Oak; 1-888-549-5256: This family-owned ice cream parlor has logged a half-century in the business. They make gourmet ice cream on premises, more than 50 flavors of it. Among the favorites are butter pecan, "Huckleberry Pie," "Almond Joy," blueberry pie and black cherry. Unique to this shop is the "Fat Elvis," a confection made with banana and peanut butter — in honor of the King's love for peanut butter-and-banana sandwiches. They have a small fountain area, a counter and booths to seat 25, in addition to two seats from old Tiger Stadium. Though they're open all year, summer is the season that provokes lines that stretch out into the parking lot. Ray's also offers gourmet ice cream molds for parties. They're open till 11 p.m. every day.

Sanders Candy & Dessert Shop 16837 Kercheval St., Grosse Pointe Park; 313-882-4966: You'll find plenty of flavors of ice cream here: moose tracks, chocolate chip cookie dough, cookies and cream, chocolate, strawberry, butter pecan, Mackinac Island fudge, mint chip, black cherry, "Bumpy Cake 'n' Cream" and "Superman." All can be made into sundaes, shakes, sodas, malts or the venerable Boston Cooler, here dubbed a "Detroit Cooler" (Vernor's ginger ale and ice cream).

Shatila Bakery & Café 14300 W. Warren Ave., Dearborn; 313-582-1952: Don't be confused by the fruit names — these are not sherbets. They combine fruit purees with butterfat to produce that rich velvety texture that only cream can bestow. Nonfruit ice creams are equally inspired. The array of Mediterranean and European pastries is vast and changes daily. Shatila has a few nonsweet offerings, and they are quite tasty, not also-rans at all: sausage rolls, a tangy and flaky spinach pie and tiny star-shaped cheese pastries. Shatila's high-ceilinged space is filled with customers sipping coffee or raw fruit juices, busting their diets, and enjoying the air-conditioning.


Thanks to editorial intern Julia Fitzgerald for her assistance with this column.

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