Tuesday, September 8, 2015

RANKED: The 6 Best Ice Cream Places in Ann Arbor

    Ahh, ice cream: I had originally set out to find Ann Arbor's best dessert spot, but since it’s still summer, I decided to tailor my search for the season. Over one week, I went all across town on the hunt for the best frozen treats in the area. Who came out on top? Where should you go for your next cone? Does everyone really scream for ice cream? Read on!

6. Rod's Diner

ICE CREAM: ★☆☆☆☆
Ordered: Vanilla soft serve with toppings on top of topping on top of toppings

    Oh Rod’s, how you confuse me. I feel like it’s almost illegal to serve savory Korean meats and ice-cold soft serve in one establishment, but, you pull it off. Unlike a normal ice cream shop, Rod’s Diner offers but two soft serve flavors (vanilla and chocolate) to which you can add 5 or 8 toppings depending on your size selection.

    I was initially impressed with the variety of toppings you can add to your base - everything from fruit to nuts to every cookie gummy candy you can think of. They then put everything in a blender to mix it all together for a creamy consistency. All toppings are reduced to sprinkle size or smaller! The ingredients they carry, however, aren't really anything special. Your cup is made or broken by its toppings so pressure is on.

    I would specifically recommend Rod's for large groups because everyone can customize their own cup and their service is quite quick. Interestingly, the owner will scream your order as fast as she can in the thickest Korean accent you will ever hear, so don’t get too caught up in a conversation until everyone gets their order.

    Overall, it’s kinda like your favorite FroYo spot, except soft serve. And you don’t feel the pressure of getting exclusively healthy toppings. Win-win.

5. Washtenaw Dairy

ICE CREAM: ★★★☆☆
Ordered: Bear Claw in a waffle cone

    To my surprise, Washtenaw Dairy is located on Ashley Street, a far cry from Washtenaw Ave. Once you get passed the confusing location, I think you will be pleasantly surprised. While the shop is far from glamorous it has a certain neighborhood charm. Washtenaw Dairy resembles an old diner - you've got your regulars, you've got your historic photos on the wall, and there's a rack of coffee pots and donuts right by the counter.

    Yes, they serve donuts. Yes they are amazing. But what about the ice cream, you ask?

    Although, it does not have the best quality ice cream, Washtenaw Dairy certainly provides the most bang for your buck. A kid’s size, for example, will exceed the size of most competitors' "double". However, if you want multiple flavors, you might have to skip dinner. Because you will receive a serving the size of your face. It's incredible for quantity alone.

    They have all the Michigan classics like Super Rainbow, Mackinaw Island Fudge, and Bear Claw as well as the blue chip standards you would expect from any ice cream parlor. Sadly to say, while their portions are generous, the grade of ice cream is rather poor. I found it to be grainy, icy and overly sweet - but hey, it's hard to argue with a massive cone.

4. Ben & Jerry’s

ICE CREAM: ★★★☆☆
Ordered: Coffee, Coffee BuzzBuzzBuzz and Chunky Monkey

    Perhaps I’m not the best judge for a Ben & Jerry’s shop. You see Ben, Jerry and I go way back. We grew up together. They were always there for me when I won a race, when I was having a bad day or just really felt like having ice cream. I know they will never let me down. Since I have always had the privilege of having them accessible in my fridge, I see no need to put on real people clothes just to be served a smaller, more expensive version of what I can enjoy in my pajamas over Netflix.

    Nevertheless, Ben & Jerry’s is amazing. I don’t know how they managed to mass-produce such a deliciously creamy product but I’m so glad they did. They have a wide arrange of creative, pun-name-laden flavors, but I would stick to creamy traditional flavors instead of heading down the fruity novelty sorbet route. The store itself, unfortunately, is hurting for a refresh. The booths are all torn up, and choosing to dine there means sitting on cracked pieces of faux leather.  If you are really craving a cone, pop on in! Otherwise, I would sit back, relax, and indulge from the freezer.

3. Kilwin’s

ICE CREAM: ★★★☆☆
Ordered: Coffee Chocolate Chip + Mint Chocolate Chip in a waffle bowl.

