That stream of ice cream melting down a cone is how you know that summer is here. These local hot spots serve the best, most revered, cutest and most original cold treats in the Chicago area. (Insert your own yummy sounds here.)
Note: Call ahead or visit the websites because openings and hours may change due to the pandemic.
Where: 1814 N. Western Ave., Chicago
When life hands you too many decisions, buy the flight. Ava’s is the “Home of the Flight,” which gets you four scoops from the rotating fresh menu for $8. Located off the 606 Trail, stop in while exercising or bring your “Neighborhood Cup,” which will get you a discount for reusing.
Where: 2353 N. California Ave., Chicago
There were no guava strawberry ice cream bars from the trucks in our neighborhoods as kids, but you’ll find some fantastic combinations at the shop in Logan Square. Those not wanting to head into a crowded store can schedule curbside pickup of popsicle treats that include Grasshopper Custard Bars, Key Lime Pie Piecicles, Guava Strawberry Plant Pops or even Birthday Cake Ice Cream Pony Pops for little eaters.
Where: 10 S. Pine St., Mount Prospect
If you didn’t know that ice cream can win awards, you haven’t tasted Capannari’s. The special flavors include Mediterranean Sea Salt Caramel, Chocolate Hazelnut Ganache and Lavender Honey. There are also vegan options to try and in case you can’t pick a favorite, you can dig in to a four-flavor ice cream flight.
Where: 1120 W. Granville Ave., Chicago; 729 S. Dearborn St., Chicago
First, you can pick your ice cream bar flavor from classic vanilla to fruity mango to suped-up Oreo. Then, add the dips and sprinkles. If you can’t pick, let one of Gordo’s pre-designed recipes cool your summer, like The Dark Knight, The Grasshopper or The Gordo’s Super Sandwich.
Where: 600 E. Grand Ave. (Navy Pier) and 9233 S. Western Ave., Chicago
Why settle for one flavor of ice cream when you can have five? That’s the question Joe Sapp answered in 1926 when he created what would become a Chicago icon: Chocolate, Strawberry, Palmer House, Pistachio and Orange Sherbet on one cone. You can order other flavors, too, like Chocolate Peanut Butter, Bubble Gum, Mint Flake or Cookie Dough out of the first shop that still stands on 92nd and Western. Delivery available.
Where: 751 E. Boughton Road, Bolingbrook
Specializing in rolled and liquid nitrogen ice cream, Snow Factory sets itself apart with its presentation. Rolled ice cream is exactly what it sounds like and looks more like a fruit roll-up than a scooped ball. Liquid nitrogen ice cream like “Dragon’s Breath” fills your mouth with what appears to be smoke. Parents can quench their thirst with cold bubble tea.
Where: 2009 N. Bissell St., Chicago
Three ingredients: fruit, water, cane sugar. That’s it and that’s how natural every scoop of Annette’s is. What it’s not is simple. The fresh ingredients bring a taste sensation to Pink Lemonade, Banana, Peach, Mango and even Blueberry Lemon. There is also a full menu of ice creams, smoothies and sundaes.
Where: 1068 W. Taylor St., Chicago
A tradition for more than 60 years, this walk-up stand is cash only and perfect for fans of fruit-flavored summer. The menu includes pomegranate, lime and coconut, as well as limited flavors like green apple, honeydew and peach.
Where: 1960 N. Western Ave. and 1813 W. Montrose Ave., Chicago
It’s not just us, Chicagoans and the likes of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and even Al Capone have been loving Margie’s for more than 90 years. Try a phosphate — a flavored soda — in flavors that scream old-fashioned shop: orange, chocolate, strawberry and egg chocolate cream. The candies are hand-dipped and the sundaes (even the almost $80 version) are still homemade.
Where: 1843 W. North Ave., Chicago
This might be the cutest dessert place we’ve seen yet. Eli’s Ark serves traditional gelato with the incredible option to shape your scoop like an animal. Pick anything from a bear and pig to a unicorn that will delight anyone in the family. Want more than one animal scoop? Try the “piggybacking” option.
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This article also appeared in Chicago Parent’s June 2020 magazine. Read the rest of the issue here.