Head for the best ice cream places in Metro Detroit for a cool treat this summer.
The beginning of summer heralds a season filled with barbecues, s’mores and an omnipresence of ice cream. As the temperature rises, so does the craving for the cold, delicious treat. Fortunately, Metro Detroit offers many options, from upscale ice cream boutiques, to frozen custard shops to mom-and-pop classics. Here are a few to get you started.
On this day, Gina and Jay Odren and their boys Ethan, Aiden and Evan were indulging in a favorite summer tradition. According to Gina, “Erma’s is the best-kept secret with the best ice cream in town.”
Ethan focuses on the best strategy for eating his ice cream: “I eat all my sprinkles first, so I can get to the ice cream easier,” he says wisely.
On Sunday nights, the line to buy Erma’s delights can stretch into the parking lot. So, perhaps Erma’s isn’t exactly a secret in Shelby Township, but it’s certainly a tradition that keeps growing through the generations.
Note: Special flavors at Erma’s change each week. A seasonal favorite is the pumpkin custard, served throughout October.
Erma’s Frozen Custard, 6451 Auburn Road in Shelby Township. (586) 275-2447.
While Erma’s is a family affair among its customers, Ray’s Ice Cream in Royal Oak is all about family on the business side. Current owner Dale Stevens is the son of original owners, Raymond and Bernice Stevens. Keeping up the family tradition, Dale says four of his grandchildren are involved in the making, delivery and serving of Ray’s ice cream. “It’s truly a family business,” he says.
Ray’s offers 37 regular flavors (popular flavors include Cinnamon and Butter Pecan), plus seasonal favorites such as Blueberry Pie and Egg Nog. They have a machine that makes 10 gallons in eight minutes. Two freezers – one set at 20 degrees below zero – store the ice cream.
Dave Jones of Huntington Woods and his son, Ezra, come to Ray’s about every couple of weeks.
“It’s a nice place to hang out; it has a great atmosphere,” Jones says. “The indoor seating is really good, too.” Inside, Ray’s has the feel of a 1950s ice cream parlor, complete with counter seating on stools.
Ezra says he thinks Superman is the best flavor because “it tastes good, and it has lots of colors.”
Ray’s Ice Cream, 4233 Coolidge Highway, Royal Oak. (888) 549-5256.
Looking for an ice cream boutique? Try Treat Dreams in Ferndale. The store, which opened two years ago, is known for its unique creations. The flavors, which change weekly, are like nothing you can find elsewhere. For example, when we visited, they were serving Tennessee Breakfast (bourbon ice cream with cornflakes), Krispy Kream (which had actual donuts crushed into the ice cream) and Kooky Monster (a blue vanilla ice cream with cookie dough and Oreo pieces). They also offer vegan options made with rice milk.
Luke Desnoyer, there with parents Mark and Trisha and younger brother Wyatt, explained why Kooky Monster is the best: “There are so many cookies, and it’s blue!”
The Desnoyers walk there about twice a month. “We like that it’s independently owned,” Mark says. Trisha adds, “Their culinary creations are incredible.”
If the weekly flavors don’t suit a customer’s desires, they can look in a freezer stocked with pints of past flavors. One of particular interest was Michigan Salad, a blue cheese ice cream mixed with walnuts.
Manager Lindsey Johns of Warren says more than 300 flavors have been created in two years. Favorites are Red Velvet Cupcake, Raspberry Lemon Bar and Honey Lavender.
At the back of the store, customers can leave requests for flavors they want to be brought back and ideas for new flavors. One customer, a child, judging by the handwriting, wrote “Dear Treat Dreams, Thank you for doing a duty in our community. I love your ice cream. Love, Alex.”
Treat Dreams also sells brownies, cookies, cake pops, popsicles and coffee.
Treat Dreams, 22965 Woodward Ave., Ferndale. (248) 544-3440.
Before reading Alex’s note, I was not aware that ice cream shops were fulfilling a duty to their communities, but now that I think about it, where else can you find a perfectly crafted cone that balances just right, despite the weight of a giant scoop? It takes years of practice to hone the skills needed to produce the ice cream these businesses serve, and without them, summer just wouldn’t be the same.
Other stores of note are Ritter’s Frozen Custard in Livonia, Brighton and Rochester Hills; Guernsey Farm Dairy in Northville; Dairy Deluxe in Birmingham; Clark’s Ice Cream and Yogurt in Berkley; Calder Brothers Dairy in Lincoln Park; and Twist Frozen Custard and Yogurt on Haggerty in West Bloomfield.