    Simply walking by the storefront, you get a delicious warm wave of freshly melted butter, sugar and vanilla all rolled into one. I literally stopped in the middle of East Liberty. HELLO, ICE CREAM HEAVEN.

    Once you walk in, the parlor itself is adorable. Kilwin's is lined wall-to-wall with fresh made caramel apples, caramel popcorn, and dozens of other buttery treats. Alongside their wide array of shelved sundries, they also offer a variety of creamy chocolate and vanilla based flavor-adding American favorites like peanut butter or Oreo cookies.

    Their ice cream, as much as I wanted to love it, is just too darn sweet. By volume, I’m fairly certain there is at least one cube of sugar in every lick you will take. I could barely finish it - I mean, I did, it's still ice cream - but it was hard. I felt the need to run a few miles after my last bite.

    I was not the biggest fan of the unconventional waffle cup either. Don’t get me wrong, the handmade waffle was delicious but since it's not a true cone shape, the bottom of the cup got rather soggy and was difficult to hold for on-the-go eating. All in all: go for the smells and the looks, but get a "small" unless it's cheat day. Fair warning: You will experience an extreme sugar high. Parents’ guidance suggested some flavors might be appropriate for children under 13.

 2. Iorio’s Gelateria

ICE CREAM: ★★★★☆
Ordered: Hazelnut and dark chocolate

    If you are looking for gelato, look no further: not only is Iorio’s the best... it’s also the only one around. I don’t know if it sent all the other gelato shops out of business or if it's simply blazing the gelato trail for the Ann Arbor area.

    Either way, I would not want to be their competition. Iorio’s offers some of the most classic Italian flavors such as stracciatella, espresso, and bacio (chocolate hazelnut with hazelnuts and chocolate chips). It also pulls in locally-sourced fresh ingredients, providing options for the adventurous seasonal eater.

    "But wait a second," I hear you asking: what’s the difference between ice cream and gelato?

     Gelato is churned at a much slower rate than ice cream, which doesn’t allow for as much air to be incorporated resulting in a denser consistency and flavor that you would normally get from ice cream. Iorio’s achieves a rich, silky taste to every flavor so choose wisely. Pick ingredients you’ll like because the gelato will only enhance them.

    Unfortunately, the décor is well... inconsistent. Iorio's went with a modern, clean look but also tried to incorporate the traditional aspects of Italy by mounting black and white photos that completely clash with the otherwise pristine look. However, that shouldn’t stop you from popping in and picking up a cup of perfetto Italia!

    One last tip: You better be hungry and ready to eat. Gelato is not served as cold as ice cream, so on a hot day or even a balmy evening, it will start melting before you know it!

1. Blank Slate Creamery 

ICE CREAM: ★★★★★
Ordered: Wolverine Tracks and Bananas Foster in homemade waffle cone

   And finally, we have a winner! Blank Slate was, by far, my favorite place in Ann Arbor.

    They have an amazing selection of unique ice cream flavors that pull you away from your traditional vanilla, chocolate, mint chip, cookie dough picks. All of their ice cream is produced on site with fresh ingredients that lines their back shelves so you can actually see the types of chocolate, peanut butter or pretzels that go into your scoop!

    Since they using real food instead of possessed flavors, you won’t get an overwhelming initial burst but one that’s enjoyable bite after bite. All their ice cream is super creamy but not overly sweet. It’s perfectly paired with their homemade waffle cone; you can even experience the pair when ordering a cup, since they add little piece of waffle in every cup.

    And that’s not all…. They actually have things that you can do while you enjoy you’re ice cream! All of their tables and counters double as chalkboards, so you can draw, write messages and play games (hence ‘Blank Slate’) while you savor every bite.

    However, let me warn you of the extremely addicting game located just outside the creamery. Trying to swing a ring into a nail sounds pretty easy right? Wrong. And you won’t stop attempting until you go back in for more ice cream. Win or lose, the ice cream brings me back every time.


   There you have it, everyone - now go out and enjoy a cone! 

    ~Adrianna P. -Women's Tech 


Looking for more things to see and do (and eat!) around Ann Arbor? Click here to go back to the Bivouac Blog!

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