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Monday, April 15

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As cities go, Chicago isn't an ice cream town. Who can blame us? We spend nine months a year trying to stay warm; ice cream isn't high on the agenda. But by the time July hits, with its "not the heat, it's the humidity," we're singing a different tune.

What follows is not an exhaustive list of Chicago sources for frozen dessert... but it's a good place to start.

Rainbow Cone. In putting together this list, it became clear that there's a definite correlation between the socioeconomic status of a neighborhood and the number of ice cream emporia.

The more rich white people, the more ice cream. But the far South Side has Rainbow Cone (9233 S. Western Ave.), which begins to make up for the disparity. This place is Old School Chicago, with folks lining up for the establishment's eponymous five-flavor pile-up. It's the kind of place that demands you roll down your window and turn up your radio on the way home.

Speaking of old school, it doesn't get much more legit than Margie's Candies (1960 N. Western Ave), the hot fudge mecca of the near west side. Crowded, kitschy, and ancient, it has served the Beatles and most of the children of Bucktown.

Whatever you think of his politics, Oberweis runs a mean dairy. Again, this place (1528 W. Fullerton Ave) is a good bet for sundaes, but it's also one of the last places to grab a glass quart of milk, and my favorite place for an emergency housewarming gift (ice cream pie beats wine any day). Having Facets across the street is a nice bonus.

If you life far north, you can always hit DQ (951 W. Howard St). This place has an identity crisis. Is it Chicago? Is it Evanston? Who cares, sometimes you just need a Blizzard.

If you live in Old Town/Lincoln Park, you've got so many ice cream choices it's sick. Cold Stone Creamery (1533 N. Wells, w/ locations in Lakeview and Bucktown as well) is a good place if you want to watch someone slave over your ice cream. This is where you pick the flavor, pick an add-in, and stand back while a serving wench with arms like popeye kneads and beats the two together by hand.

Cold Stone Creamery

There's the perennial favorite, Ben and Jerry's (338 W. Armitage). Tons of flavors, tie-dyed t-shirts, and just enough counter-culture doublespeak that you an almost forgive their new "Carb Karma" product line. Et tu, Jerry?

Speaking of ice creams for the killjoys (er, health-conscious), there's a new kid in town by the name of Treats. With outposts in Boy's Town (3319 N. Broadway) and across from Francis Parker School (224 N. Clark), Treats is low in fat, carbs, calories, and -- I'm sorry to report, but is anyone surprised? -- flavor. The only thing this stuff tastes like is chemicals.


Better choices for the fat-phobic can be found on Armitage between Halsted and Racine. The most popular establishment here is Anthony's (2009 N. Bissell), just east of the Armitage El stop. Anthony's has Homer's Ice Cream, soft serve, and italian ice... I suspect it was probably one of the first places to serve the stuff outside of Taylor Street. Down the street, there's Tom and Wendee's (1136 W Armitage) . This place is pretty bare bones, and is strictly about italian ice. Of course, they have a wide interpretation of the stuff, which includes chocolate toffee-chip and chocolate mocha. A reason to love this place -- their "rollerblades welcome" policy, which may explain the lack of decor (less to knock over?).

Those who have had Ciao Bella (1133 W. Fulton) will tell you there's no going back -- and with pints available at Chicago's upscale grocery stores, there's no need to. But for those who need to taste, re-taste and deliberate, Mario and Gino's in Roscoe Village (2057 W. Roscoe) is a great place to try myriad flavors (pear? Guinness? Who knew?). Mario and Gino's also stocks the locally-made al Gelato and their own Italian ice, and San Francisco's famous Double Rainbow Ice Cream.

Double Rainbow has a stand-alone joint on Southport (3746 N. Southport); the ice cream's good but the service, when I've been, has been a bit on the surly side.

