Chicago, in an artistic style true to the cultured city, is packed with ice cream parlors all boasting unique, creative takes on the unassuming dessert. Chi-town has long been widely considered one of the culinary capitals of the United States and that reputation extends from their signature deep-dish pizza right through to their desserts. From reassuringly traditional, cozy ice cream parlors to odd, edgy recipes that illuminate the endless possibilities of the humble ice cream scoop, there isn't a stone left unturned in Chicago's pursuit of the best ice cream in America. The trials and tribulations of a hot day in the sometimes overwhelming bustle of the city's urban center can be counteracted perfectly by a decadent sundae or a thirst-quenching sorbet at one of these five best ice cream shops in Chicago.
All natural, all Kosher and all-round delicious, Margie’s serves up time-honored ice cream flavors without pretension. The whole set-up at Margie’s is nothing short of charming; with retro jukeboxes and candies that would make your grandmother nostalgic, this ice cream parlour has stayed true to what made it great back in the 1920s and as such, it’s become a must-see Chicago institution. Margie’s has two equally endearing locations on North Western and on Montrose. Favorite flavors include Butter Pecan and Yogurt and Sherbet. Get a triple scoop bowl to try out the homemade waffles and some of the huge variety of toppings.
Black Dog offers up authentic Italian gelato made in the traditional way – but that’s really the only traditional thing about this ice cream shop. Run by a charming former pastry chef, the gelatos and sorbets at Black Dog Gelato are as much culinary experiment as they are dessert. As long as you have a reasonably adventurous palate, though, you’ll love immersing yourself in the flavor possibilities of Black Dog’s distinctive soft, creamy gelato. Flavors change on a daily basis but some highlights include White Chocolate Banana Curry and Maple Cayenne Bacon.
The Rainbow Cone, a long-standing Chicago favorite, is just as "Willie Wonka" weird and wonderful as its name suggests. You can’t miss The Original Rainbow Cone store in Chicago’s South Side; its bright pink, rainbow-adorned facade is almost impossible to pass by. When you inevitably succumb to the need to check out the interior of this colorful building, you can pick up their unique eponymous cone, layered with five different delicious flavors in an Instagram-ready multicolored tower. The flavors? Chocolate, Strawberry, Palmer House (a vanilla, walnut and cherry combo), pistachio and Orange sherbet.
Authentic Italian Ice should really only be eaten fresh and homemade, and Anthony’s in the Lakeview district does this well. A sort of sorbet/gelato hybrid without the dairy, the Italian ice at Anthony’s is soft, refreshing and packed with flavor. The ice cream on offer here is good, too, but if you really want a cool piquant hit, try the watermelon, coconut or strawberry lemonade ices. Anthony’s offers a lighter alternative to the heavier, creamy sundaes on offer throughout the city and the small, manageable cups are perfectly sized portions for a hot summer’s day.
If you’re the kind of person who likes to get overwhelmed by choices, then this frozen yogurt shop is the place to be. At Forever Yogurt, you can mix and match any number of flavors and toppings without constraint (except for that of your wallet, as your cup comes in at 50 cents per ounce) . Self-serve FroYo isn’t a revolutionary concept but the fun, retro ambience here and the variety of flavors on offer make it stand out from the crowd of FroYo joints in Chicago. An added bonus; they offer taster cups, so you can sample the flavors before you commit. Some distinctive tastes at this kooky FroYo chain include Gingerbread Man and Birthday Cupcake.