There’s nothing like a frozen treat to beat the summer heat. We’ve rounded up the best places to enjoy an icy delight, whether it’s served atop a cone, on a stick or in a cup, plain or smothered in toppings. Let’s get our brain freeze on, Chicago.
Like they say at the Original Rainbow Cone, “Why choose one flavor when you can have them all?” The Sapp family has been scooping its signature treat — five layers of multi-colored sweetness — at this South Side institution since 1926, and recently introduced limited delivery through DoorDash. 9233 S. Western Ave., rainbowcone.com
The sundaes at Margie’s Candies are legendary for their epic proportions. A standard two-scooper — served in Margie’s iconic clamshell dish with a gravy boat of sauce and wafer cookies on the side — is a gut-buster on its own, but Margie’s also has 15- and 25-scoop versions. You’re going to need a bigger spoon. Pro tip: An outpost on Montrose Avenue has the same menu, without the long lines. 1960 N. Western Ave., margiesfinecandies.com
Tradition with a twist
Shawn Michelle’s Old Fashioned Homemade Ice Cream has just found a permanent home in Bronzeville’s historic Rosenwald Building. The made-from-scratch flavors start with “love, milk and cream,” and include crowd pleasers like banana pudding and honey cinnamon graham. The shop also serves up unique takes on the sundae: PB&J and lemon pound cake are among the options. 46 E. 47th Street, shawnmichelles.com/
The owner of Cone Gourmet Ice Cream hails from Ireland and it shows in the menu, where Bailey’s and Guinness are among the flavorings, and Lucky Charms, Flake chocolate bars and Tayto chips make numerous appearances as toppings. Soft serve more than holds its own here along with hand-scooped. 1047 W. Madison St., conechicago.com/menu/
26th Street Sugar Shack is best known for its funnel cake sundaes, but the inventive creations don’t stop there. Keep an eye out for “Taco Tuesdays,” where soft serve stars as the filling, and don’t sleep on Sugar Shack’s version of Creamsicle. In addition to a dozen regular hand-scooped flavors, the shop also rolls out seasonal favorites like pumpkin when the weather cools. Note: Sugar Shack is cash only. 630 W. 26th St., sugarshackon26th.com
Thai-rolled ice cream takes the simple act of scooping and turns it into a bit of performance theater, as rolls are made to order on the spot. Enjoy the show at Legend Tasty House, where an ice cream base (think of it as batter) is poured onto a frozen pan, spread flat and scraped up into rolls as it freezes. Once the rolls are packed into cups and loaded with toppings, it’s easy to see why they’ve become an Instagram sensation. Choose one of Tasty House’s best sellers, like Double Oreo with Nutella or S’mores Galore. 2242 S. Wentworth Ave., legendtastyhouse.com
Variations on a cream theme
Frozen custard is an egg-ier version of ice cream, gelato is milk-ier and that just means more frozen deliciousness for us to love.
Two of the hottest frozen custard stands in Chicago are Scooter’s (1658 W. Belmont Ave.,scootersfrozencustard.com) and Lickity Split (7000 N. Western Ave., 6056 N. Broadway,lickitysplitchicago.com). Both serve custard so silky smooth it’s worth ordering “plain” vanilla or chocolate just to appreciate the product in its purest form. Customers can build their own “concretes,” that’s custard talk for a blended mix-in, or choose from menus of house creations. A rotation of featured flavors and concretes keep things interesting at both joints; plenty of people plan their week around Scooter’s flavor of the day schedule. Lickity Split also sells coffee, pastries and retro candy; Scooter’s will treat your pooch to a free mini cone.
