Food & Drink » Restaurant Reviews

We All Scream

Forty-five places for ice cream and other frozen treats


Anna Held
5557 N. Sheridan | 773-561-1940
10 AM-6 PM Monday-Saturday | Closed Sunday

The ambience trumps the ice cream at the soda fountain in the landmark pink Edgewater Beach apartment building, which first opened in 1927. The menu served at the original marble counter and a few tables includes a standard selection of Blue Bunny sundaes, splits, shakes, malts, and sodas, along with sandwiches, salads, and soups. —Elizabeth M. Tamny

2905 N. Clark | 773-880-5090
3 PM-10 PM Monday-Thursday, 11 AM-11 PM Saturday, 11 AM-10 PM Sunday

Baladoche specializes in waffles, but not just any waffles—Belgian zucker waffles, about the size of your hand and filled with pearl sugar chips, which look like something a storybook mouse would put in its tea. The pearls melt a bit during cooking, providing little pockets of crunchy sweetness that make syrup superfluous. Toppings include cinnamon sugar, chocolate, jam, Nutella, or the house gelato, though two small scoops of the last made the waffle too soggy for my taste. —Anne Ford

Bellezza Gelato Caffe
3637 N. Harlem | 773-545-1239
1 PM-9 PM Tuesday-Saturday, 5 PM-9 PM Sunday

Closed Monday

When I paid a visit to this Harlem Avenue cafe it was so hot outside that everything was melting. Even half melted, though, my scoop of banana-caramel-praline gelato was one of the best I've had outside Italy. My second scoop—butter pecan—was just as good, whole pecans sprinkled liberally throughout. With its wide selection of gelati—for chocolate lovers there are now three different choices, double-Dutch chocolate, dark chocolate-orange, and dark chocolate-raspberry tartufo—Bellezza's is a go-to spot, and the superaffordable coffee drinks and pastries don't hurt either. —Sam Kaplan

Ben & Jerry's
1634 Orrington, Evanston | 847-869-2640
Noon-10 PM Sunday-Thursday, noon-11 PM Friday-Saturday

Chunky Monkey, Cherry Garcia, Phish Food—they're all available at this corner shop, along with sorbets and smoothies. Chicago locations of this franchise are at Midway Airport and Navy Pier. —Laura Levy Shatkin

Berry Chill
635 N. State | 312-266-2445
8 AM-Midnight Sunday-Thursday, 8 AM-4 AM Friday-Saturday

The frozen yogurt at this trendy-looking River North spot is lactose- and gluten-free, and chock-full of live probiotics. To make it even healthier, there's a wide selection of fresh fruit toppings. Other toppings include cookies, candy, and granola, but the sweeter ones taste sort of strange with the tangy yogurt. —Julia Thiel

1114 W. Belmont | 773-929-1100
7 AM-7 PM Tuesday-Friday, 8 AM-7 PM Saturday-Sunday | Closed Monday

The delectable sweets of Judy Contino, former Ambria pastry chef and Lettuce Entertain You corporate pastry chef, are the attraction at this Lakeview bakery. Each day there's a light lunch menu—a soup, a couple sandwiches, salads, and quiche. Dessert might be a rich butter-crusted apple bistro tart, but the absolute winner when it comes to pastry is the brioche, its buttery egg dough by far the best in town. Ice cream, made in-house year-round, is also outstanding: "In my gastrocosmology," writes Reader critic Nicholas Day of the chocolate, "this is the ice cream that immediately precedes the rapture." —Laura Levy Shatkin

Bobtail Soda Fountain
2951 N. Broadway | 773-880-7372
11 AM-11 PM Monday-Thursday, 10 AM-Midnight Friday-Saturday, 10 AM-11 PM Sunday

Twenty-one house-made flavors, plus two kinds of Italian ice, are available at this old-fashioned Lakeview soda fountain, from simple triple vanilla to espresso. There are also locations at Buckingham Fountain and 1114 Central, Wilmette. —Laura Levy Shatkin

The Brown Sack
3706 W. Armitage | 773-661-0675
11 AM-8 PM Tuesday-Saturday | Cash only | BYO

