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Restaurants

Maple Leaf Dairy

Posted by Robyn Urback / Reviewed on August 24, 2009 / review policy

Maple Leaf Dairy Ice CreamMaple Leaf Dairy is one of those classic old-school ice cream parlours. Now, I don't mean old-school in the way a new spot on Queen West might salvage a vintage wooden bench and offer straws from a throwback dispenser. I mean a bona-fide, hasn't-seen-a-renovation-in-decades-type of old-school spot, complete with a cheesy exterior slogan and mint green floors. And regulars love Maple Leaf Dairy for it.

Maple Leaf Dairy Ice CreamHard to miss near the corner of Danforth and Dawes in the east end, Maple Leaf Dairy makes its statement even before customers enter its front doors--"May All Your Days Be Ice Cream Days." Well said, Maple Leaf sign, well said. Trouble is, this ice cream parlour is actually only open seasonally, seriously hindering the public's ability to "ice cream" every one of their days. Hinder, but not prohibit. The Maple Lead ice cream shop sits adjacent to its very own factory (dubbed St. Clair), which supplies the parlour with its flavours and also offers customers tubs to take home.

Maple Leaf Dairy Ice CreamI enter the shop and am greeted by two staff scoopers, who fill me in on the history of the business. Open since the 1930's, they tell me the factory got its name for its original location on St. Clair, but the current owner wanted to keep the name and facade the same. Maple Leaf Dairy only serves its own ice cream, with about 40 or so flavours in store at any given time. The entire roster of ice cream varieties is displayed on the shop's wall, with green stars indicating which flavours are currently in stock.

Maple Leaf Dairy Ice CreamThe vibe, as I've said, is utterly traditional. This place is strictly cash-only with really basic ice cream options. Essentially, you can opt for a milkshake ($4.75), sundae ($5.75), or kiddie ($2.25), single ($3.00), double ($4.75), or triple ($5.75), with the choice of either a cup or cone. The uniqueness of the flavours doesn't rival those of Greg's or Ed's with their beer and marshmallow, but instead the parlour sticks mostly with the classics — the rocky roads, mint chocolate chip, and classic strawberry varieties. That said, I did spot a few divergent options such as red bean and green tea, but for the most part, Maple Leaf sticks with the tried and true.

Maple Leaf Dairy Ice CreamThough I'm told that maple walnut is a favourite among Maple Leaf Dairy customers, I've always been partial to fruit flavoured ice creams. Cautious about Maple Leaf's reputation for humungous servings, I opt for a kiddie scoop of mango ice cream. And lo and behold, I can't finish it. When I ask the staff about scoop size rules of thumb, I'm told that kiddie scoops are supposed to be the size of tennis balls and single scoops the size of softballs. "But actually, they end up being a bit bigger," Maple Leaf staffer Travis says.

Maple Leaf Dairy Ice CreamNo kidding! I'd wager that my "kiddie" scoop was actually the size of a softball, packed to the brim of a little styrofoam cup. The ice cream had a superbly smooth consistency and was not overly sweet, which is always a good thing when it comes to a frozen treat. The mango flavour was a little more modest than I was expecting, though I should note that I have been on a gelato kick of late. Generally speaking, ice cream doesn't pack the same intensity of flavour as its milk-based cousin, so the shyness of the mango in this case can be forgiven.

Maple Leaf Dairy Ice CreamAnd the price simply can't be beat. Though staff tell me of decades-long customers who recount when they could grab a cone for $0.25 at Maple Leaf, I think a too-big-to-finish scoop for a couple of dollars is amazing all the same. Leave it to the old-school parlour to get it right.

Photos by Morris Lum

Discussion

18 Comments

Riz / June 20, 2010 at 02:16 am
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ONE OF THE BEST, THE GIVE U ALOT OF ICECREAM AND ITS VERY INEXPENSIVE
LalaGirl / November 23, 2010 at 01:22 pm
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They are very friendly, and have a large selection of different types of ice cream and like the other commentator said, it's very cheap and they give you a LOT.
Melissa / November 7, 2011 at 08:19 pm
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I've been going here for years. Like you wouldn't go to the Peak Freans/Christie Cookie Factory Outlets with the intention of getting artisan biscuits, you don't come here expecting gourmet handmade creams. It's all about quantity here; simple, plentiful and affordable ice cream goodness.
Ron / December 26, 2011 at 02:32 pm
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I remember in the 1970's you could get a 3 scoop cone (humongous scoops) for 25 cents. Unfortunately, I have not been there since. I must put a return visit on my "Bucket List".
Ryan / July 2, 2012 at 11:48 am
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Don't go in expecting any kind of gourmet ice cream. However, don't let that comment deter you from visiting. This is the best ice cream shop to visit if you're looking for some nostalgic ice cream.

Do you remember the days when ice cream was just ice cream? This was prior to the dawn of novelty, premium and super-premium ice creams. There wasn't very much choice. For value, you could go with a 4L tub of generic chocolate, vanilla or neapolitan for $4. If you wanted a bit more flavour, you could get a 2L flavour of Parlour or Chapmans ice cream for $2.50. There were under a dozen flavours to choose from.

Maple Leaf Dairy simply reminds me of those days, but with much more variety. I didn't quite take an official count, but there appeared to be about three dozen flavours with a few sorbets at the end.

