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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Aug. 1, 2014

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In Dining

New Paleteria Leon has a fun, colorful patio.

In Dining

Purple Door's whiskey ice cream. Looks like vanilla, tastes a little like booze.

Ice cream shops still scoop business in a custard town


With all of the frozen yogurt shops that have opened recently in Milwaukee and the city's hardcore commitment to frozen custard, it's easy to forget about classic ice cream shops. But there are plenty around town to choose from.

Recently, we made a point of visiting a few different ice cream shops: Baskin-Robbins, 1417 N. Wauwatosa Ave., Babe's Ice Cream, 2264 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., Purple Door Ice Cream, 138 W. Bruce St., and New Paleteria Leon, 1414 W. Forest Home Ave.

Purple Door Ice Cream, in the Clock Shadow Creamery, uses mostly local ingredients to make its ice cream. The new business, which opened last month, sells scoops, pints, quarts and gallons.

You won't find a double-digit flavor selection, but Purple Door offers eight different flavors at a time and some very unique tastes. Flavors like goat cheese, whiskey and balsamic strawberry are in rotation along with good ol' standbys like butter pecan and mint chip. Purple Door also works with businesses to create brand new, signature flavors.

"When we decided to open Purple Door we chose ice cream because Lauren has wanted to own an ice cream business since she was a child. We knew it might be a risk to open a super-premium ice cream shop in a custard town, but we wanted to stay true to Lauren's idea for an ice cream business," says Purple Door co-owner, Steve Schultz.

Juan Moctezuma lives half of the year in Milwaukee and the other half in Leon, Mexico. From March until October, he runs New Paleteria Leon in Brew City, and operates a very similar business in Mexico during our winter months.

New Paleteria offers about 40 different flavors of ice cream, sundaes, banana splits and milkshakes (only if Moctezuma's mother is working). It also sells Mexican candy and, interestingly, pickled pig parts in big jars on the counter.

The prices range from $1.50 for a small dish of ice cream to $5.50 for more elaborate ice cream desserts.

Moctezuma also runs a paleta cart business and has about a dozen carts that employees push in the Walker's Point neighborhood selling the in-house-made paletas (fresh fruit popsicles).

New Paleteria Leon has a cute patio that features six or seven brightly colored umbrellas over tables, nice landscaping and the option to sit in the sun or the shade.

"Business has been a little slow lately," says Moctezuma. "You would think people want to eat ice cream when it's very hot, but they don't."

Babe's Ice Cream serves more than 30 different Chocolate Shoppe ice cream flavors. Chocolate Shoppe, based in Madison, has 110 different flavors and Babe's rotates the flavors they offer. The most popular flavor is Zanzibar chocolate, made with three different African cocoas.

Single scoops are $3.

In general, ice cream and custard prices are close in price. A single cone, for example, sells for $2.25 at Kopp's Custard, 5373 N. Port Washington Rd.

Along with ice cream, Babe's, which opened in 2005, serves Italian ice, frozen yogurt, soy ice cream and no sugar added (NSA) ice cream.

"People seem really happy to have ice cream in the neighborhood," says owner Christine Cruz.

Baskin-Robbins is the world's largest chain of ice-cream specialty shops, with 6,700 shops in 50 different countries. The Wauwatosa Baskin-Robbins has been around for more than 50 years, and for the past 17 years, Debbie Camacho has served as the manager.

A single scoop at Baskin-Robbins is $2.64 and every location offers at least 31 different flavors (the concept was that a customer could come in every day of the month and order something different), but the classic mint chocolate chip is the most popular.

"We also have very passionate daiquiri ice and black walnut fans," says Camacho.

What do some people prefer about 31 flavors versus custard shops? Camacho narrows it down to consistency and selection.

"People can always count on getting their favorite flavor," she says. "And other customers appreciate that there are so many to chose from here."

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