Malaika Marion's "soup, sandwich, and shake shack" on the western fringe of Logan Square is a sunny, six-table destination for hearty down-home standards like a gooey grilled peanut butter, banana, and honey sandwich and beefarific chili (a vegan version is also available). There's also rich mac 'n' cheese, meatball subs, a daunting Reuben, Goose Island root beer floats, and homemade ice cream sandwiches. —Martha Bayne

Caffe Gelato
2034 W. Division | 773-227-7333
10 AM-10 PM Sunday-Thursday, 10 AM-11 PM Friday-Saturday

This sleek family-run Ukrainian Village spot offers 18 seasonally rotated flavors, including bacio (chocolate hazelnut), frutti di bosco (berries), ananas (pineapple), and panna cotta. You can also mix flavors or get your gelato fix in the form of a shake with a shot of espresso. —Susannah J. Felts

Canady le Chocolatier
824 S. Wabash | 312-212-1270
11 AM-9 PM daily

Primarily an outlet for the handmade chocolates of Michael Canady, Canady le Chocolatier also sells gelato made in-house. The eight daily flavors change regularly; on a recent visit I tried chocolate, burnt caramel, raspberry, and mascarpone. The creamy textures were right on, and the raspberry had bright fruit flavor, but the mascarpone was too yogurty. —Peter Margasak

2524 W. Fullerton | 773-235-8103
Breakfast, lunch, dinner: seven days | Cash only

Cherubs, a comfortable Logan Square deli/coffee shop (with WiFi) has a cold case of Breyer's ice cream in 16 mostly pedestrian flavors like chocolate and a not-overly-sweetened strawberry. There's a coffee bar, sandwiches, fountain creations like a lovely coconut and pineapple smoothie served in a coconut-shell bowl, and a shifting menu of soups. —Tasneem Paghdiwala

Cold Stone Creamery
21 W. Ontario | 312-280-5977
11 AM-10 PM Sunday-Thursday, 11 AM-11 PM Friday-Saturday

Creating your own concoction is the deal at this outpost of the Tempe-based chain, where whatever you pick is mixed before your eyes on a freezing cold granite slab. For other Chicago locations see —Laura Levy Shatkin

Dairy Star
3472 W. Devon, Lincolnwood | 847-679-3472
Noon-11 PM Sunday-Thursday, Noon-Midnight Friday-Saturday | Cash only

Any soft-ice cream joint will sell you a Boston or a banana split. But this Lincolnwood stand makes a unique claim: all its ice cream is kosher. And the ice cream coming from the left nozzle in the machine closest to the west wall is Cholov Yisroel, an even higher dietary standard. Dairy Star is strictly walk-up, but there are picnic tables where you can dig into your sundae. It's the perfect place to go after 18 holes at the Bunny Hutch, the miniature golf course nearby. —Ted McClelland

Drew's Eatery
2207 W. Montrose | 773-463-7397
11 AM-8 PM Sunday, Tuesday-Thursday; 11 AM-9 PM Friday-Saturday | Closed Monday

This little organic hot dog and ice cream shop across from Welles Park has a kid-friendly menu of sausages and well-pedigreed sweets. The dogs themselves come in pork, two different combos of chicken and turkey, and classic nitrite-free beef; there are also vegan versions of a Polish and an Italian sausage. Traders Point Creamery in Zionsville, Indiana, provides terrific ice cream, and Chicago Soy Dairy vegan frozen treats.—Martha Bayne

Freddy's Pizzeria
1600 S. 61st, Cicero | 708-863-9289
10 AM-7 PM Monday-Saturday | Closed Sunday | Cash only

The Zabar's of Cicero, Freddy's Pizza offers dry goods such as olive oil and pasta, but the real attraction is a display case of antipasti and hot dishes. Rather than being cracker crisp, the pizza crust is like a good slice of puffy Italian loaf smeared with cheese and sausage (or any of seven or eight other options). The folks at Freddy's bake their breads in a range of shapes and sizes, and there's an array of Italian ices and gelati, ethereally creamy and, like most offerings here, made in the back. —David Hammond

George's Ice Cream & Sweets
5306 N. Clark | 773-271-7600
11 AM-11 PM Sunday-Thursday, 11 AM-Midnight Friday-Saturday

This new sweet shop in the former Sweet Occasions space offers more than 30 kinds of ice cream from Madison's Chocolate Shoppe and features specialty sundaes such as the Grasshopper, mint chip ice cream with Oreos and hot fudge. Pastries and savories like panini, crepes, and spinach pie are also available.