Southport Avenue further proves my money-ice cream connection theory with the opening of a new Australian ice cream place mere blocks from Double Rainbow. The place is called -- get this -- Australian Homemade (3425 North Southport, also available at the Marshall Fields on State). With outposts in Sydney, New York, and Tokyo, and a 2001: Space Odyssey design scheme, this place is too cool for school. What makes it Australian? You got me. A quick poll of its staff members yielded "Uh," "They told us, but I don't remember," and "I don't know, but we use really fresh ingredients. Want another sample?" Thanks, guys. The lines here tend to be long and full of women who carry their dogs in tote bags.


For knowledgeable staff, head to Scooter's (1658 W. Belmont). When I asked "what makes custard custard," I got a chemistry lesson. I'll save the discussion of freezing points, butterfats, and ice crystals for another time; suffice to say that custard at Scooter's isn't as fattening as it tastes, that it tastes pretty damn good, and that it's just about the only custard made locally. The downside? Only three flavors a day (chocolate, vanilla, and a wildcard).

I've saved my favorite for last. The Penguin (2723 W. Lawrence) is the only place in the city to get Argentinean ice cream. The South American cousin of gelato, this ice cream probably migrated with the "golandrinas," the same Italian and Galician migrant workers who gave birth to Tango. The Penguin, which has been around for a few years now, is run by a husband, wife and father-in-law out of a tiny storefront tucked away next to a Korean restaurant and a laundromat. Blink and you miss it. But once you find it, you'll be back. Not only can you get the now ubiquitous dulce de leche ice cream (Argentineans had been inhaling it for years before H´┐Żagen-Dazs popularized it here), but you can also try Sabayon con Almendras, a marsala wine-flavored ice cream studded with caramelized almonds, or their incredibly light pineapple sorbet.

We've got six weeks of hot weather left if we're lucky. Enjoy! And if you come across any new ice cream places, please let me know.


Naz / July 8, 2004 10:55 PM

I've been going to Cold Stone and Australian quite a bit. I really really like Australian - great selection, homemade (well, handmade or whatnot) and fresh and just good ice cream, not too heavy but rich.

Treats is so-so, though I wasn't too disappointed in the cookies and cream I had a while ago. I wasn't displeased and enjoyed what I had but I doubt I'd be back.

Word on the street is that DQ is opening on Waveland and Southport where Banana Leaf used to be.

Lyle from Lisle / July 9, 2004 2:04 AM

Double-scoop double-negative: Vote against anti-immigration. (Or: Oberweis's lactose-funded intolerance is giving me the quease-freeze.)

How about it, conscious/conscience consumers? Should we let Uberweis shake off his virulently anti-immigrant campaign platform like some test flavor that just didn't pan out? Or should we let him curdle a bit?

j3s / July 9, 2004 9:04 AM

Margie's is usually my ice cream spot of choice, not just because it's close to home, but because of their amazing homemade hot caramel.

Also worth noting is that Mario and Geno's usually has at least two flavors of good vegan ice cream, a bonus for those of us who are lactose intolerant but looking for a fix.

And for the sake of completeness, I'd like to link to another Chicago ice cream run-down: Vital Information's ice cream list.

Anne / July 9, 2004 9:48 AM

Sweet Occasions (on Damen right by the brown line stop) has great ice cream in flavors like Fat Elvis (banana with swirls of peanut butter and chocolate chunks) and key lime pie. They also have soy and no-sugar-added flavors. It's one of the few places in the city that carries peppermint ice cream when it's not Christmas. And if you miss your favorite flavor, you can sign up for the "ice cream call list" and they'll call you the next time it comes in.

Kate / July 9, 2004 10:18 AM

Can anybody recommend a place other than Cold Stone that does add-ins? The practice was standard at the many homemade-ice-cream parlors where I went to college (Cambridge, MA) and I was so excited to see it at Cold Stone, but I found their ice cream tasted too much of carrageenan and other stabilizers. Ewww.

I suppose this is kind of moot since I'm moving in a month, but I still want to know.

