By Julie Lawrence Special to Published Nov 07, 2005 at 5:34 AM

Milwaukee might be king when it comes to custard, but a new locally owned ice cream shop in Bay View -- Babe's Ice Cream & Desserts -- is hoping to put an end to its reign.

"People seem really happy to have ice cream in the neighborhood," says Christine Cruz, who owns the business with her husband Darwing. "We offer 32 flavors of ice cream, including no sugar added varieties, frozen yogurt, and in the summer we'll have Italian shaved ice." And for the die-hards, Babe's also serves vanilla custard.

But they don't stop at your standard cone and dish variations. Darwing, the executive chef at Ozaukee Country Club in Mequon, has put his culinary skills to the test by designing custom desserts that are beautifully created right in front of you. A top seller, Christine says, is the warm chocolate lava, which she describes as "yummy chocolate ooze." The chocolate cylinder cake is served warm and coated with a chocolate raspberry sauce. Other homemade specialties include espresso coffee tiramisu, amaretto biscotti torte and angel food cake.

Christine says that Babe's has always been a family-owned business. Her brother-in-law had already opened three locations in northern Illinois when he finally convinced the couple that Milwaukee needed one. Already living in the area, the Cruz family began scouting out the Bay View neighborhood.

"Of course, we were hoping to be open by summer, but we just hadn't found the perfect spot."

But opening on Oct. 11 at 2264 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. was well worth the wait, she says. Babe's is conveniently sandwiched between Schwartz Bookshop and Stone Creek Coffee. "The neighborhood has just been fantastic," she says. "We get people seeking dessert after dinner across the street at Lulu and even the crowds after a play at the Boulevard Theater down the street. It's a real sense of community around here."

Christine says that Babe's in Bay View has not only seen tremendous support from the neighborhood, but also from her own family. Both of the Cruz children work there and her cousin fills in on the weekends. "We're a family team," she says. "It's just us. We're a very close family."

And perhaps it is the family touch that makes Babe's stand out. "We love making dessert and we want everyone to know that." Little extras include monkey tails -- chocolate dipped bananas-- and malts and shakes that come with flavor appropriate toppings, whip and cherries. Plus, Babe's is keeping in it the state by serving up the super premium Wisconsin goodness that is Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream from State Street in Madison.

"We think Milwaukee is ready for ice cream, not more custard," she says. "This is Wisconsin's first location and we hope to master this one and open a second."


Julie Lawrence Special to staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.

As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”