Ghirardelli Chocolate Shop & Soda Fountain
830 N. Michigan | 312-337-9330
8 AM-10:30 PM Sunday-Shursday, 8 AM-Midnight Friday-Saturday

This place is great for a late-night fix downtown, but don't go out of your way. The ice cream is unmemorable and the soda-fountain treats are merely adequate. During the day the store fills with tiny tourists clutching red bags from American Girl Place. —Anaheed Alani

Hartigan's Ice Cream Shoppe
2909 Central, Evanston | 847-491-1232
11 AM-11 PM daily | Cash only

This longtime shop offers more than 16 varieties of sundae as well as around 50 flavors of ice cream from Wisconsin's Cedar Crest. The peanut butter cup sundae is like a meal of its own, with huge chunks of peanut butter cups, hot fudge, and real whipped cream, and a butt-buster sundae called Terry Bets U Can't ($8) dares visitors to finish its five scoops with brownie fingers and more whipped cream. —Kelly McClure

Heavenly Gelato & Ice Cream Cafe
2662 N. Sawyer | 773-342-0427
Noon-10 PM daily

This family-owned independent business offers a selection of gelato, ice cream, sorbet, and the delectable Temptation Vegan Ice Cream, a pleasant surprise. On one trip I was more than satisfied with a small, rich amalgamation of banana praline and peanut butter cup gelato, just as I had been with previous excursions into the mixed berry, triple dark chocolate, and pistachio gelatos. While the starkness of the interior can be slightly off-putting, three outdoor tables are perfect for lounging with your dessert and mooching off the free Wi-Fi or indulging in some solid Logan Square people watching. —Kevin Warwick

Homer's Restaurant & Ice Cream Parlor
1237 Green Bay, Wilmette | 847-251-0477
11 AM-11 PM Monday-Friday, 11 AM-Midnight Friday-Saturday

I can walk into this store and instantly be transported to when I was five years old, going out with my dad for an ice cream cone after a T-ball game. Every summer they make their own peach ice cream, and the peppermint's good too, full of the store's own crushed candies. Ninety percent of the workers are high school kids; the others are men who have worked there since I was a child. —Mark Greenberg

1537 N. Milwaukee | 773-342-2834
1 PM-11 PM Sunday-Thursday, Noon-1 AM Friday-Saturday

This much ballyhooed liquid nitrogen ice cream shop opened briefly and flopped colossally last year, when its machines tried to go all HAL 9000 on the crew. Now Wicker Park's iCream has reopened, and it's certainly a good show—you can gasp to your heart's content when the fog blooms from the bowl. Customers choose their own liquid base—BGH-free ice cream, yogurt, or soy milk (with low- and no-fat options), then add one of 30 flavors via syringe, then up to three toppings and add-ins, a choice of sweeteners, and finally food coloring as garishly unnatural as you like—purple peach or pink green tea, anyone? —Mike Sula

Istria Cafe
1520 E. 57th | 773-955-2556
6:30 AM-8:30 PM Monday-Friday, 7 AM-8:30 PM Saturday, 7:30 AM-8:30 PM Sunday

It's hard to think of a more perfect example of early 21st-century food culture than this bright Internet cafe, full of laptop-using, iPod-wearing U. of C. students and carved into the crumbling urban infrastructure of the South Shore Line. Turns out it was built not by Wi-Fi-seeking dwarves, but by two brothers who named it after their home region in the former Yugoslavia, where coffee culture is a source of local pride. The coffee and espresso, expertly hand-pulled, is Intelligentsia. Panini are served on a bread that doesn't have quite the crunch you'd hope for, but what's inside (prosciutto and fresh mozzarella, a couple of vegetarian choices) is fresh and flavorful. But the main reason to come here and try to snag one of the few tables is the house-made gelato. The fruit ones taste of real fruit, and the chocolate and hazelnut varieties are dreamily creamy. There's a second location in the Hyde Park Arts Center. —Michael Gebert

