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 pur?e forms the basis for the shop's smoothies, which also come in diet-friendly light versions that boast 150 calories or fewer.
While Butterfly Kisses Baking's staff avidly serves its local customers by decorating cakes, cupcakes, and cookies, the people they most proudly cater to are military troops. The shop allocates 20% of its profits to providing care packages for servicemen and women abroad. They build those funds by enticing customers with the sweetness packed into their various treats, which include peppermint-bark cupcakes, lemon sugar cookies, and cake pops themed after the flavors of cereal, cookies, and candy bars. Bakers are on hand to help clients create custom desserts including themed cakes that might light up a child’s face on his birthday or fondant scenes so real you’d consider buying a time share there.
Built on the sweet, spongy foundation of cupcakes, The Sweet Tooth regularly features a dozen different flavors of the miniature cakes and rotating, seasonal specials in addition to homemade cookies, custom cakes and cheesecakes. At the pristine little shop, visitors will find iterations such as chocolate salted caramel, wintertime gingerbread, and the ever-popular choc-o-mint cupcake, in addition to surprise specials that have included cookie bouquets, miniature pumpkin pies and layered cookie sandwiches.
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.
Owner Teresa Poppinga whips up micro-batches in-house to ensure fresh, high-quality ice creams, stocking the shop's glass freezer case with a wide variety of rotating flavors and used glow sticks. Unexpected scoops have included everything from cake batter and cinnamon bun to lemon cookie and Grape-Nuts. Poppy's also carries sorbet flavors and frozen custard crafted from whole eggs and a 10% milk-fat base. The Petite Summit Sampler (five mini-scoops, $3) paints your taste buds with a Crayola box full of flavors. Flavor monogamists can get their fix in a homemade waffle cone ($.60 for plain, $1 for chocolate dipped) or sugar cone ($2.35 for a single dip, two dips for $3.35). For a spoonable sweet, peruse the sundae menu's offerings, like the old-fashioned Slow Sundae (from $3.25 for small) lacquered in hot fudge and caramel and studded with pecans and a cherry on top. Continue to satiate a sweet tooth with parfaits, malts, shakes, and concretes, creamy blends of vanilla frozen custard and toppings like buttery pretzel bits and coconut shavings.
In the Middle Cupcakes bakes spongy, gooey treats from scratch, and every mini cake encircles a melty surprise within its fluffy layers. Solicit the newly opened store's bakers for a 12-pack of moist morsels, many of which contain cocoa imported from Holland and France and real vanilla beans. The bakery boasts seasonal options and a regular menu populated by such creations as the chocolate-chip-cookie-dough cupcake—a velvety brown-sugar cake with eggless chocolate-chip cookie dough, cookie-dough buttercream, and a mini chocolate-chip cookie hat. The carrot-cake cupcake sports a raisin-and-walnut filling topped with rich cream-cheese frosting. The red-velvet creation teams red-velvet cake with a premium white-chocolate-chip center and a dense cream-cheese frosting, and the lemon cupcake—light lemon cake, white-chocolate-chip filling, lemon-buttercream frosting, sugar crystals, and a white daisy—reminds any close friend that lemonade isn't the only solution when life gives you tart citrus.