Have you ever tried the banana cream pie ice cream at Velvet, piled atop a homemade ice cream cone? Or maybe the pineapple ice cream with pineapple chunks at Tutti Frutti? Ever set foot inside Iorios Gelato? We’re all looking for ways to cool off in this scorching summer heat. Look no further than East Lansing’s unique array of ice cream shops that will have you cooling off in no time.
Velvet A Candy Store
Facing Grand River Ave. and the Broad Art Museum lies a storefront trimmed with a purple and white striped canopy and two sets of tables and chairs outside. Kids with wobbly ice cream cones occupy these chairs, licking furiously in the summer heat. A sidewalk sign outside displays today’s specials: “purchase two homemade cupcakes, get two free,” and “small waffle cones for $2.99.” Velvet is a recent addition to the East Lansing community, and offers a variety of homemade desserts and ice cream flavors.
The first thing you’ll notice upon entering the candy shop is a man behind the counter laying out sheets of melted fudge across a marbled table. He tosses in a few nuts, slowly folding the chocolate-y mixture over and over again. The ornate interior of Velvet offers guests comfy seating in long leather couches or tables big enough for six. A framed sign that reads “Keep Calm and Eat Ice Cream” sits atop the highest shelf of a large white bookcase. Everything about this place is fun, from the old fashioned ice cream bar and stools to the spoons that change color when they make contact with the freezing cold treats-and I haven’t even gotten to the ice cream.
I really enjoyed this ice cream, and I do consider myself an ice cream enthusiast. Every batch is homemade, and you have your choice of over 25 flavors including Banana Cream Pie, Birthday Cake, and Toasted Coconut, Blueberry Pie, and Cotton Candy.
Velvet is located at 507 E Grand River Ave.
On a small coffee table just inside Iorio’s Gelateria lie three books for guests who feel like some light reading with their Italian ice cream: The Splendor of Italy, Coffee Basics: a quick and easy guide, and Speak Italian: The Fine Art of the Gesture.
This café and gelateria features eighteen different gelato flavors, which are constantly changing, but currently include Zingerman’s Coffee, Nutella Cheesecake, and a few fruit flavors like Strawberry and Kiwi. All gelato is homemade. In addition to the frozen treat, Iorio’s offers desserts and coffee drinks, all labeled in Italian on the board posted behind the cashier: “dolci,””espresso,” “caldo,” “freddo,” and of course, “gelato.” If you’re looking for coffee, their “brew board” will help you choose which roast is right for you.
Guests are encouraged to try flavors before purchasing, so I sampled the Dark Chocolate and Nutella Cheesecake before landing on the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. The rich vanilla flavor paired well with the large chunks of sugary cookie dough, and the small dark chocolate pieces gave it an extra kick. Without a doubt these small but flavorful servings will satisfy your gelato cravings. Gelato is priced at $3.55 for a piccolo (small), and they also offer pintas (pints) for $8.50 and quartos (quarts) for $16.00.
I had my choice of either indoor or outdoor seating, and on a 92 degree day I chose to stay inside and enjoy the soft, alternative music coming through the speakers. The atmosphere was calm and perfect for getting work done, as many people seemed to be doing.
Iorio’s Gelateria is located at 1034 Trowbridge Rd.
Michigan State Dairy Store
A trip to the MSU Dairy Store just isn’t complete without a 10-15 minute wait in line, but that’s how you know it’s good. The hand scooped ice cream is made on campus and features titles specific to our Michigan State Spartans. Dantonio’s Double Fudge Fake, for example, is a chocolate fudge ice cream with rich caramel swirls, and fudge and milk chocolate caramel football pieces.
I chose Sesquicentennial Swirl, a white cake batter ice cream with green fudge swirls and cake pieces, on top of a homemade waffle cone. I really liked this odd colored ice cream as I’ve enjoyed other flavors I have tried in the past (Buckeye Blitz is my favorite). For all the Wolverines fans who might be feeling left out, Maize-N-Berry is a vanilla ice cream with a blueberry pie-filling swirl and pie crust pieces.
The Dairy Store has two different locations: Anthony Hall, and the Union. I went to try out the ice cream at Anthony, where every flavor is available, rather than the smaller selection at the Union’s store. The store front here is also much larger, and it offers guests a little more seating, though most people grab their cones and go. The store smells like waffles, which employees were making behind the counter. Ice cream can be served in these homemade waffle cones as well as in cake cones, sugar cones, or made in a shake or malt.
The wide variety of ice cream flavors can’t be found anywhere else, like Illini Orange Crush, an orange flavored ice cream with pineapple pieces. The only problem you’ll face is choosing among all the flavors, and if you can’t, don’t hesitate to ask for two or three different scoops! The Dairy Store is also a great place to pick up a fresh block of locally made cheese, located in large coolers against the wall.
The Dairy Store is located in Anthony Hall at 474 South Shaw Lane, and at the Michigan State Union: 107 MSU Union Building
This shop is an East Lansing staple. It offers both hand dipped and soft served ice cream as well as smoothies and slushes. Soft serve is available in vanilla, chocolate, twist, and the special flavor of the week, which changes every Tuesday. Shakes can be made with a variety of flavors such as mint, marshmallow, and pineapple.
The slushes are also quite popular - if you’re feeling daring, try asking for a “suicide slushy” which is every flavor of slush in one cup. “Twisters” are any flavor of soft serve ice cream mixed with an item like Nerds or Fruity Pebbles. Banana splits and strawberry shortcakes are also available.
I usually opt for a soft serve ice cream here, so for a change I tried a hot fudge sundae. As long as you eat quickly to avoid excess dripping, this treat is great. They give you a good portion and never skimp on the hot fudge.
Tasty Twist offers indoor seating and a couple of benches outside.
Tasty Twist is located at 1137 E. Grand River
On the far wall of this frozen yogurt shop hangs a large blackboard where customers are invited to share their favorite flavor, piece of advice, or, more often than not, a random thought. Apparently, “MSU Hockey is doing big things this year,” and someone needed “A big cup today. Math exam.”
To some, frozen yogurt is an excuse to eat a dish full of sugary toppings, including but certainly not limited to cookie dough, skittles, gummy bears, sour worms, cereal, chocolate chips, hot fudge, caramel, and whipped cream. To others, it is a healthier alternative to ice cream which offers unique flavors such as “Lychee,” “Green Tea,” “Soy Bean,” and “Taro.”
Taro and coconut flakes proved to be a tasty combo. (Plus, of course, the ten other toppings I layered on top.) Taro root is a vegetable, rarely consumed raw, but great in frozen yogurt. It’s hard to place what this flavor tastes like, but it seems to be a bit like vanilla mixed with popcorn. Sounds weird, I know, but trust me, it works.
Guests are invited to build their own treat, starting with picking a cup size and dispensing their own frozen yogurt. Next you add your toppings. When you’re finished, the scale in front of the register determines how much you owe. The shop is set up with indoor seating, and sometimes outdoor, too.
Tutti Frutti is located at 515 E. Grand River
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