Just Indulge
1755 W. North | 773-486-6680
7:30 AM-9:30 PM daily

Just Indulge serves Intelligentsia coffee, Chicago Chocolate Company chocolates, and house-made popcorn, but the focus is on frozen custard. You can also get soy ice cream, floats (root beer, cola, and Red Bull), fruit smoothies, milk shakes, sundaes, and concretes with a respectable 25 mix-in options ranging from caramel to fresh fruit to candy. And they're generous with their mix-ins—almost to a fault. I could hardly taste the custard for all the peanut butter cups in the concrete I ordered, but as far as I could tell it wasn't bad, though Just Indulge hasn't quite achieved the creamy, rich taste and silky texture I expect from high-quality custard. —Julia Thiel

Margie's Candies
1960 N. Western | 773-384-1035
9 AM-11:30 PM daily

The legendary ice cream parlor at the intersection of Western, Milwaukee, and Armitage dishes up sundaes with enough embellishments to satisfy the most demanding sweet tooth: bananas, cherries, nuts, fluffs of whipped cream, hot fudge in a pitcher on the side. A Chicago institution since 1921, the cozy room stuffed with dolls and other knickknacks has transported more than one Rater right back to grandma's house. And, as one aptly puts it, "Who else but your grandmother would give you such a huge bowl of ice cream?" Margie's also serves a limited menu of diner standards—burgers, fries, grilled cheese—but most patrons say skip the real food, have another dessert. There's a second location at 1813 W. Montrose. —Martha Bayne

Miko's Italian Ice
2234 N. Sacramento | 773-645-9664
Noon-10 PM daily | Cash only

This little Italian ice shop serves 12 flavors of the frozen treat in sizes ranging from $2 cups to $7.50 quarts. If the place is busy (chances are good) you might pull up in the alley out back—or double park, as some risk. There's a second location at 1846 N. Damen. —Brenna Ehrlich

Molly's Cupcakes
2536 N. Clark | 773-883-7220
8 AM-10 PM Sunday, Tuesday-Thursday; Noon-10 PM Monday; 8 AM-Midnight Friday-Saturday

This open, airy space has cute-as-a-button grade-school decor and an endearing backstory: the cupcake recipes are inspired by engaging owner John Nicolaides's third-grade teacher Molly, who would bring her students the treats on their birthdays. I was predisposed to push back from the preciousness on principle alone, but no such luck: these moist cupcakes in a Leary-esque kaleidoscope of flavors and sizes coupled with silky, rich house-made ice cream won me over with barely a struggle. —Gary Wiviott

Oberweis Ice Cream and Dairy Store
1293 N. Milwaukee | 773-276-9006
9 am-10 PM Sunday-thursday, 9 am-11 pm friday-saturday

My friend scooped ice cream at a Pittsburgh parlor one high school summer, so I brought her along for a professional opinion, not knowing beyond "good" and "really good" ice cream myself. "The quality of the strawberry and vanilla ice cream gauges the caliber of an ice cream shop," she told me, so we ordered them in a hot fudge sundae along with a marshmallow malt. The malt came in a giant glass goblet, big as a halved pomelo, with a dainty Pirouline stuck in. "Good malt finish, very smooth, can't taste much marshmallow, cookie is a nice touch," judged my friend. She peered into the sundae, speared a berry with the end of a spoon, and held it up to examine. "The strawberry's got some solid performance factors—doesn't taste syrupy, a little sweeter than I'd like, but nice-size chunks of fruit." The hot fudge was perfect, in my opinion, thick but not sticky, warm but not hot enough to create ice cream soup. My friend concurred, but the whipped cream was airier than she'd like. "Low density," she said. We were looking for "clean and fresh" in the vanilla, but by the time she unearthed it all I could register was the taste of yet more sugar. Cold cases of Oberweis dairy and meat products (and the heavy glass rectangles of iced tea and fruit punch) line the shop. My friend's verdict: she can do without Jim Oberweis's politics, his ice cream is good though not mind-blowing, but, she tells me, she's tried the bacon and it's fantastic: "Great marbling for the price." —Tasneem Paghdiwala

Original Rainbow Cone
9233 S. Western | 773-238-7075
Noon-9:30 PM Monday-Wednesday, Noon-10 PM Thursday-Sunday

