Michigan Ice Cream Tour Ratings

As a follow up to the Girls Epic Michigan Ice Cream Tour, we compiled all of our ratings so you can make an educated decision on which ice cream shops to visit. You’re welcome.

The data was organized and presented by Bryn, who is graduating soon from the Kelley School of Business at IU, if you happen to have an opening for a management/operations management major. Ping me for her contact info.

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Also, here’s a PDF, if you want to download it. IceCreamTourRatings

We also rated our best overall ice cream.
Lilly:              Oreo Cheesecake at Sherman’s
Rachel:          Birthday Cake ice cream on a sugar cone at Pinkies
Madeline:     Coconut ice cream with chocolate covered almonds, tastes like an Almond Joy, from the MSU Dairy
Marita:          Bourbon Pecan from Browndog Barlor
Bryn:             The Tour of Shermans, which was really was 6 flavors. All were amazing.
Laurie:          The Key Lime from Plainwell served at the Spirit of Kalamazoo. It haunts my dreams.

Some additional comments:

Browndog Alcohol infused ice cream? Yes, please!

MSU Dairy Least favorite spot, it didn’t offer anything special. Big 10 theme ice creams are nice but it doesn’t tell you what kind of ice cream it is.

Pinkies A low bench the length of the cooler for kids to see inside is a nice touch.
Captain Sundae–the menu was complicated and hard to figure out. What can I say– pirates! The overall score would be lower without the putt putt.

Sherman Dairy  The blue cows on top of the building are awesome. Staff seemed overwhelmed from the get-go. Ice cream was excellent, pretzel cone was disappointing. I’d eat any of those flavors again.

Spirit of Kalamazoo A little weird because it seemed more like a t-shirt shop than an ice cream shop. They definitely had the best bathrooms. The Plainwell ice cream is really yummy.

The Parlour  The ice cream was standard but this is the kind of place that brings creates long-lasting memories. Very cute place, food and ice cream was great. Seriously considering the Dare to be Great challenge.

Washtenaw Dairy With all the major construction and modernization of the area, I’m secretly glad the Dairy has stayed just as it it. Since they don’t sell their own brand anymore, it’s becoming another corner coffee/ice cream/donut store. Like a Tim Horton’s with ice cream.

Dairy-Go-Round You just can’t beat a good, fresh brownie. It’s adorable. It’s the best because it ultimately has the greatest amount of variety and anyone can find something to eat.

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Adventure: Michigan Ice Cream Tour, Day 2

Is there such a thing as an ice cream hangover? That was the question we debated on the morning of Day 2 of the Girls Epic Michigan Ice Cream tour. We greeted the day with slightly less enthusiasm than the previous, silently adjusting expectations and strategies for the five ice cream locations on the schedule. The crappy, carb-laden breakfast offered at the hotel was not helping the situation, but luckily, a Starbucks just a couple miles away provided the caffeine infusion Marita and I needed. This was also the day that we remembered that we brought a GoPro, so we recorded some video reviews. Highlights: a side trip to South Haven beach, cows on the roof, and HoneyMadger has a breakdown. Everyone buckled in? We’re hitting the road.

Day 2, Stop 1. Sherman Ice Cream Dairy, South Haven, MI

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When I mentioned that we were going on an ice cream tour, several people asked if we planned a stop at Sherman Dairy in South Haven. Its popularity was evident from the moment we pulled into the parking lot. We arrived about 15 minutes before they opened and goofed around taking selfies with the blue cows. By 5 minutes to opening, there were nearly a dozen other cars in the lot and a line forming at the door. We were among the first through the door and clearly the least experienced. The menu was impressive–spaghetti and meatballs made with vanilla “noodles” and chocolate “meatballs” topped with strawberry sauce. So was the selection of ice cream that filled at least three cases. The only bummer was the servers, who seemed to be regretting their career choice. The Ice Cream Professional and I decided to share the Tour of Sherman’s, which was six flavors of your choice. Based on the rave reviews from Day 1, I knew cake batter had to be one of them. Rachel was interested in the pretzel cone, and you can see the rest of the choices here.