It’s been more than a decade since Jessie Oloroso launched Black Dog Gelato, and she’s still reaching for new creative heights. Her creamy artisanal creations are made fresh daily in small batches; if the gelato sells out, the shop closes. Perennial favorites include goat cheese cashew caramel, blood orange sorbet and blueberry french toast, but Black Dog also changes things up with collaborations, seasonal ingredients, and even riffs on pop culture, like a recent “Game of Thrones”-themed menu. 859 N. Damen Ave.; West Loop location coming soon, blackdoggelato.com
Dana Cree’s Pretty Cool Ice Cream shop gives the gourmet treatment to underappreciated ice cream novelties. Choose from refreshing juice and fruit pops to indulgent chocolate-dipped custard pops, with plenty of vegan options, too. Got a picky eater in your group? The wide range of flavors, from traditional grape and passion fruit hibiscus to key lime pie and peanut butter potato chip, guarantees that every palate will find a match. 2353 N. California Ave., prettycoolicecream.com
The concept behind Gordo’s sounds like an 8-year-old’s fever dream. Homemade ice cream bars — flavors range from Oreo to avocado banana — are just the starting point here. Next they’re drenched in the customer’s choice of chocolate or caramel sauce and then coated in toppings like candy bar pieces or Fruity Pebbles. Go on, indulge your inner child.
Gordo’s has locations in Edgewater, 1120 W. Granville Ave., and Printer’s Row, 729 S. Dearborn St., gordosicecream.com/about/
Cool off on a hot day with the paletas at La Michoacana Premium in Pilsen. Between water- and cream-based pops, there are nearly 40 options. Can’t decide between pistachio and spicy mango? Prices are so wallet-friendly, get them both. 1855 S Blue Island Ave., lamichoacanapremiumpilsen.com/
A la mode
Cookie Spin is a “go big or go home” kind of place. The sweet shop’s specialty is the deep-dish cookie — four inches wide and two inches deep. Choose one of these monsters as the base for a deep dish sundae or have it chopped up and spun into a “Bake Shake” milkshake before waddling home. 4350 N. Leavitt St., cookiespinchicago.com
BomboBar’s gelato creations are like the fashionistas of Chicago’s ice cream scene. Accessorized with bombolinis (hole-less doughnuts), and glammed up with sprinkles and drizzles, these concoctions are ready for their glamour shots. Hurry up and post to Instagram before everything melts. Walk-up window, 832 W. Randolph St. West Loop;1529 N Wells St., Old Town, bombobar.com
Over-the-top is the only way to describe the milkshakes at newcomer JoJo’s Milk Bar. The kid in you will love shakes like The Wonder Years, loaded with marshmallows, candy and sprinkles, served with a side of nostalgia. The adult will appreciate that a shot of booze can be added for a decidedly grown-up dessert. 23 W. Hubbard St., jojosmilkbar.com
Ice ice, baby
Bucking the trend toward excess, Italian ice shops keep things simple and oh so sweet.
For a classic Chicago experience, head to Carm’s in Little Italy, where members of this family run business have been serving Italian ice since 1929. The Original Lemon flavor remains the top seller, and really who can argue with something that looks like sunshine in a cup. 1057 W. Polk St., carms.com/index.html
The folks at Miko’s Italian Ice are constantly experimenting with flavors, with more than 25 in regular rotation, often depending on a fruit’s seasonal availability. Guava, green tea and tamarind share space on the menu with more traditional watermelon, strawberry and peach. Feel free to mix and match old and new school — Miko’s encourages combos. Note: Miko’s Bucktown location is now permanently closed. 2236 N. Sacramento Ave., 4125 N. Kimball Ave., mikositalianice.com
Halo-halo is a kitchen-sink kind of dessert beloved by Filipinos. Its colorful photogenic layers typically include crushed ice, ice cream (usually ube, a purple yam), sweetened beans, sliced fruit, gelatin, coconut strings and rice, among other mix-in options. Pick up versions at Jollibee and Red Ribbon Bakeshop, both part of the Seafood City complex in North Mayfair. Halo-halo can also be found on the dessert menus of Isla Pilipina and Merla’srestaurants.
Isla Pilipina: 2501 W. Lawrence Ave., islapilipina.com
Merla’s Kitchen: 5207 N. Kimball Ave, merlaskitchen.com
Jollibee: 5033 N. Elston Ave., jollibeeusa.com/our-food/
Red Ribbon Bakeshop: various locations, redribbonbakeshop.us
What’s hot and cold and red all over? It’s a mangonada, a popular Mexican summertime treat that hits pretty much every taste sensation. Imagine a cup coated in chamoy (a spicy-sweet-salty-sour hot sauce) and filled with mango sorbet, lime, Tajin seasoning (chili-salt-lime powder) and chunks of fresh mango. Find the mangonada at most neverias, including Los Mangos’ six Chicago locations. los-mangos.com/