The specialty of this family-owned spot is the eponymous rainbow cone—a manually assembled scoop of chocolate, pistachio, strawberry, and "Palmer House" cherry-walnut ice cream plus orange sherbet on a pointy cake cone—but there are more than 30 single-flavor options as well. The atmosphere's efficient but fun: patrons line up in a roped queue to order from cashiers who yell back endearing shorthand like "baby white" (for a small vanilla cone) and "heebie-jeebie" (for chocolate peanut butter), and there are picnic tables behind the aging pink stucco building. A second location downtown is in the works. —Kiki Yablon

Paleteria Jalisco
4219 N. Kedzie | 773-583-9257
10 AM-7 PM daily

This walk-in storefront supplies many of the pushcart vendors in Albany Park. They carry about two dozen ice milk and Popsicle flavors, including chile-dusted cucumber, guayaba, coconut, piña colada, pecan, cookie, banana, mango, chocolate, strawberry, and mamey, a fruit that looks like a coconut and tastes like a cross between mango and cantaloupe. —Mike Sula

Petersen's Ice Cream
1100 Chicago, Oak Park | 708-386-6131
11 AM-10 PM daily

This Oak Park institution has been around since 1919, but the important number here is 18: that's the percentage of butterfat the ice cream contains. The 20 or so flavors of custom-made ice cream range from old-fogy faves like pistachio to kiddie fare like blue moon and Oreo. The diner and candy shop are no longer, but the full-service soda fountain endures. —Kiki Yablon

Piccolo Cafe
859 N. Damen | 773-772-3355
11 AM-9 PM Sunday-Thursday, 11 AM-10 PM Friday-Saturday

This Ukrainian Village gelateria from Phil McFarland and Ty Fujimura (Lava Lounge, Small Bar) offers an array of gelati, panini, salads, and bruschetta. The selection of rotating gelato flavors on my last visit ranged from Vietnamese cinnamon to lychee to lemon-basil, an unexpected standout. Black Dog gelato places a premium on fresh ingredients—which means not only that the strawberry gelato is made with fresh strawberries but also that they roast the nuts for the pistachio. It also means that the mint and pistachio gelati are not the neon green so often associated with those flavors, and taking a bite of the pistachio is uncannily similar to eating the roasted nuts. Quality over quantity seems to be not just a motto but a mandate here: small cups of gelato are the only size available. The flavors are so intense, though, that even a modest cup is plenty. The cafe's now offering ice cream from Bobtail as well. —Julia Thiel

Red Mango
2806 N. Clark | 773-296-6304
11 AM-Midnight daily

The nonfat fro-yo that this South Korean chain offers is pleasantly tart: it actually tastes like real yogurt (complete with active cultures) instead of glorified soft-serve. In addition to the original flavors, plain and green tea, there are now pomegranate and "tangomonium," the last a citrusy flavor. The green tea flavor is toned down for American taste buds, but still bold enough to stand up to the fruit toppings and chewy mochi pieces on offer. There are suburban locations in Evanston (847 Davis, 847-866-0998) and Naperville (111 W. Jackson, 630-904-0994). —Bianca Jarvis

Ristorante al Teatro
1227 W. 18th | 312-784-9100
11 AM-11 PM Monday-Thursday, 11 AM-Midnight Friday-Saturday, 11 AM-10 PM Sunday

I really wanted to like Ristorante Al Teatro, the Italian newcomer in Pilsen's landmark Thalia Hall. The dramatic spot lives up to its name, with ornate tin ceilings, gleaming woodwork, glowing chandeliers, and painted stage drapes framing the mouth of the wood-burning oven, from which emerge the would-be star pizzas. Slightly puffy and thin crusted, they come with 20 topping combos ranging from a simple margherita to the al Teatro, baby shrimp and prosecco bechamel on sauteed spinach. But our pizza rustica rated little applause: the crust was standard for its type, and the mix of filetto di pomodoro (fresh tomato pulp), partially caramelized onions, asparagus, mozzarella, and barely there shaved grana and oregano lacked pizzazz. We preferred an opener of tender grilled squid, tossed with a few arugula leaves, and a well-seasoned (if salty) secondo, galletto al Teatro, a small but mostly moist roasted half chicken with garlic, lemon, asparagus, and overdone potatoes fancily cut to look like mushrooms. Tortelloni alla boscaiola, one of a dozen pastas, consisted of three large, flat mushroom-filled packets in an unapologetically rich cream sauce. Owner Dominick Geraci is also behind Ukrainian Village's Caffe Gelato, and not surprisingly the many gelati and sorbetti are the best desserts. Coffee and gelato service begins at 11 AM daily; dinner begins at 5 PM. —Anne Spiselman