 

 

Day 2. Spontaneous Visit to Beach

We were so close to Lake Michigan we decided to take a detour and spend a few minutes at the South Haven beach. The beach features one of Michigan’s many picturesque lighthouses, this one over 100 years old. The day, although sunny, was quite windy and the waves were crashing pretty hard. Despite the No Swimming warning, many people were in the water, including a surfer. We took a walk out on the pier and tried not to get washed over, then dusted off our sandy feet and loaded up the Ford Flex Adventure Wagon and headed east. Watch the GoPro vid with super dramatic music.

Day 2, Stop 2. Spirit of Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo, MI
IMG_2319The Spirit of Kalamazoo wasn’t originally on the tour but the place I wanted to go, Lafayette Creamery, wasn’t opened on Sunday so I had to make an adjustment. We drove scenic county roads to Kalamazoo and found our way downtown to the Kalamazoo Mall. After struggling to find our way out of the parking garage and traversing a construction area, we made it to The Spirit of Kalamazoo. It was more of a t-shirt and trinkets shop than an ice cream place but they did serve Plainwell ice cream and that’s what we were there for. The counter help was super nice. They wanted to hear all about our tour and seemed pleased that they were included. They even took pictures of our shirts. Also, super nice bathrooms. The Plainwell ice cream they serve is amazing. I had a scoop of Key Lime that was nice and tart with a fresh lime taste and big pieces of graham crust. I have to rate this as one of the top ice creams I ate and I’m very interested in trying some other Plainwell ice creams. I might have to add the mothership to next year’s tour.

 

Day 2, Stop 3. The Parlour, Jackson, MI
IMG_0021I lived in Jackson until midway through first grade and about the only thing I remember is Loud & Jackson’s Dairy, aka L&J’s, now known as The Parlour. The ice cream shop has changed owners a few times since then, as recently as the week after our visit, but it still has the character and super large scoops I remembered. A long, snaking white counter, red covered stools, and a gleaming glass case filled with ice cream. They don’t make their own ice cream anymore but it’s still delicious. And they have a full menu, so we had some lunch. Grilled cheese on buttered white bread and dill pickles was the popular choice and it was great. Another awesome thing is the Dare to Be Great ice cream challenge. Eat 21 scoops of ice cream with assorted toppings and whip cream in under an hour and you get it for free, along with your name on the wall. Hmmm.
Here’s a the video of our choices.

We were now seven stops in to our tour and some participants were starting to lose their edge. Lilly’s ice cream eating pace had slowed so that it was practically melted before she finished it. And HoneyMadger, despite her plea for the smallest of the small scoops, nearly had a breakdown when they sat this in front of her. She rallied, though, and that’s why we call her HoneyMadger.

 

Day 2, Stop 4. Washtenaw Dairy, Ann Arbor, MI
We were in the home stretch now, just two more stops on the tour. The Washtenaw Dairy, set just off the edge of downtown Ann Arbor, is like a step back in time. They’ve been around for over 75 years and it’s the kind of place where you’ll find a table full of old guys sipping coffee and eating donuts in the morning and families with a flock of youngsters eating ice cream in the evening. Bonus points for being the only stop to stock beer and have a Little Free Library. We had a guest join us for this stop so that was also a plus. Washtenaw Dairy now serves Stroh’s ice cream and they had plenty of flavors from which to choose, and a super nice scooping staff. Watch the video for a review of our choices, with a cameo from Lilly’s mom, who you can tell has not been on the previous stops because she has a two-scooper. 

 

Day 2, Stop 5.  The Final Destination: The Dairy-Go-Round, Plymouth, MI
IMG_0026We ended the tour at our favorite hometown ice cream place, the Dairy-Go-Round, located right on Main Street in Plymouth. It looks like a giant merry-go-round with painted carousel horses (no, they don’t actually move) and a big colorful tent awning. The Dairy-Go-Round also employs one of our tour participants, but she assures us that she can be impartial when it comes to rating all of our stops. And then she said that the Dairy-Go-Round is the best, so consider that when you review the ratings. We made an exception and allowed a couple dudes to join us at this stop. The DGR serves soft serve and scooped ice cream, which is from Guernsey Dairy, and has a very creative menu. They have plenty of tables and chairs around to sit and enjoy your ice cream, that is if you are not lucky enough to get one of the horses. A fan favorite is the brownie fudge mud, which is made with homemade brownies baked on site.

