$=$5-$10; $$=$10-$25; $$$=$25-$50; $$$$=$50+
Ashby's Sterling Ice Cream Parlor 46540 Van Dyke, Shelby Twp.; 586-991-0106: This old-fashioned ice cream parlor serves 60 flavors of premium, hand-dipped ice cream. No shortcuts here: Ashby's starts off with the creamiest 14 percent butterfat ice cream mix and adds your favorite ingredients. In addition to ice cream, choose from shakes, malts, floats and sodas to settle your sweet tooth. Ashby's also carries Alpine Chocolat Haus of Gaylord items, which include caramel corn and brittle.
Astoria Pastry Shop 541 Monroe St., Detroit, 313-963-9603; 320 S. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-582-9220: This year, Astoria has logged 40 years in its Greektown location. This pastry shop serves the kinds of desserts that make you want to snap a photo of them before they go down the hatch. And it's quite a sight: a glistening array of mouthwatering cakes and pies and cookies and puddings. Then there's the chocolate-peanut butter frozen yogurt, a rich delight made from low-fat frozen yogurt, but chock-full of thick peanut butter, a necessity for low-carbers. They'll happily box them up for a gift or to go.
Benny's Bakery 111 W. Michigan Ave., Saline; 734-429-9120: When you need a specialty cake — and by that we mean a cake shaped like a hat or a purse or an Army helmet or even an armadillo — Benny's is your go-to spot. They also do an array of creative cookies shaped like anything you can imagine: hearts, crosses, bunnies, groundhogs, fire trucks, shamrocks. And their cupcakes are so cute you'll have a sugar overload without even taking a bite, adorned with yellow duckies, baby bibs, sleeping tots, baby booties or kitty faces. See their Flickr site for examples.
Cake Nouveau 206 N. Fourth Ave., Ann Arbor; 734-994-4033; 1924 Packard St. Ann Arbor; 734-994-4033: Another specialty cake shop, Cake Nouveau specializes in creative cakes for special events. Their artistic flair and whimsical elements are nothing like the boring white wedding cakes of yesterday, with bright colors and unique shapes. Trained in French pastries, their award-winning resident "artist," Courtney Clark, can tailor a pastry to your taste — in flavor and shape. Open daily.
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 34 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.
Champagne Chocolates 54 Cherry St., Mt. Clemens; 586-468-1170: Boxed chocolates, toffees, "clusters" — bite-sized chunks of chocolate-coated peanuts, almonds, raising, dried cherries, or coconut — or "barks" — cooled sheets of chocolate mixed with fruit and nuts that are broken into delectable shards. You'll also find a creative assortment of wedding favors — and even sugar-free chocolate. Ask about their "chocolate parties," which give kids and adults alike the opportunity to create your own confections.
Chocolate Bar Café 20737 Mack Ave., Grosse Pointe Woods; 313-881-2888: This old-fashioned soda fountain serves classic sundaes, malts, real sodas and some of the best homemade chocolates around. The Chocolate Bar Café still serves the same Alinosi chocolate and ice cream that has been around since 1921. Along with the usual desserts, the Chocolate Bar Café offers special made-to-order cakes, cupcakes and treats. You can even customize a box of truffles or even personalize a chocolate bar with your own logo.
Clark's Ice Cream & Yogurt 3312 12 Mile Rd., Berkley; 248-541-6560: With about 55 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 $3.25 (child's size) and $3.75 (adult size). Open from noon to 9:30 p.m., with expanded hours as summer gets hotter.
Christine's Cakes and Pastries 45883 Hayes Rd., Shelby Twp.; 586-566-5545: As the name suggests, cakes are right up front on Christine's product lines, and they come in more than a half-dozen flavors, with options that include rich butter cream frosting and their "famous" poured-chocolate cakes. The pastry choices include more than a dozen tortes, as well as cannolis, chocolate mousse tarts, cream puffs, éclairs, cordials, brownies, strawberry crepes and a full line of gourmet cookies. Christine's has a reputation for using only the finest ingredients.
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).
The Cupcake Station 136 N. Old Woodward Ave., Birmingham; 248-593-1903; 116 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor; 734-222-1801; 318 Main St. Plymouth, 734-582-0500; 301 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale, 248-336-8668: The Cupcake Station prides itself on making every batch 100 percent from scratch, so you need never worry about biting into a stale cupcake. Think you can create a cupcake worthy enough to be deemed the "cupcake of the month?" Well send in your ideas because the Cupcake Station always welcomes new ideas to further their cupcake inventory.
