Sometimes you want to go out to eat, but the stars just aren’t aligned for a sit-down dining experience. If the hang-up is the fact that you have two or three kids just a bit too young for table manners, there’s no reason to worry. That’s why there’s such a thing as ice cream.
There are still dozens of neighborhood ice cream places in metro Detroit. They still ask you for your order through a screen and dispense soft-serve ice cream and hot dogs, cones with sprinkles and hamburgers. Some of these places have been in business for as long as 50 years. Take, for instance, Burk's Igloo (10300 Conant St., Hamtramck; 313-872-6830). The permanent stand is closed in the winter, but opens every summer from noon to 10 p.m., featuring ice cream and a short short-order menu best enjoyed in the open air on the picnic table outside it.
Or take Clark's Ice Cream & Yogurt (3312 12 Mile Rd., Berkley; 248-541-6560), which is open year-round. You won't get a hot dog here, but they stock 60 different flavors, and still have that roadside stand feel despite the small lobby inside and benches and picnic tables outside.
Those looking for a nostalgic ice cream parlor experience? Choices abound. Macomb County has Leason's Dairy Bar & Grille (11475 E. 13 Mile Rd., Warren; 586-977-2680), family-owned and operated since 1970. Ice cream flavors include cookie dough and "moose tracks." The "Glacier" is a popular item that mixes some of your favorite candies with vanilla soft-serve. There are also pitas, gyros, burgers and more.
Over in Oakland County is Ray's Ice Cream (4233 Coolidge Hwy., Royal Oak; 248-549-5256), another family-owned ice cream parlor that has logged almost 60 years in the business. They make gourmet ice cream on-site, more than 50 flavors of it. In the summer, there can be lines stretching out into the parking lot.
Downriver has Calder Brothers Dairy (1020 Southfield Rd., Lincoln Park; 313-381-8858). Having logged 70 years of operation, the Calder Brothers' spot may be the last remaining Downriver dairy taking it from cow to cone. They still make their ice cream fresh, right on their own farm in Carleton, using milk from their own moo-cows. They do not use artificial hormones to enhance milk production, instead relying on healthy feed rations, good management, and lots of TLC. Flavors range from reliable vanilla to the more adventurous like cinnamony horchata, cake batter, and "Holstein paradise" — coconut with chocolate chips and almonds.
Another old-fashioned experience through and through is Guernsey Farms Dairy Family Style Restaurant (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. Guernsey Farms has kept families lapping up quality ice cream since 1940. With 48 flavors available at any given time (and many more in production), as well as an assortment of cones, sherbets, sorbets, and other ice cream desserts, you'll probably have a hard time deciding what to order. Co-owner Marty McGuire, one of the founder's sons, says the farmers Guernsey works with are traditional family farms that treat animals as more than milk-producing machines. He says, "Their cows are like part of their family."
McGuire adds, "I guess you would call us a craft dairy. We try to do the best we can and work with all the old formulas my dad created back when he went to Michigan Agriculture College and wrote up the formulas. We still use the basic formulas he created back then."
But those who must have something unusual and outré aren't out of luck. There's Scott Moloney's Treat Dreams (22965 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-544-3440), where the flavor board in his bakery and micro-creamery prove that just about anything can be made into a dairy-based dessert. Who knew that purple yam, potato chips, jalapeno peppers, and chicken are all legitimate ice cream flavors? In Moloney's able hands, unconventional but inspired tastes just keep coming. His "Sunday Breakfast" is like maple syrup, bacon, and waffles, and his "Mango Unchained" mixes mango, Southern Comfort, and cayenne. Other out-there flavors have included macaroni and cheese, sweet corn, and chocolate-covered potato chip.