Are you ready to embark on a delectable journey through the ice cream and gelato hotspots of Ann Arbor and Detroit? Get ready to tantalize your taste buds with unique flavors, locally sourced ingredients, and artisanal creations. From traditional Italian gelato to North African-inspired treats and vegan options, this article will take you on a sweet adventure like no other. So grab a spoon, sit back, and let's dive into the marvelous world of frozen delights.
Blank Slate CreameryThis establishment in Ann Arbor is renowned for producing all of their ice creams and cones onsite using fresh, locally sourced ingredients. The variety of flavors they offer changes daily, but some noteworthy choices include Balsamic Strawberry, Fresh Basil, and Browned Butter Cookie Dough. They also have options for those looking for non-dairy alternatives, made with coconut milk. However, please note that they close for the winter from December through March, so make sure to visit before then!
Iorio's GelateriaIorio's is a family-operated business that specializes in the production of traditional, all-natural Italian gelato. Their selection ranges from classic Italian favorites such as Stracciatella and Pistachio to innovative creations like Violet, Earl Grey, and Pomegranate Champagne!
(Pro tip: They also function as a café and offer an exceptional assortment of coffee/espresso!)
Washtenaw DairyAh, the memories I've made at Washtenaw Dairy as a local of Ann Arbor. This cozy little shop is adored by locals for its generously portioned scoops and incredible donuts, making it the perfect spot to indulge in a treat with friends after class. I highly recommend trying their Superman ice cream—while you could attempt to prepare it at home, nothing compares to the nostalgic experience of savoring one of these vibrant and oversized cones.
Ben and Jerry'sDespite being a chain, Ben and Jerry's excels at the craft of ice cream, and it would be a shame to overlook them. To live in a world without Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia, Phish Food, Milk and Cookies, or Chocolate Therapy flavors would be truly melancholy.
Rod's PlaceRod's Place, situated on State Street, provides a unique dining experience that combines frozen yogurt with Korean cuisine. This delightful fusion results in a diverse and delectable menu. After enjoying a delectable bowl of bibimbob, indulge in one of their famous colliders—chocolate or vanilla frozen yogurt served with an array of scrumptious dessert toppings. If you're curious about the genesis of this charming Korean/dessert concept, check out this previously published Spoon article!
El Harissa Market CaféAnnie LiThis hidden gem of a café is a family-run business that specializes in North African cuisine, but it also boasts an impressive array of gelato flavors, making it an excellent spot for a quick dessert. Here, you can find artisanal versions of traditional flavors such as Tahitian Vanilla, Swiss Chocolate, and Strawberry Vegan, among others. However, I highly suggest exploring their more exotic offerings, including Rosewater Baklava Pistachio, Turkish roast, and Mexican Chipotle Chocolate, to name just a few.
Zingerman's CreameryIf you've ever set foot in Ann Arbor, chances are you've heard of Zingerman's. While the name is primarily associated with their deli, Zingerman's actually encompasses a group of businesses in the Ann Arbor area. One of these is Zingerman's Creamery, which is dedicated to crafting gourmet cheeses and, of course, gelato. Some flavors are seasonal, such as Cherry Cream Cheese, German Chocolate, and Watermelon Sorbet, while others are available year-round due to their popularity—Sour Cream Coffee Cake, Buenos Aires Brownie, Burnt Sugar, and Dulce de Leche, to name just a few.
Eat More TeaThis charming small business is associated with Teahaus and focuses on tea-infused desserts, including cakes, candy, macarons, and gelatos and sorbettos with tea flavors. Every item is meticulously made from scratch in small batches, ensuring craftsmanship and quality in every bite.
Menchie'sIronically, my initial encounter with this frozen yogurt chain based in California occurred while I was in Canada. From the first taste, I was enchanted by their smooth, all-natural frozen yogurt, unique flavors, and delightful aesthetic. Imagine my excitement upon discovering their presence in Ann Arbor. While their range of flavors is subject to regular change, I strongly recommend indulging in their Toasted Coconut Crunch, Chocolate Glazed Toffee Bar, and Rich 'N Nutty Pistachio when available.
Trailside DairyThis unassuming establishment is celebrated for its delectable custards and exceptional customer service. Approach the window and choose from a myriad of options, including custard, ice cream, shakes, floats, malts, slushes, and coolers. Despite its small size, Trailside Dairy has a wealth of offerings and provides access to the Macomb Orchard Trail. Treat yourself to a delightful dessert and embark on an evening stroll! Open from noon to 9 p.m. in the spring and fall, with extended hours until 10 p.m. from Memorial Day to Labor Day. 60000 Campground Road, Washington; restaurantji.com.
HuddleEstablished in 2019, this walk-up soft serve window situated in downtown Detroit offers a concise yet delightful menu featuring chocolate, vanilla, or twist flavors, along with an assortment of toppings such as sprinkles and chocolate chips. Huddle has also collaborated in the past to create special flavors, such as ube (purple yam) in partnership with pastry chef Jonathan Peregrino, who owns a bakery called JP Makes and Bakes. Huddle custard and cocktails are also available at Two Birds in West Village. Huddle, 2 John R. St., Detroit, and Two Birds Detroit, 8130 Kercheval Ave., Detroit; huddle-softserve.com.
