Detroit’s Cold Truth serves up all-natural frozen treats

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The Sweet Creem, with dark chocolate magic shell in a dark chocolate dipped gluten-free and vegan handmade waffle cone. 
The Sweet Creem, with dark chocolate magic shell in a dark chocolate dipped gluten-free and vegan handmade waffle cone.  Tom Perkins

Cold Truth

4240 Cass Ave., Ste. 100, Detroit
313-680-1199
coldtruthsoftserve.com
Handicap accessible
2 p.m.-9 p.m. Sunday-Monday (winter hours 4 p.m.-9 p.m.)
Cups or cones $3, $5.50, $8

I first tasted the delights of Cold Truth when owner Tim Mahoney donated his Mexican Chocolate frozen pops to the election night party for Denzel McCampbell. McCampbell had come in second in the primary for Detroit City Clerk, thus moving on to November's general election, and temperatures and spirits were both high.

I immediately wanted to track down the rest of Mahoney's "only made-from-scratch vegan soft-serve in the Midwest." Not because of that odd list of bona fides but because it was so fricking good.

Turns out pops-on-a-stick aren't normally on the menu at the Cold Truth Cass Ave. walk-up, but the cones and cups are just as tasty. I found that the texture varied somewhat between close to regular soft-serve (soft) and closer to regular ice cream (firmer).

The base is oat milk and coconut cream, in varying proportions, purchased by the pallet from Southeast Asia. That's enhanced with hibiscus flowers or blueberries or raspberries or rosewater or lavender or peach and ginger; flavors rotate. There's been a Cherry Banana and a Chocolate Banana Tahini. A Tropical Week in August saw bananas and pineapple, the latter grilled out front. In September Mahoney will start offering a S'mores Sundae: chocolate and vanilla soft-serve with a dark chocolate shell, vegan graham crackers, and a toasted gluten-free vegan marshmallow on top. Other fall flavors will be pumpkin, sweet potato, and Mexican hot chocolate. In winter Mahoney will serve hot chocolate as a drink.

As usual, I liked the various chocolate soft-serves best, both a Frozen Cocoa, which actually tastes like cold hot chocolate, and the Mexican, for their depth. But a Hibiscus Rose Berry was intense, too, reminiscent of a strong sweet herbal tea. Peach and coconut were milder. Vanilla, called Sweet Creem, is modeled after DQ.

You can order a from-scratch gluten-free vegan waffle cone, made on a waffle iron, again the only ones in the Midwest, but they tend to run out early. Soft-serve may run out too on a hot day, so don't delay. Whenever I've visited, there's been a line (of happy people). There are outside tables on the sidewalk on Canfield (which is where the walk-up window is, despite the Cass Ave. address).

click to enlarge Lavender ice cream with Blue Moon magic shell and house-toasted coconut. - Tom Perkins
Tom Perkins
Lavender ice cream with Blue Moon magic shell and house-toasted coconut.

The soft-serve comes in three sizes: $3 kiddo (available to grownups), $5.50 regular, and $8 sundae-size. The latter was so big I couldn't finish it, even though I had arrived growlingly hungry. You can furbish it with sprinkles (strawberry dust, graham crackers, Oreo crumbs, coconut excellently toasted in-house, Fruity Pebbles) or get a rim of neon-orange tajín, made with chilies, salt, and lime juice (you know it from Micheladas). Drizzles are dark chocolate or Blue Moon. The latter is the blue flavor from Superman ice cream, but it's made from blue spirulina and cherry oil. "We do nothing artificial," Mahoney says. "We try to do what you grew up on but hack it in a natural way."

Floats ($7) can be made with Vernors or Faygo Rock & Rye. Faygo says its R&R is like cream soda with maybe a cherry twist; IMO it's like cough syrup, but to each her own. You can also get a soft-serve float made with coffee slushie from Astro Coffee (Mahoney recommends lavender) or a fresh-fruit Piña Colada slushie with coconut cream, pineapple, and lime.

Although Cold Truth had done pop-ups in summer 2018 and 2019, such as at Trinosophes and Grandma Bob's, its Midtown debut was on Noel Night 2019. We know what happened three months after that. That Cold Truth still exists is a tribute to Mahoney's perseverance — and perhaps to Detroiters' love of frozen treats.

Mahoney likes to help good causes. He's been invited to bring his frozen bars to an upcoming Bernie Sanders birthday party on Sept. 8, which is a fundraiser for Denzel McCampbell and his running mate Landis Spencer for Board of Police Commissioners. He's thinking of inventing a Vermont maple syrup treat for the occasion.

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About The Author

Jane Slaughter

When she's not reviewing restaurants, Jane Slaughter also writes about labor affairs, having co-founding the labor magazine Labor Notes. Her writing has also appeared in The Nation, The Progressive, Monthly Review, and In These Times.
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