Luke / July 9, 2004 11:00 AM

Double that on Sweet Occasions, which is expanding to Uptown and Rogers Park. Great service, outstanding ice cream. Scoops are the size of an adult fist and cheap to boot. You have to admire an ice cream parlor where ice cream is the loss leader (SO's main business is candy gift baskets).

For add-in, there's Marble Slab in Evanston, near the movie theater. (Am I the only one whose favorite add-in is none at all? Vanilla ice cream without the vanilla ... yum!)

anne / July 9, 2004 11:10 AM

When the heat wave hit last summer, the air conditioner at my work died (leaving us surrounded by computers and scanners in 100+ degrees for a week). So, to try to avoid a mutiny, our company bought us lots of frozen custard from Scooter's. It was delicious, and I'm glad I can run there after work to get some to bring home. Definitely a fan of the custard.

Also good, is that Cold Stone recently opened a store on Diversey, just east of Broadway, and also one up in Halstead, near Cornelia. I've never had the patience to wait in the lines in Old Town, so maybe I'll luck out at one of these new spots and finally taste some of the stuff.

I'm loving all the choices in this article though! Mmm, perhaps a slovenly walking tour is in my future!

Bender / July 9, 2004 11:24 AM

FYI: The Ben and Jerry's on Chicago Avenue is no longer open. They closed this Spring.

Andrew / July 9, 2004 11:33 AM

Thanks, Bender, I've edited out the reference.

daruma / July 10, 2004 10:50 AM

The Oberweiss on Fullerton is also closed and the space is for lease.

Leah / July 11, 2004 9:13 PM

Dudes, the Zephyr in Ravenswood, anyone? Unh.

Steve / July 11, 2004 9:53 PM

Second to Leah's nomination of the Z! Love the Z!

Craig / July 12, 2004 3:08 PM

Don't forget ice cream's thin & attractive european cousin, italian ice. When in Bucktown head for Miko's-- the little walk-up basement window on the west side of the 1800 block of Damen is so! Incredibly! Dope!

Paul / July 12, 2004 4:49 PM

I'll second the question about Zephyr. Has anyone here had the War of the Worlds? Please? Anyone?

ragazza / July 12, 2004 5:09 PM

What about paleterias? My favorite is the coco con leche (coconut with milk). Plus, if you live in the right neighborhood, they come to you!

Steve / July 13, 2004 9:44 AM

Paul, can barely stomach the thought of the War of the Worlds at the Z. I just imagine that if me and my friends were ever to get it, we'd all end up looking like Bobby Brady after the ice cream eating contest on that one Brady Bunch episode.

And we'd all be sick for days afterwards.

j3s / July 13, 2004 9:58 AM

Ragazza I'm also totally hooked on paleterias, except I love the mango ones. The coconut ones have too much coconut in them for me, it's a weird texture thing. Now I'm going to spend the day listening for one of the guys out my window!

seth zurer / July 13, 2004 11:19 AM

I'd add Ice Dreams on clark for light and fluffy gelato, the gelato stand in the corner of the food court at Mitsuwa marketplace for ginger, mango and others (i think it's called hippo bakery, or something) and the Village Creamery, at 4558 Oakton in Skokie for Halo Halo, american cheese, corn, and other wince-inducing implausibly delicious filipino flavors of ice cream. Yum.

seth zurer / July 13, 2004 11:20 AM

For more, check Vital Info's exhaustive list here.

thomas / July 13, 2004 12:13 PM

three favorite ice cream parlors
1)tastee freez
2)tastee freez
3)tastee freez

Michelle / July 13, 2004 12:20 PM

What, no mention of Bobtail Soda Fountain? Its a great new place on the corner of Broadway and Wellington in Lakeview.
Try Signature Sunset - merlot ice cream with chunks of chocolate. Mmmmmm.

