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Belle Isle to 8 Mile: An insider's guide to ice cream parlors

Hamtramck landmark Burk's Igloo Illustration by Emily Linn
Hamtramck landmark Burk's Igloo Illustration by Emily Linn
As the weather tips from scorcher to torture, and a Boston Cooler or a wade through the Detroit Institute of Arts fountain won’t do, sink your teeth into some of the city’s frozen, cavity-inducing, treats. With a slew of delicious options, Detroit has the competition licked, and we’ve got the scoop on the some of best destinations for cone-based delicacies. It turns out that the city that put the world on wheels is pretty good at sundaes, too.  

With staff often as sweet as the ice cream, diverse options throughout the city, locally-made varieties, and exotic flavors and toppings, avoid Breyer’s remorse and visit one of the city’s many neighborhood ice cream parlors, and leave the scooping to a professional.

Of course, the city offers numerous options for ice cream that aren’t singular in mission. Detroiters have been getting tasty ice cream treats from Astoria Bakery, Family Treat, The Potato Place, Sweet Potato Sensations, and Traffic Jam & Snug for years. Single purpose ice cream parlors, however, typically have a wider selection and are only open seasonally, making them a symbol of summer and a must-visit during the warmer months. 

Beyond on-the-beaten-path options such as Cold Stone Creamery, the Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop, and those trucks that play "The Entertainer," a few destinations offer especially fine ice cream complements to a heat wave.  

The following is a selection of excerpted ice cream parlor listings from Belle Isle to 8 Mile: An Insiders Guide to Detroit.

Burk’s Igloo - A seriously one-of-a-kind destination for summertime treats, you can spot Burk’s by the nearly 20-foot tall ice cream cone it flaunts from its sidewalk spot in Hamtramck. Offering all the delights you’d expect from a classic roadside ice cream stand, customers can enjoy soft serve flavors, dipped cones, sundaes, floats, blizzard-type creations and fried foods galore. After ordering at the walk-up window plant yourself at one of the nearby picnic tables for some grade-A people watching. Burk’s ascribes to a seasonal schedule, generally open spring to fall. 10300 Conant St., Hamtramck, 313-872-6830.

Dairy World Food and Treats - Although it offers a menu that is as eclectic as it is delectable – including authentic pierogi, abbas, chimichangas, lasagna, tacos, four types of grape leaves, and burraks, Dairy World Food and Treats’ true specialty is its ice cream and soft serve treats. Given the incredible variety of ice cream and soft serve flavors available – including root beer and praline – the range of cone options, and the number of possible toppings – including chocolate cake and baklava – there are 129,600 possible ways to order a cone. This is, of course, in addition to the ice cream cakes, malts, milk shakes, smoothies, floats, flurries, and sundaes available. Take out only. 19010 Woodward Ave., 313-731-8570.

Mootown Creamery and More - Open since 2011, Mootown’s delicious frosty treats have been a welcome addition to the market for the hoards of summertime market shoppers. They specializes in Michigan-made products including Faygo soda, Vernors ginger ale, Sanders fudge, Better Made chips, and Hudsonville ice cream. Flavors range from classic favorites (chocolate, butter pecan) to state-themed varieties (Grand Traverse Bay Cherry Fudge, Sleeping Bear Dunes Bear Hug, Michigan Deer Traxx). Prices are reasonable and the yummy scoops are generous. 2641 Russell St., 313-393-6016.

Mr. Lovely Williams & Sons Ice Cream - Despite what you might otherwise think - based on the relative lack of signage and the dreary facade - Mr. Lovely’s is indeed open. Windows, signage, eye contact, and air-conditioning are all amenities you’ll forget you’re missing as you sink your incisors into Mr. Lovely’s handmade ice cream. As visitors walk into the shop – a room about the size of a handicapped restroom stall where every bit of wall is covered with candy wrappers and hand-written ice cream menus – they’re greeted by a jovial, mysterious, and radio-worthy baritone voice from behind the candy-wrapper-covered glass wall: "Welcome to Mr. Lovely's!" While this friendly phantom proprietor serves some of the best ice cream on the east side, Mr. Lovely is best known for his fruit flavors. Those looking for something less cone-based can enjoy one of the seemingly infinite types of candies. 10700 Mack Ave.

Neveria La Michoacana - La Michoacana’s hand-painted signs and welcoming purple and teal chairs will carry visitors back to their own favorite childhood ice cream parlor -- and make them wish that the Superman sundaes of their younger years had tasted as good as La Michoacana’s frozen pineapple popsicle. Known for their homemade fruit popsicles and the giant $4 La Michoacana Sundae - featuring four scoops of your favorite classic ice cream flavors layered with your desired toppings - this shop has a huge selection of cold treats. Try an Agua Fresca (a fruit-juice-like drink that is sometimes made with cream), horchata, frozen chocolate-covered bananas, or delicious fresh strawberries drizzled in homemade sweet cream. Most menu items are listed in Spanish and English accompanied by hand-painted illustrations, but the welcoming staff is happy to answer questions or offer you a sample to try before you buy. 4336 W. Vernor Hwy., 313-658-3217.

These entries were originally written for Belle Isle to 8 Mile by contributors Cassie Basler, Rachel Harkai, Andy Linn, Emily Linn, Robbie Linn, and Molly Schoen.

Illustration of Burk’s Igloo by Emily Linn for Belle Isle to 8 Mile.

Belle Isle to 8 Mile: An Insider’s Guide to Detroit includes more than 1,000 Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park attractions, sites, institutions, events, restaurants, bars, shops, and curiosities from the essential to the obscure described over 448 pages. The book is available at City Bird and Nest in Midtown and here, as well as at other online and brick-and-mortar retailers.  
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