Shatila BakeryShatila is renowned for its baklava and other Middle Eastern pastries, but their homemade ice cream is not to be missed. Indulge in flavors like pistachio, mocha almond, and kashta. Shatila Bakery, 14300 W. Warren Ave., Dearborn; 313-582-1952; shatila.com.
Bob Jo’s Frozen CustardThis beloved institution in Downriver has been a summer tradition for generations since 1947. While classic flavors like chocolate, vanilla, or twist are always safe options, don't miss out on trying their signature toasted coconut if it’s available. Bob Jo’s Frozen Custard, 4071 Quarry Road, Wyandotte; 734-282-6818; facebook.com.
Treat DreamsThis ice cream venture, with locations in Ferndale and Midtown Detroit, has created over 1,500 handcrafted ice creams throughout its existence. While they are known for staples like Kooky Monster (vanilla ice cream dyed blue with Oreos) and Salted Caramel, they also experiment with flavors like Lox and Bagels (honey-black-pepper ice cream with salmon/caramel/cream cheese swirl and crumbled bagel chips). Vegan options are also available. Treat Dreams, 4160 Cass Ave, Detroit; 313-818-0084, and 22965 Woodward Ave, Ferndale; 248-544-3440; treatdreams.com.
The Custard Co.The Custard Co., based in Dearborn, is a relatively new player in the ice cream industry that has rapidly gained a following for their unique treats. Their specialties include The Sweet Bun, which features ice cream stuffed inside a bun and adorned with sprinkles, as well as The Wowffle, ice cream sandwiches made using waffles. Flavors range from classic Middle Eastern combinations like Ashta (clotted cream) Pistachio to Creamsicle. The Custard Co., 2801 Monroe St., Dearborn; 313-274-1750; thecustardco.com.
Cold TruthCold Truth is an ice cream shop that caters to vegan and gluten-free customers. They were recently named a finalist for Best Ice Cream Shop in the 2023 Best of Detroit contest. With a variety of fresh flavors and toppings, all served in handmade and gluten-free waffle cones, this shop frequently offers specials and experiments with new flavors. In addition to soft-serve, Cold Truth also prides itself on selling "the thickest shakes in metro Detroit," as stated on their Facebook page. Cold Truth, 4240 Cass Ave., Detroit; 313-774-1620; facebook.com.
Momento Gelato and CoffeeMomento Gelato and Coffee was established by Tom Isaia, a founder of the Ann Arbor live music venue The Blind Pig, who honed his gelato skills in Italy. This establishment offers a wide range of flavors, from seasonal treats like Rum Raisin and Pumpkin Spice to perennial favorites such as pistachio and dark chocolate. Momento Gelato and Coffee, 2120 Trumbull, Detroit; 313-974-6054; momentogelato.com.
Milk and FrothEstablished in 2018, Milk and Froth prides itself on offering classic and contemporary ice cream flavors made entirely from scratch in Eastern Market using natural ingredients. Indulge in treats such as Honeycomb (custard infused with raw honey and accompanied by homemade honeycomb brittle) or Matcha Pistachio. Vegan options are also available. Milk and Froth, 535 Griswold St., Detroit; 313-285-8501; milkandfroth.com.
Browndog BarlorThis unique "Barlor" draws inspiration from three rescued Boston Terriers and aims to serve both humans and their furry companions. They handcraft all of their ice creams in small batches of 6 gallons or less using locally sourced dairy and scratch-made mix-ins. Their flavors include Salted Maple Butter Pecan with sea salt caramel and pecans, as well as Faygo Rock & Rye with fudgy brownies. In addition, they offer a selection of Michigan spirits and creatively reimagined bar food favorites. Browndog Barlor, 33314 Grand River Ave., Farmington; 248-957-9073, and 120 E. Main St., Northville; 248-675-8596; browndogbarlor.com.
CalderCalder creates small batches of ice cream in over 30 flavors using milk sourced from their farm in Carleton. They offer classics like chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry, as well as seasonal specialties like candy cane, eggnog, and pumpkin. You can even visit their dairy farm, open seven days a week. Calder, 1020 Southfield Road, Lincoln Park; 313-381-8858, and 28190 Telegraph Road, Flat Rock; 734-984-6985; calderdairy.com.
Indulging in a frozen treat is a delightful experience, and Ann Arbor offers a plethora of options for ice cream lovers. From artisan gelato to creamy custards, there is something to satisfy every craving. Whether you're a fan of classic flavors or enjoy pushing the boundaries with innovative creations, these local establishments provide a range of delectable options. So, gather your friends, explore the vibrant flavors, and embark on a sweet journey through the charming streets of Ann Arbor. From traditional favorites to exotic concoctions, the ice cream scene in this city is sure to leave you craving for more.