Doc Sweet's Candy Company 120 S. Rochester Rd., Clawson; 248-597-1051: There's no missing this candy store: Its red-and-white striped awning makes it look like a big box of candy itself. It may as well be: It's Michigan's largest retail candy store, a self-dubbed "gigantic candy wonderland with 5,000 square feet of candy." It stocks everything from Abba Zaba to Zotz, running from nostalgic candy sticks to chocolate-coated insects. Open seven days a week, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays.
Erma's Original Frozen Custard 6451 Auburn Rd., Shelby Twp.; 586-254-3080; 2080 E. 14 Mile Rd., Warren: This roadside custard stand stocks a few flavors a week, but what flavors! How about mai tai or white chocolate almond? The Shelby Township location is between Mound and Van Dyke roads just north of M-59, open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. daily. One of our fellow employees recommends the "custard puff" highly.
Gayle's Chocolates 417 S. Washington Ave., Royal Oak; 248-398-0001; gayleschocolates.com: Go beyond the mass-produced candies for a true Michigan luxury. At Gayle's, chocolatiers will design a label for you and wrap candy bars with it, or, with enough lead time (4 weeks), can design a signature chocolate piece. Their present-ready truffles, hand-dipped and made from all-natural ingredients, are among their most popular holiday items. And check out the whimsical gift boxes or chocolate molds: flowers, sharks, motorcycles, stars and shoes (golf cleats and pumps) among the choices. From the double vanilla latte to the hand-dipped Grand Marnier truffles, this place is oozing the sweet stuff.
Guernsey Farms Dairy 21300 Novi Rd., Northville; 248-349-1466: You can go to Guernsey Farms just for an ice cream cone, or to buy dairy products from a little convenience store, or you can go for a meal. For less than $4, the black-and-white sundae — a combination of chocolate and vanilla ice cream with marshmallow and hot fudge, sprinkled with nuts, piled with whipped cream, and a cherry — is a meal itself! Guernsey Farms has kept families lapping up quality ice cream since 1940. With 48 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. 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.
Josef's European Pastry Shop 21150 Mack Ave., Grosse Pointe Woods; 313-881-5710: From grand wedding cakes to simple pastries, Josef's has almost 40 years in the business of providing customers with rich European-style pastries. Owners Anthony and Jimmy Cavallo are award-winning master pastry chefs from Montreal, and their artistic creations run the gamut, including cakes, pies, tea cookies, tortes, breads and croissants.
Just Baked 2463 A West Stadium, Ann Arbor; 734-585-5354; 33254 Seven Mile Rd., Livonia; 248-306-0296; 32828 Woodward Ave., Royal Oak; 248-850-7433; 41747 Ford Rd, Canton 734-981-9200; Twelve Oaks Mall, 27500 Novi Rd., Novi; 248-859-4340: This local mini-chain is a cupcake shop and bakery, offering more than 30 different flavors of gourmet, "jumbo" cupcakes including: rocky road, s'mores and white chocolate raspberry, as well as butter cream "mini" cupcakes. You'll also find homemade brownies, cookies, scones, decorated layer cakes and more.
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 Creme Puff," a creme 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."
Paciugo Gelato Caffe 1198 E. Walton Blvd., Rochester Hills; 248-608-6751; paciugo.com: A chain based in Texas ought to know how to cool customers off! And this joint in the Boulevard Shoppes in Rochester Hills has what it takes to put a freeze on the heat. With milk-based, water-based, soy-based and sugar-free flavors running into the dozens, there should be something here for everybody, whatever their dietary concerns or preferences.
Ray's Ice Cream 4233 Coolidge Hwy., Royal Oak, 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 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday-Saturday, and noon-8 p.m. Sunday.
Sanders Candy & Dessert Shop 16837 Kercheval St., Grosse Pointe Park; 313-882-4966; for more locations, see sanderscandy.com: 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; 313-934-1520: 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.
Treat Dreams 22965 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-544-3440; treatdreams.com: Metro Detroit's Willy Wonka of ice cream, Scott Moloney, is dreaming up ice cream flavors that will curl your tongue. Selections like lemon-basil, spicy jalapeno, dark chocolate peanut butter curry, salty caramel, avocado-lime, bananas Foster, pistachio-wasabi, and a mixture of maple ice cream with bacon and waffles called Sunday Breakfast have folks lining up to taste something wild and new. For the most daring eaters he infuses ice cream with savory flavors such as chicken and waffles or garlic. Treat Dreams isn't just a gimmick. The plain chocolate is as good as any in the area.
Truan's Candies 22200 Ford Rd., Dearborn; 313-562-3880: A family business since 1929, Truan's has been a Dearborn tradition. Expect boxed candies, make special orders, discover chocolate in unique molded shapes. Truan's can handle any quantity you or your business require. If they have the time, they may even make you a fresh malt from their classic soda fountain!
Special thanks to editorial intern Alia Raheem for her assistance researching this column.
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