Paula / July 13, 2004 12:31 PM

Since I originally hail fron the Northern 'burbs I can add a plug for Homer's on Green Bay Rd. in Wilmette. They have all the standard flavors along with a couple of unique ones (Prairie Berry comes to mind). Their peach ice cream was once deemed the best in the country by Gourmet Magazine. You're likely to run into a swarm of little league-ers with the accompanying high strung North Shore parents, but if you are up in that area anyway it's worth a visit.

Paula / July 13, 2004 12:36 PM

Oops - forgot to mention Hartigan's at 2909 Central in Evanston. They used to be a Baskin Robbins but got elbowed out during the manditory conversions to Baskin Robbins/Dunkin Donuts/Togo's and converted to an independant. They serve Cedar Crest ice cream and have a site at

sid / July 13, 2004 4:05 PM

For people living by S loop, there is also a Cold Stone Creamery on S Halsted in University Village by UIC (just S of Roosevelt on halsted around 1400S I think)

Annie / July 13, 2004 5:10 PM

I must stand up for the South Side! Rainbow Cone is the shit! Sadly, I now live too far to go very often, but I took advantage of their booth at the Taste. It was by far the most crowded booth.

roderick / July 13, 2004 5:25 PM

If you're in the southwest burbs then Rainbow Cone is a good choice, but another good place is The Plush Horse, 12301 South 86th Avenue, Palos Park. I think that they serve frozen custard. And it's named The Plush Horse.

miss ellen / July 13, 2004 7:01 PM

wow, the plush horse. damn that place brings back memories. that used to be the ultimate treat with grandma & grandpa!

Joe Chellman / July 13, 2004 11:14 PM

I loves me some ice cream. Here are my favorites so far.

For sundaes: Margie's cannot be beat. Not a chance. Don't even bother.

For ice cream: Evanston Creamery at Chicago and Dempster. They serve Chocolate Shoppe ice cream, made in Wisconsin. Good, rich stuff.

For milkshakes: Deluxe Diner at Clark and Devon. Several tasty flavors, and the prices are good. Zephyr, which I tried this weekend for the first time, also makes a dang fine shake.

I'm keen to try Homer's. The coffee shop at Broadway and Granville, just off the Red Line, is going to be offering Homer's ice cream soon, if they're not doing it already.

Steve / July 14, 2004 8:12 AM

It's been nearly a decade since I've been there, but does Peterson's still exist in Oak Park?

Tom / July 15, 2004 1:29 PM

Petersen's is still open. New fellow bought it ans has added candy, but the ice cream is still excellent. Shameless plug for Two other Oak Park and Berwyn faves: The Hole in the Wall Custard Shop on S. Oak Park Ave. and Gina's Italian Ice on Roosevelt. Top notch.

Brooke / July 17, 2004 9:31 AM

I can't believe no one mentioned Swiss Gourmet across from the Webster theatres. It just closed and I almost shed a tear - it was my favorite in the city!

Leah / July 25, 2004 4:55 PM

First, I'll disclose that I work at Sweet Occasions. Come and visit us and try some of our 110 flavors. And yes, I'll call you when your favorite flavor comes in.

For mix-ins that isn't corporate, go to Ice Dreams on Clark, north of Diversey. The owner is very nice and mostly works in wholesale gelato and sorbets. But, he does do mix-ins with some very nice homemade ice creams.

Thais / August 30, 2004 11:29 AM

I was at The Penguin yesterday when an Argentinean woman walked in with 2 of her Uruguayan friends. She was introducing them to the Penguin. The Uruguayans tasted the dulce de leche and exclaimed that it was the best ice cream they had had since they moved to Chicago 15 years ago. Also, the Argentinean woman commented that she had recently tasted Oberweis' dulce de leche, which was a "porqueria." Porqueria means garbage or rubbish in Spanish.

Minna / November 3, 2004 11:31 AM

I live very close to the Austrailian and I love it. The ice Cream is nice and creamy, and the sorbets are very refreshingly fruity. I take all my friends there!! It is so much better than cold stone!!!


About the Author(s)

Jenny Connell likes frozen desserts. A lot.

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