See the video for our choices.

Wrap up
What did we learn on our ice cream tour?

  • There’s no such thing as bad ice cream.
  • Mom dancing is universally embarrassing to offspring.
  • It takes all flavors to make the world go round.
  • If we all gathered around a bowl of ice cream, we could solve the problems of the world.

Also, I never got sick of eating ice cream, so maybe I should consider that Dare to Be Great Challenge at The Parlour. But mostly, hanging out and spending time with friends is fun and we should do it more often. We are thinking of ideas for future tours–pizza, hamburgers or another ice cream tour has been suggested. Also, getting a bus might be fun. Feel free to share your ideas, or get on the list for next year’s tour.

We rated all of the stops on the tour, and you can see what the data says by clicking here.

Adventure: Michigan Ice Cream Tour, Day 1

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The whole idea started with one of those “only in your state” Facebook posts that pops up in your feed–someone’s idea of Michigan’s best ice cream places. Except they weren’t the best. So I came up with my own list of places, some I’d been to, others I’d only heard about, and a Google map. Soon, a Facebook event was created, hotels were booked, t-shirts were designed and just like that, we had ourselves The Girls Epic Michigan Ice Cream Tour. Nine ice cream parlors, 361 miles and two days.

Six women with strong ice cream opinions and even stronger stomachs piled into the Ford Flex Adventure Wagon on a bright, sunny morning in June and started off. Along the way, we picked up a guest ice cream lover or two, got caught in a highway shutdown, played some cut-throat mini golf, ate at a super sketchy Denny’s and visited a light house. I can’t possibly get everything in one post so I’ll divide this into Day 1 and Day 2. Stand by for a review of each place, what flavors we ate, some photos and our overall impression. On the Day 2 post, you’ll also get ratings from individual scores. Ready? Let’s hit the road and eat some ice cream.

Day 1, Stop 1. Browndog Barlor, Northville, Michigan
IMG_2263Set in a storefront on Northville’s main drag, the Browndog makes small batch handcrafted artisan (read: expensive) ice creams and sorbets. They also have real food so we made this our first stop and got lunch, then had ice cream. For this stop, Nichole joined us and we shared lunch plates including Arancini Balls, Pulled Pork Nachos, Margarita Sliders and Six Cheese Mac n Cheese. No sense going light, right?

Selecting from Browndog’s assortment of unique ice cream flavors like Who Needs a Therapist (all of us, obviously), some vegan choices, as well as alcohol infused ice cream for guests 21 and over, is harder than you’d think. The only sensible thing to do was order a flight of ice creams and sample four flavors at a time so that’s what I did. My selections included Cookie Monster, vegan Blood Orange Coconut Ice sorbet, Lemon Bar, and the Cherry Chip Chipotle, $9 for the set.

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The Cookie Monster is blue cookie dough with three different cookies mashed up in there. It is very good but a little on the sweet side and I wouldn’t want to eat a lot of it. The Lemon Bar was delicious with actual pieces of lemon bar, crust and zest visible. I enjoyed the way the chipotle snuck up on you in the Cherry Chip Chipotle. It wasn’t really noticeable at first, then became stronger on the back of your tongue. Very nice. And the Blood Orange. Wow. Such a great tart flavor and very creamy for a sorbet, not icy or grainy.IMG_2268

The flights were popular at the table so we passed around several different flavors and got to sample the Salty Dog (salted caramel ice cream, salted caramel swirl, pecans and brownies), and others. The Browndog Barlor was a great start to our trip.