I paid $4.75 for a double scoop (cup and cone is same price). The person ahead of me in line had ordered a single scoop, though I did not initially hear what he had ordered. From what I saw, I had assumed that he ordered a double scoop. Portions here are humongous! I simply forgot to have dinner as the ice cream was essentially a meal.

I had a "scoop" of Rocky Road on the bottom, topped with a "scoop" of Swiss Mocha. The Swiss Mocha had a light coffee flavour to it, akin to a double double with swirls of mocha fudge. The Rocky Road had a rich, deep chocolate flavour. The texture of the ice cream really enhanced this flavour in particular (more on that in a bit). Don't expect huge chunks of stuff in this ice cream, the pieces inside were fairly small, however the flavour did shine through.

As the ice cream is made on site and kept at a constant temperature, the aeration was perfect. This is why store bought ice cream isn't as great as this stuff. If the ice cream is slightly warmed (during your drive home, or while it is on a skid in the store while being stocked), this will slightly melt the ice cream and remove the pockets of air inside which degrades the quality of the ice cream. Keep in mind that this is traditional ice cream and is more like an ice milk rather than an ice cream as far as texture goes, so aeration plays a vital role here.

I'm not the biggest fan of their cups and bowls as they are styrofoam. However, this likely helps to insulate the ice cream and keep it from melting as quick as it would in a coated paper cup. I must give them credit for keeping the neighbourhood clean. There are at least three garbage cans along the wall outside of the store with a sign encouraging their customers to keep the area clean and use the garbage cans. I did not see any litter.

If you want to take some home, I noticed that they also sell 4L containers for $11 and jumbo (11.4L?) containers (the same ones they scoop out of) for around $35.

Long story short, if you're not looking for gourmet ice cream, but still want high quality old fashioned ice cream with a large variety of flavours, this is the place to go!
Pk / July 12, 2012 at 09:53 am
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PEANUT BUTTER CHOCOLATE!! My parents would pile us in the car and we'd head down from Scarborough for some scoops in the summer.
Aydin / July 12, 2012 at 10:21 am
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Not the best ice cream in the world (see Ed's Real Scoop), but a treat regardless. It's more like the ice cream you had when you were a kid. The servings are incredibly large - you won't need a second scoop.
Worth visiting if you live in the East End!
agentsmith / July 12, 2012 at 10:33 am
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They better have tiger flavour, otherwise boo on them.
Foghorn O'Kalashnikov / July 12, 2012 at 10:43 am
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This place is always busy whenever I've visited but it's pretty good ice cream (I usually get strawberry) and the value can't be beat! There are also some Bengali grocery stores on the same block where you can pick up spices and figs and such, if you need 'em.
Steven / July 12, 2012 at 11:59 am
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This is by far the worst ice cream in the city. You would think that since it is made on site there would be some thought on flavour. All I taste is the sugar. Maybe it's just me, but I would rather may more for something that tasted great. There is no value if the product is sub par, regardless of how much you get. If you are in the east end and want great tasting ice cream, try Ed's or Carter's.
Warren / July 12, 2012 at 01:25 pm
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Such an exaggeration Stevie-poo! From my experience the worst ice cream comes from a little conglomerate called NESTLE, where the image on the carton looks nothing like what is inside and cream is replaced with vegetable oil disguised as 'modified milk products' on the ingredient list.
kook / July 12, 2012 at 02:51 pm
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Wish there was a picture of this "tennis ball size" and "softball size" scoop.
R replying to a comment from Steven / July 12, 2012 at 10:22 pm
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Steven it is just you!
bob loblaw replying to a comment from Aydin / July 13, 2012 at 09:58 am
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As a Beacher I agree that Ed's is good. But staff are soooo grumpy. Too many 'i am too cool to be working here teens' at Ed's.
Dizzy / July 13, 2012 at 01:43 pm
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Ed's tastes better, that's for sure. I can't tell much difference (in the taste) between Maple Leaf and Carter's. But I'm not an ice cream snob/connoisseur. Carter's has the park across the street, that's a plus, but it's usually full of humourless Danforth East helicopter parents, points taken away.
ZKP / July 15, 2012 at 08:06 pm
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Used to come here a lot ten years ago when I was twelve riding my bike from our apartment building at vic park and danforth. Definitely miss those times! This place is awesome, and yes it's true. Softball sized scoops.
Rick / May 17, 2013 at 08:11 pm
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I have been going to Maple Leaf for over 30 years now. My sister actually worked there and met someone who also worked there and they eventually got married. The biggest cones in TOWN !!
You only need to order a single scoop, if you order anything more (double/ triple ), be prepared to not eat for the rest of the day :) Caution : if its a very HOT day , eat it up quickly or you will be wearing it because they give you so much :) Try the BANANA ice cream Its my favourite and the best. I start and end the Summer with a Banana ice cream cone, its a tradition of mine.
Enjoy everyone :) And yes you can't beat the price WOW!
Musheer / June 29, 2014 at 06:52 pm
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I was there yesterday and let me just say WOW!! for $3 the single scoop was huge.. I had to ate it fast. They have alot of variety of flavors. One of my best place in Toronto for Ice cream.

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