A Scoop on Chicago’s Best Ice Cream
On a sweltering summer afternoon, nothing epitomizes pleasure better than an ice cream cone melting in your mouth. A bite of this creamy and unadulterated frosted fantasy, cold enough to give you a brain freeze, brings back happy memories of childhood.
Whether your cravings are satiated with a single scoop, or nothing hits the spot till scoop number three, Chicago offers you a host of places to indulge in this enjoyable summer ritual.
At Scooters Frozen Custard, they understand life can be simple as chocolate and vanilla, or as complex as coffee cognac and black raspberry swirl. Denser and creamier than regular ice cream, Scooter’s offers homemade frozen custard prepared fresh everyday. You will be mightily surprised at the permutations of interesting sundaes, aka “concretes,” which can be prepared using more than thirty varieties of toppings and flavorings like butterfingers, gummy worms, cookie dough, bananas and more. Their “cool” flavors change daily, so you can never be totally sure what is available. Try the Chocoloreo — a blend of vanilla custard drizzled with chocolate syrup, cookies and cream — Heavenly! 1658 W. Belmont Ave.; 773.244.6415
For good old fashioned “American” ice cream, you can visit either Original Rainbow Cone on South Western Avenue or Margies Candies in Bucktown. Both usually have lines stretching well beyond their entry doors. At Original Rainbow Cone, the fruit of patience is sweet, and nothing comes sweeter than this “rainbow cone” invented 80 years ago. This kaleidoscope of colors has five flavors: chocolate, strawberry, pistachio, Palmer House (cherry vanilla teemed with nuts) and orange sherbet, all heaped one over the other. Individually they might seem prosaic, but believe me, when skillfully arranged, one on top of the other, they taste divine. Owing to the popularity of the rainbow cone, the store introduced the rainbow ice cream cakes, which can be the perfect addition to any celebration. Other sweet delights available in store include smoothies prepared using seasonal fruits. 9233 S. Western Ave.; 773.238.7075
At the much-adored Margies Candies, the authentic ice cream sundaes are served in gargantuan clam-shaped bowls. At this quintessential store, the same 1940s neon sign at the entrance and interiors decorated with vintage china dolls, silk flowers and old newspaper clippings welcome visitors. The servings of handmade ice cream are enormous, but if your sugar cravings still aren’t sated, you can bag some candy to go. Either way, you win! 1960 N. Western Ave.; 773.384.1035
Summer is the ideal time to visit Bobtail Soda Fountain. Outdoor seating under the blue and white canvas, while teasing the sun with a concoction to repels the heat, brings its own pleasure. At Bobtail’s, one lick of the “Lakeview Hopper” flavor will find you going back for more again and again. This hand mixed chocolate ice cream infused with Jack Daniels will surely make you happy!
Bobtail’s doesn’t just churn out ice cream for adults (the alcohol is not enough to give you a buzz). There is also a whole lot of gourmet ice for everyone, and on any evening, it’s a common sight to spot people of all generations — young mums with their critters, chatty teenagers, men from the bar down the street and older couples, all at Bobtail’s for the same reason — to enjoy a scoop of their favorite ice cream. The “soda jerks” who serve customers claim the seasonal flavors are by far the most exotic. In the summer, there are flavors like peach and mango, whereas in the fall they have pumpkin and cinnamon. Whatever you fancy, this classic ice cream parlor will whet your palette with its impressive roster of flavors. 2951 N. Broadway; 773.880.7372
Justifying its name, Sweet Occasions and More on Damen Avenue is the perfect surprise for your sweet tooth. Housing a selection of Wisconsin ice cream, this joint has some really creative flavors like Heaps of Love, Zanzibar and Rainbow Sherbet. One taste and you will find yourself staring at the bottom of your cup before long. If you’re with a child, get him the “Superman,” a creamy blend of vanilla ice cream with fruit flavoring made up to look like the superheroes costume. For the lactose intolerant, the store has special soy-based ice creams. Other sweet treats include smoothies, milkshakes and hard candy. But what truly elevates the experience at Sweet Occasions and More are the famous Grandma cakes, available in mouth-watering flavors like German chocolate, red velvet, lemon with raspberry filling, chocolate espresso, among others. 4639 N. Damen Ave.; 773.293.3080
Eat Cold Stone Creamery’s icecream and you will be blown away. Yes, it is a chain and found most places, but they still really do have amazing ice cream (and it would be remiss not to mention them!). The most thrilling part about ordering at Cold Stone Creamery is watching the “artist” sculpt your decadent treat from his chest of ingredients on a “cold marble stone.” Before you start enjoying a mouth watering creation, you have the simple task of choosing from a short list of more than 30 ice cream flavors and more than 50 toppings. Once this is done, you have an even harder task of choosing a cup size– which in Cold Stone language translates to Like It (small), Love It (medium) and Gotta Have it (large). Try Founder’s Favorite — a bestseller in store and usually recommended when you ask for assistance. The sweet cream ice cream teemed with pecans, fudge, brownie and caramel is a sensual delight. Other interesting items on the menu include Cookie Doughn’t You Want Some, Strawberry Shortcake Serenade and Cookie Minster.
I’ve saved my favorite for the end — Ghirardelli Chocolate Shop and Fountain. If you’re looking to indulge in pure sin, head to this old fashioned store, located on Michigan Avenue (right next to Water Tower), which offers a tempting assortment of sundaes. A store favorite is the Strike it Rich sundae made with vanilla and almond ice cream. You will need an iron-clad willpower to forego the sundaes and settle for the hot and cold drinks like White Frappe Classico or Chocolate Hazelnut Hot Cocoa. You can either enjoy the dessert inside or grab a seat on one of the outdoor tables. Either way, seating choices will be the last of your worries while you wait for your decadent delight. Go along with a special someone and ask for one dessert and two spoons. 830 N. Michigan Ave.; 312.337.9330
There’s never a time in the day when you can say no to ice cream. So while in Chicago, why settle for the standard supermarket fare when the Windy City is home to some of the best “iced” creams. Whether perched on a park bench or ambling down a sidewalk, ice cream in one of its myriad incarnations — ice cream cake, floats, sundaes or ice cream sandwiches are always the perfect companions. So feast on your favorite flavor — before the sun beats you to it!