An obligatory search for edible saviors amid torturous summer heat
In this summer’s edition of Voice vs. Food, six sweet-toothed, sweaty newspaper staffers trekked across Washtenaw County chasing the scoop on frozen escapism.
Three parlors in Ann Arbor and three in Ypsilanti left judges cavity-fated and calorie-concerned, but contently cooled at trip’s end.
Rescued from lethargic, heat-induced stupors and fearful of perilous, seasonal sadism, our concern is now dire for the endangered neighbor out in the heat.
These summer-relief eateries may be your only savior in traversing scalded, black-top fiends…
Ice Cream Time
1240 Ecorse Road, Ypsilanti
Our Order: large waffle cone, $1.55, chocolate vanilla swirl
Our travels began deep in Ypsilanti at a humble neighborhood dairy hut. This shop was low on frills, serving as a residential favorite.
“The service leaves some things to be desired,” said one judge. “They don’t seem excited about the treats at all. All I can say is: they were curt!”
Due to the simplistic and naturally minimalist nature of the shop, we elected to go with a basic, conventional classic. A waffle cone of soft serve chocolate and vanilla ice cream was, like the shop itself, deemed unexciting and lacking in flair by judges.
“Although the chocolate and vanilla swirl ice cream tasted smooth, it lacked any rich flavor,” said another judge. “The location of the shop is hardly desirable; being located in an unsavory area of Ypsilanti few ice cream lovers would go to.”
Score: 2 out of 5
GJi’s Sweet Shoppe
3368 Washtenaw Avenue, Ypsilanti
Our Order: triple waffle cone, $4.99, Ultimate Peanut Butter Brownie
Gji’s decadently offers patrons a wide variety of candy and other sweets along with several luxurious flavors of hard-serve ice cream.
The Ultimate Peanut Butter Brownie, best flavor winner in 2002 for the National Ice Cream Retailers Association, was an obvious choice.
“SUPA GOOD!” a judged exclaimed. “But on a more serious note, had a lot of caramel taste in it along with the peanut butter. All of the flavors meshed well together and tasted great in conjunction with the waffle bowl.”
Although all judges seemed to enjoy the creamy marriage of peanut and chocolate, some were overwhelmed by the richness of flavor.
“This business is a must-see for candy and ice cream lovers,” said a judge. “The Ultimate Peanut Butter Brownie ice cream is sweet and extremely flavorful, but best in small proportions, due to its creamy and thick texture.”
Score: 4 out of 5
42 East Cross Street, Ypsilanti
Our Order: double waffle cone, $4, strawberry cheesecake
Upon entering Café Ollie, the cool and laid back atmosphere was the first thing judges noticed.
A helpful and charming cashier offered up the shop’s biggest selling and, according to the hostess, tastiest flavor of ice cream to the judges.
The strawberry cheesecake drew initial criticism for its bold attempt at making strawberry ice cream even creamier.
“At Ollie’s, this flavor did not stand out,” a judge said. “The texture was a bit frothy as opposed to smooth and creamy and the taste left no lasting impression.”
But the softer and smoother texture was enjoyed by some along with the inclusion of freshly cut strawberries.
“Definitely not for someone wanting something on the light side,” another judge said. “This flavor rang true to the flavor of an actual strawberry cheesecake without being overdone.”
Score 4 out of 5
602 South Ashley Street, Ann Arbor
Our order: large waffle cone, $ 4.25, Caramel Pretzel Crunch
A storied staple of Ann Arbor’s “cream scene,” Washtenaw Dairy, for decades, has treated locals and urban patrons alike to a relaxing cone from its residential vantage point, just outside downtown Ann Arbor.
We were suggested to try out the current favorite: Caramel Pretzel Crunch, by a helpful, yet focused girl at the counter.
“This delicious flavor is a blend of vanilla ice cream infused with caramel and delicious bits of chocolate covered pretzel,” a judge said. “This melody of sweet and salty flavors teases the taste buds.”
A complex blend of flavors, our order was largely met with praise from the judges. “The caramel syrup mixed in the ice cream is deliciously sticky, but the chocolate covered pretzels are somewhat soggy, due to the ice cream,” another judge said.
Score: 4 out of 5
1220 South University, Ann Arbor
Our order: Green Tea Mochi Balls, one for 94 cents or 3 for $2.36
Always looking to push the boundaries of the strange and different, Voice Vs. Food Judges elected to include the exotic and eastern-themed Bubble Island, in our quest for frozen-dairy delights.
We tested the mysterious Mochi Balls: spheres of tasty ice cream encased in sticky rice cake. Rubbery exterior was soft but surprisingly gooey to the mouth throwing off some judges’ scores.
“Bizarre. Simply bizarre,” said a judge. “The filling is super tasty and it makes a nice hand food, but I just can’t get past that layer of rice. It feels slimy.”
Some found it difficult to manage the high contrast of textures, but all gleefully popped the balls down – fun.
“Inside a rice cake shell, the green tea ice cream is delicious, but the texture is hard to get used to,” said another judge.
Score: 3 out of 5
Kilwin’s Ice Cream Parlor
107 East Liberty Street, Ann Arbor
Our order: double waffle cone, $5.70, Ann Arbor Mud
The aromas of hand-made chocolatiers crafting decadence as fresh waffle cones baked commanded judges’ senses, already enticing a block from Kilwin’s Ice Cream Parlor and Chocolate Shoppe’s double store front.
“The Ann Arbor Mud ice cream earned the right to be named after the town,” a judge said. “This ice cream is very flavorful, but not overly creamy, and best to eat in cones or larger sizes.”
Judges agreed that Kilwin’s featured the best waffle cone of the journey. Freshly made on location, this edible vessel was lightly toasted, subtly sweetened and firmer and more durable than any other sampled by the judges.
“Walking into Kilwins the smell of freshly made fudge, melted caramel, and taffy is overwhelming and whets the appetite for a sweet treat,” another judge said.
Score: 5 out of 5
Winner: Kilwin’s Ice Cream Parlor
We knew we had our champion after the first bite outside Kilwin’s Ice Cream Parlor. On the comfy, street-side benches, our approval ran thicker than the luxurious cream itself.
Service smiled upon our glee. Dimly lit and thickly air conditioned, customer-friendly neighbors entertain sun-burnt requests.
The service, the delivery and presentation expertly accommodated our summer hunger. Down to the cone, Kilwin’s local concoction dreamed up ecstasy, vivid like no other summer treat.’