Sapore di Napoli
1406 W. Belmont | 773-935-1212
4 PM-10 PM Sunday, 4 PM-11 PM Tuesday-Saturday | BYO

"They used to do this a hundred years ago in Naples," the chef at Sapore di Napoli told us as he slammed a wad of dough against the counter—a little open-kitchen entertainment before the meal. The dozen kinds of authentic Italian-style pizza here include salsiccia e cipolle (Italian sausage with smoked mozzarella and onions), verdure (mushrooms, zucchini, eggplant, and roasted peppers), and quattro stagioni (artichokes, prosciutto di parma, mushrooms, and olives). Thanks to the 800° brick oven, they're all rapidly prepared in "like, five minutes," said our server, and feature a crackerlike crust. A cooler holds about 14 flavors of gelato and sorbetto, all so good that you could be excused for playing dumb just to get samples. The selection changes on a regular basis, but more exotic varieties might include zabaglione, made with sweet marsala and tasting a lot like eggnog. We found the service at this small, warm restaurant endearing: setting down after-dinner coffee, our server said proudly, "I steamed the milk for you, so there's no coldness!" Sapore di Napoli is BYOB, with a $5 corkage fee. —Anne Ford

Savor the Flavor
2545 N. Sheffield | 773-883-5287
7 AM-9 PM Monday-Thursday, 7 AM-7 PM Friday, 8 AM-8 PM Saturday-Sunday

Lincoln Park's Savor the Flavor coffeehouse has one thing on its menu that's not a beverage or ice cream: grilled cheese. The sandwiches come with up to three different kinds of cheese and are customizable with toppings like onion, bacon, and sun-dried tomatoes; on the side are kettle chips or carrots. But ice cream, provided by Homer's Gourmet Ice Cream, is really the way go here. House specials like the Chai Shaker, which combines rich vanilla ice cream with smoky, spicy chai, and classics like the Malt Ball Milk Shake are decidedly successful. That plus an environment of warm colors and unobtrusive music makes it worth a visit if you're in the neighborhood. —Katie Buitrago

Scoops Ice Cream
608 W. 31st | 312-842-3300
11 AM-11 PM Sunday-Thursday, 11 AM-Midnight Friday-Saturday

Bridgeport mainstay serving up ice cream and decadent ice cream treats like turtle parfaits, homemade ice cream sandwiches and frozen bananas, and creations like the Strawberry Short Cake Explosion, vanilla ice cream with pound cake, strawberry topping, strawberry wafers, and whipped cream. There's also a full line of coffee drinks and custom-made ice cream cakes.

Scoops Old-Fashioned Ice Cream
1730 W. Fullerton | 773-528-5728
7 AM-9 PM Monday-Saturday, 7 AM-6 PM Sunday | cash only

This Lincoln Park shop offers Wisconsin-made ice cream and a full-service grill that puts out burgers, gyros, and Greek specialties in addition to breakfast standards.

Scooter's Frozen Custard
1658 W. Belmont | 773-244-6415
2 PM-10 PM Monday-Friday, 1 PM-10 PM Saturday, 1 PM-9 PM Sunday

Scooter's is the oldest frozen custard place in the area, and it's only been around for six years. In that time, its dense, decadent, ultrasmooth custard and incredibly friendly service have earned it a well-justified fan base. What's hard to understand is why its success hasn't inspired more competitors to set up shop in town.. —Julia Thiel

2943 N. Broadway | 773-935-9800
11 AM-10 PM daily

In summer Lakeview's Soupbox morphs into the Icebox, serving refreshing fruit-flavored ices made on the premises; some soups are still available as well. Raters praise the always friendly service.

