From its humble beginnings in Kankakee, Illinois, in 1938, Dairy Queen has grown from a delicious experiment in soft-serve ice cream to a household name with more than 5,900 restaurants around the world. The shop's signature frozen delights are built upon a frosty foundation of creamy chocolate or vanilla soft serve, which swirls idyllically into cones, cups, overturned top hats, sundaes, Peanut Buster parfaits, and the chain's iconic Blizzard treats, blended with crumbled candy and other mix-ins. Ice-cream cakes cleverly conceal a surprise filling of fudge and chocolate crunch between layers of vanilla and chocolate ice cream, providing sweet, sliceable sustenance for birthday parties and other special occasions.
Fruit rules the roost on the other side of the slushy emporium, where Orange Julius blends its signature frothy drinks crafted from fruit juice, ice, and a "magic” powdered sweetener that explains why they disappear from most customers’ cups minutes after the first delicious sip. Real fruit purée forms the basis for the shop's smoothies, which also come in diet-friendly light versions that boast 150 calories or fewer.
At Tables With Taste, a mother-daughter duo combines their vivid imagination with more than 100 years of family tradition to bake up fresh cupcakes daily. Many of the custom-made treats emulate the appearance and tastes of beloved desserts, from the creamy zing of a root-beer float cake adorned with a straw to popcorn-flavored mini-cupcakes arranged in paper bags and served in a quiet, pitch-black room. The chefs also whip up pretzel challah bread, flour-free tortes, and chewy cookies for serving alongside their whimsical cupcakes.
Ray Lamar hasn't spent decades perfecting his donuts. In fact, his namesake shops still use the same recipes that Ray developed in 1933—at the age of 17—when he got his first job working a donut fryer. World War II and a postwar career as a stockbroker interrupted Ray's donut-making pursuits, although he returned to his roots in 1960 when he founded the first LaMar's Donuts.
The shop went on to become a Kansas City icon, with crowds arriving well before 6 a.m. to line up outside the doors and taunt the roosters for sleeping in. Ray and his wife, Shannon, eventually decided to expand their business into a regional empire, and LaMar's Donuts currently boasts 27 franchised stores spread across six states.
Even with all of this growth, decades-old traditions still dictate how things are done. The workers prepare more than 75 different kinds of donuts, hand-making fresh batches of perennial favorites as well as recent inventions each and every morning. In addition to the original glazed creation that dates back to 1933, the menus can feature a variety of cake donuts with flavors such as red velvet, apple spice, and maple.
Since donuts and coffee go together as naturally as paper shredders and subpar report cards, the stores also prepare cappuccinos, mochas, and other coffee drinks. These are all made with handpicked beans that slowly roast inside Italian brick ovens.
Evoking the enjoyable meltiness of a cool scoop of gelato on a hot day, Paciugo Gelato takes its name from the Italian word for messy concoction, rousing palates with unique gelato flavors crafted with Old-World tastes. Founder Cristiana Ginatta’s family recipes come to life as staffers fuse fresh fruits and all-natural ingredients into decadent milk-, water-, or soy-based gelato and sorbet. The sweet scoops boast 70% less fat than regular ice cream or soft-serve obtained from chilly Alaskan cows. Patrons can test-drive the shop’s diversely flavored bounty before committing to a flavor such as carrot cake, butter pecan, or tiramisu in its less solid form. Guests can score flavors without added sugar—including strawberry milk—to trick their sweet teeth into happiness. Paciugo also carries a host of coffee drinks ranging from Paciugo Miscela, a bold Vienna roast, to Gran Crú, a light roast from Kenya.
There is plenty to see, hear, and smell inside Ceramics & Coffee House @ Paint, Glaze & Fire. Here you’ll see rows of clay-colored mugs, vases, plates, pictures frames, and figurines next to bits of colored glass for fusion projects. Overhead a mosaic of tiles painted by customers creates a colorful ceiling, and up front an espresso bar grinds PT's coffee beans and steams milk for lattes.
Debbie, a Paint, Glaze & Fire co-owner, especially likes seeing dads painting pottery with their kids. Debbie says that while a father and his children might not talk too much while painting, they're still communicating and sharing a lot more than if they were silently sitting in a movie theatre. Plus, after painting, glass fusing, or canvas painting this family will have a something to show for it.
While fun for the whole family, Ceramics & Coffee House @ Paint, Glaze & Fire focuses on cultivating the creativity and curiosity of children. Kids' parties and summer camps actively engage youngsters, as do the bimonthly Paint Me a Story sessions, where a favorite children's book is paired with a pottery painting activity. With space to house 30 to 40 adult-size imaginations, the studio can also host corporate team-building events, girls' nights out, and other celebrations.
Best Regards Bakery's team of cake mavens sates sweet teeth with moist melees of cookies, cupcakes, and brownies—each crafted from scratch and thoroughly taste-tested. Choose from several types of soft-baked cookies, each weighing a quarter-pound and cloaked in cellophane in order to stay fresher than a shrink-wrapped daisy. Toby's Ugly Banana cookies ($2.99 each) develop acute attractions to lips, and the signature cranberry orange's tangy fruits, European butter, and crystalline sugar tickle tongues ($3.49 each). A roster of seasonally rotating cupcake all-stars includes the Madagascar bourbon vanilla and the sprite, gooey limoncello ($3.25 each). The bake shack boosts morning routines with its gooey, gourmet cinnamons rolls ($3.49 each), each large enough to muffle the noise of intrusively trumpeting stomachs and delectable enough to savor while reclining on the bakery's attached patio.