I scream. You scream. We all scream. Then we go running to Chicago’s iconic ice cream parlors. Our favorites — from a South Side mainstay with rainbow-colored scoops to a Wilmette hangout that Al Capone is said to have frequented — churn together nostalgia and original flavors for an altogether cool experience. Here’s where to get your fix now.
Five layers of rainbow-colored deliciousness (chocolate, strawberry, Palmer House vanilla-cherry, pistachio and orange sherbet) are stacked high on the celebrated Rainbow Cone. The treat was imagined by Joseph Sapp, an orphan who dreamed of more than vanilla and chocolate. Opening the Beverly neighborhood shop with his wife in 1926, he has since passed down his famous formula to his son and granddaughter. Nothing beats the Original, which bursts with flavors from light (sherbet) to dark (chocolate.) If this five-star mixture isn’t your thing, then opt for one of their other creations like Chocolate Peanut Butter, Banana or Black Walnut.
9233 S. Western Ave.
Hours: Mon.-Sun., 12:00 pm-8:00 pm
In 1919, Danish immigrant Hans Petersen arrived in Oak Park with a recipe in his pocket. Over 90 years later, the original mix — 18% butterfat loaded with premium flavorings — is still an award winner. With a refurbished storefront, original counters and cozy, Americana interior, this is a spot you’ll want to linger in. The Spicy Cinnamon ice cream is creamy and complex, while the Turtle Sundae (vanilla ice cream topped with hot fudge, caramel and butter-roasted pecans) is a great date-night indulgence.
1100 Chicago Ave.
Hours: Mon.-Sun., 11:00 am-9:00 pm
Some people call the sundaes at Margie’s “heaven in a white clamshell dish.” We agree. A fourth-generation establishment, the Chicago institution got its name when the original owner’s son, George Peter Poulos, married Margie Michaels. Its legendary sundaes — 35 varieties, to be exact — come in larger-than-life portions and are made with homemade ice creams and sauces. It’s all served in a comfy atmosphere reminiscent of grandma’s living room. Savor the nostalgic Swiss Miss Chocolate and Marshmallow, a hit since 1935; or the Hot Butterscotch Banana Split, which could easily feed three.
1960 N. Western Ave.
1813 W. Montrose Ave.
Hours: Open daily, 9:00 am-12:00 am
A Lakeview fave, Bobtail is known for Chicago-inspired flavors and concoctions. Started as a University of Chicago business school project by Jeff Wilcoxon and Chris Hill, it later became a salute to Wilcoxon’s grandfather, who developed his three-generation recipe back in 1950. Homing in on our city’s local flavor, the shop churns out such notables as the Lakeview Barhopper (Dutch cocoa ice cream blended with Jack Daniels) and the Cubby Crunch (vanilla ice cream, sprinkles, Oreos, chocolate chips and toffee.) Go for the half-price milkshakes on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
2951 N. Broadway St.
Hours: Mon.-Sun., 11:00 am-11:00 pm
The oldest custard shop in Chicago, Scooter’s is a Roscoe Village icon with major neighborhood cred. It was opened in 2003 by Mardi and Denny Moore as a place to enjoy ice cream’s premium cousin (the custard’s texture is denser and creamier) prepared daily using a method that eliminates most of the ice crystals found in your average scoop. Try a famous Concrete, a blend of custard and toppings so thick you can serve it upside down. Fan favorites include the Elvis (vanilla custard, Reese’s Peanut Butter cup and bananas) and the Strawberry concrete, a hand-churned mix of vanilla custard and whole strawberries.
1658 W. Belmont Ave.
Hours: Mon.-Fri., 2:00 pm-10:00 pm; Sat., 1:00 pm-10:00 pm; Sun., 1:00 pm-9:00 pm
Consistently rated one of the country’s top 10 ice cream shops, this former two-table parlor dates back to 1935. Rumored to be a favorite of Al Capone, it now serves more than 50 original ice creams, frozen yogurts, sorbets and sherbets, along with sundaes and shakes. Originals like Cappuccino Chip and Fresh Peach are a consistent hit with loyalists, while new blends like Green Apple Sorbet and Kona Coffee show that this shop isn’t stuck in a rut.
1237 Green Bay Rd.
Hours: Sun.-Thurs., 11:00 am-10:00 pm; Fri. & Sat., 11:00 am-11:00 pm
As far as icons go, there’s always an up-and-comer. This is it. Owner Jessica Oloroso started by making artisanal gelato for area restaurants and quickly garnered a following. Today, her seasonal gelato is a popular, rich-but-not-too-rich alternative to ice cream. Delectable flavors like Mexican Chocolate, Strawberry Balsamic and Goat Cheese Cashew Caramel make Black Dog a breakout star. Oloroso has also crafted adult-friendly ice cream bars (try the whiskey dipped in chocolate and bacon) and gelato cookie sandwiches.
859 N. Damen Ave.
1955 W. Belmont Ave.
Hours: Fri.-Sun., 2:00 pm-10:00 pm
What is your favorite ice cream shop in the city or suburbs? Did it make our list? Let us know in the Comments section below.
— Taryn Bickley
Photos: Courtesy of The Original Rainbow Cone, Petersen’s Old-Fashioned Ice Cream, Margie’s Candies, Bobtail Ice Cream, Scooter’s Frozen Custard, Homer’s Gourmet Homemade Ice Cream, Black Dog Gelato