1745 W. Division | 773-395-9300
9 AM-11 PM daily

This chain offers a twist on frozen yogurt stands, substituting frozen kefir, the cultured milk product Starfruit describes as the "lighthearted love child of taste and nutrition." It's available by the cup, with add-ins ranging from goji berries to mochi balls to Cocoa Pebbles, or in fruit parfaits and smoothies. You can also opt for frozen organic kefir, and Starfruit uses all-biodegradable packaging. There's a second location at 2142 N. Halsted (773-868-4900). —Kate Schmidt

Tastee Freez
2815 W. Armitage | 773-507-7477
11 AM-11 PM daily

At this Logan Square institution owner Tony Zarcone dispenses plenty of, yes, cones. He touts his soft-serve ice cream (vanilla, chocolate, twist) as being 97 percent fat free, and it might be a good idea to cut some calories considering the rest of the fare: quarter-pound burgers, cheese fries, funnel cakes, and a deep-fried Polish, an innovation Zarcone is particularly proud of. Friendly kids staff the counter, and a baby cone goes for a mere 75 cents. —Kate Schmidt

Treats Frozen Desserts
2224 N. Clark | 773-472-6666
2 PM-10 PM Monday-Thursday, 11 AM-10 PM Friday-Sunday

For people who want to have their ice cream and eat it too, the soft-serve ice milk here is low calorie, low cholesterol, and 99 percent fat free—but more than 30 mix-ins like Oreo crumbles, gummy bears, and granola are available for a premium. The frozen concoction comes in four flavors: chocolate, vanilla, and specials from a rotating list of more than 50. —Kiki Yablon

Ventrella's Caffe
4947 N. Damen | 773-506-0708
10 AM-8 PM Monday-Friday, 10 AM-7 PM Saturday, 10 AM-5 PM Sunday

James Ventrella modeled his homey Ravenswood cafe on the restaurants and shops he visited as a child in Chicago's Italian neighborhoods. "I wanted to pick up a store from Harlem Avenue in, like, 1950 and just drop it here on Damen," he says. Hence the many vintage pieces, such as a sink from a 1930s-era Pullman railroad car and a fridge from the mid-50s. Even the mint in the iced tea is vintage of a sort—Ventrella gets it from his mom, who transplanted it from a garden that her father planted 80-some years ago. His other offerings include Lavazza coffee and espresso, panini (Gorgonzola with pear; prosciutto with provolone and green apple; and the Ventrella, a caprese with provolone and giardiniera), soups, and baked goods, many made by Ventrella's aunts. But don't miss the gelato and sorbetto, crafted by a small-batch artisan in Michigan in flavors like chocolate espresso bean, stracciatella (vanilla ribboned with chocolate), and pistachio. The last is "kind of an old-guy flavor," Ventrella says. "But even the kids ask for it." —Anne Ford

Village Creamery
4558 Oakton, Skokie | 847-982-1720
11 AM-10 PM daily

Outside there's nothing to indicate this storefront carries anything more thrilling than Baskin-Robbins, but the menu's filled with uncommon homemade Filipino ice creams. Among the many startling flavors are two coconut-based varieties, corn, avocado, purple yam, jackfruit, ginger, lychee, and, most flamboyantly, halo-halo, a hash of red and white beans, sugar palm, Jell-O bits, coconut, and Rice Krispies based on the popular Filipino dessert. Many flavors, like a pale green soother made from pandan leaves and large hunks of coconut, are lightly sweetened, letting the tropical elements do the talking. Village Creamery also makes fruit sorbets and shaved ices. There's a second location at 8000 Waukegan, Niles (847-965-9805). —Mike Sula

Windy City Sweets
3308 N. Broadway | 773-477-6100
11 AM-11:15 PM daily

Come for the ice cream, stay for the homemade candy. Or is it the other way around? It's hard to resist trying both at this Lakeview sweets shop. The 32 flavors of ice cream (supplied by a dairy farm in Iowa) include Moose Tracks, vanilla with swirls of chocolate and peanut butter, and Birthday Cake, a rich blend of "Funfetti" cake and white butter-cream frosting. It's a bit pricey (nearly $5 for two scoops), but portions are enormous. Lighter options like sugar-free butter pecan and several fat-free yogurts are available to ease your guilt about sampling the store's colossal candy selection: truffles, chocolate-covered pretzels and s'mores, and several seasonal varieties of fudge beckon from beneath shiny glass cases. Don't miss the Windy City Crunch, Rice Krispies and peanuts held together with white chocolate and peanut butter. —Sarah Sumadi

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