Day 1. Stop 2. Michigan State University Dairy Store, East Lansing.
IMG_2270I believe the hallmark of a good ag school is its creamery so a stop at Moo U’s Dairy Store was kind of a litmus test. Road construction detoured us all over campus but we found the dairy, and a big line. As soon as you opened the door, you were hit hard with the smell of freshly made waffle cones. Servings were huge and prices reasonable-$3.25 for single plus an extra buck for the waffle cone. The inside was light on ambience and heavy on Big 10 icons but that’s okay, we came for the ice cream, not the decor.

After deliberating over the 20 or so choices, I settled on Honor’s Coffee Toffee, an espresso coffee ice cream with toffee pieces, as it was described. Except that there weren’t toffee pieces–it was an unevenly distributed ribbon swirl of overly sweet toffee–and the coffee flavor was not strong enough to combat it. My waffle cone, while very tasty, was poorly constructed and ice cream leaked out the bottom and made quite a mess.  The real ice cream professional in our group says that is just shoddy workmanship and there’s no excuse for it. She also said their regular cones were terrible–stale and styrofoam tasting. And the bathroom was gross.IMG_2274

The tour of the dairy plant is only available on weekdays, but I did manage a peek inside. Lots of stainless steel and gauges. Overall though, somewhat disappointing. Maybe it’s the cows.

 

Day 1, Stop 3. Pinkie’s Ice Cream & Desserts, Grand Rapids

IMG_2278Cute, cute, cute. Pinkie’s is not just a place to get a cone, it’s a celebration of the ice cream lifestyle. The walls are covered with cartoons and sayings, pink and white awning stripe make for a fun atmosphere and the servers are very cheerful and generous with the samples. They sling 32 flavors Sherman’s of South Haven (see Day 2, Stop 1) ice cream in this hipster Eastown location. It was a nice stop after our delay on I-96 involving a tanker carrying liquid nitrogen that shut down the freeway for an hour.

We ordered up our ice creams and took in the decor while we ate. Pinkie’s has some tables inside and a few benches outside and it was a nice sunny day. There were a lot of people in and out while we were there and the place has a nice neighborhood feel to it. I chose the chocolate covered pretzel ice cream and received a generous portion in a nice crispy cone. It was good mix of sweet and salty, creamy and crunchy. My companions were raving about the cake batter.

We enjoyed our stop at Pinkie’s and it definitely put us in a better mood after sitting in traffic forever.

Day 1, Stop 4. Captain Sundae, Holland, MI

IMG_0028A summer resort town, Holland is awash in soft serve ice cream places. I chose Captain Sundae because it got good reviews but let’s be honest, the mini golf course was a big factor. Yep, mini golf and ice cream is about as summer adventure as you can get. We started off on the pirate-themed 18 hole course and made an ice cream wager to keep it interesting–winner of the contest gets her ice cream paid for by the losers. The course itself is nothing special but we did pick up a guest or two along the way.

We had a lot of fun playing mini golf and it gave our stomachs time to make more room for more ice cream. The course was busy with families but not too crowded. Water features proved challenging for some our players and it was a hard-fought battle for lowest score. In the end, the actual winner had decided not to partake in the contest and lost out on getting her ice cream paid for so, as runner up, that left me to collect a free treat. I chose the signature Captain Sundae, a vanilla sundae with caramel and hot fudge, toasted pecans, whipped cream and a cherry. It was lovely, and less messy than some of the other choices, and believe me, they don’t skimp on the pecans. IMG_2301

The menu was enormous and kind of hard to figure out. For all of the choices listed, it was difficult to differentiate between them because they all seemed to be some kind of combination of caramel, hot fudge, and pecans. Overall, a fun time and it was nice to mix in some activities other than eating ice cream. By the time darkness set in, we were ready to call it a night and head off for our over-priced Baymont Inn.

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End of Day 1.
We had reserved a couple rooms at the Baymont Inn and headed over there around 10:00 PM, slightly sticky and on a sugar high. The best thing I have to say about it was that you could walk to the sketchy Denny’s. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.

Despite the sugar high, we crashed pretty hard and readied ourselves for Day 2.