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Chicago's Best Ice Cream Shops

By Staff in Food on Jul 2, 2013 9:45PM

Ah, summertime. Nothing fixes a bad, hot day like a cold, sticky treat. Try one of our favorite ice cream shops and stay cool.

This old school classic has been serving up enormously delicious sundaes since 1921. The Beatles have famously dined there, and things haven't changed much since then. The wood paneling and big booths have remained the same while four generations of the Poulos family have filled gravy boats with thick fudge alongside those clamshell-shaped dishes of ice cream sundaes. The first thing you'll say when you get your obscenely large sundae is, "I'll never finish this whole thing." Ten minutes later you'll be licking the last bit of fudge out of the dish. —Samantha Abernethy
Margie's Candies is at 1960 N. Western Ave., plus a second location at 1813 W. Montrose Ave.

Black Dog Gelato. Photo credit: Zameer Abedin

Few ice cream or gelato shops have opened in recent years with the fanfare—and product to back it up—of Jessie Oloroso's popular Ukrainian Village shop. All of Oloroso's gelati and sorbets are made by hand with a focus on artisanal ingredients and a farm-to-table aesthetic, Black Dog's offerings are among the best in the Midwest, let alone Chciago. My favorite, hands down, has to be the goat cheese-cashew caramel, a creamy dream of an ice cream among a short list of desserts I constantly crave. —Chuck Sudo
Black Dog Gelato is located at 859 N. Damen Avenue (773-235-3116) and 1955 W. Belmont Avenue (773-235-3116).

Scooter's concrete isn't going anywhere but in your tummy. Photo Credit: Vincent Diamante

Anyone who says that Scooter's isn't the best ice cream shop in Chicago is just wrong. There, I said it. Every spring, going to Scooter's during opening week is a ritual for me. Every spring, I think that my memory has overrated the awesomeness. And every spring, it's still that good. Scooter's makes frozen custard in-house, right in front of you, and it's the smoothest, creamiest stuff in the world. I'm addicted to the vanilla, mixed in a "concrete" with cookie dough or paired with Sprecher's root beer (the world's greatest root beer, so that works) in a float. Their special flavors are often pretty astounding, so follow them on twitter or check the website. This weekend? Banana Reese's and Strawberry Ripple. —Anthony Todd
Scooter's Frozen Custard is at 1658 W. Belmont Ave.

Classic. Photo Credit: zol87

Those of us who grew up in the suburbs or small towns knew no better childhood treat than a trip to Dairy Queen for a blizzard or dipped cone. Even with the wave of trendy frozen yogurt shops and gelato available in hundreds of exotic flavors, there are still few things better than good ol' DQ. For a long time, the creamy, cold soft serve was fairly hard to come by within the city limits. Then, somebody had the genius idea to open one on the Southport corridor (3811 N Southport Ave, at Grace). It's busy during the day and early evening with the stroller set, and remains busy with those who passed the expensive desserts after dining at one of Southport's many trendy restaurants. On warm summer nights, the line can extend out the door and around the corner as city dwellers want to get their Oreo blizzard on. Or cherry dipped cone. We don't even need to specify to our wife when we want DQ. We simply ask, "Know what I have a taste for?" and she knows... —Benjy Lipsman
Dairy Queen is at 3811 N Southport Ave. and lots of places

Mario's Italian Lemonade. Photo Credit: Seth Anderson

Whenever the mercury rises above 70 degrees and the humidity is slightly uncomfortable, I saddle my bicycle and make a beeline to this Taylor Street landmark, which has been serving Italian lemonade the same way for over 50 years: slushy, cold and full of flavor and lemon peel. You'll want to visit more than once and sample a wide range of their flavors, but avoid sucking it down fast because the headache that results will linger. —Chuck Sudo
Mario's Italian Lemonade is located at 1068 W. Taylor Street.

Forever Yogurts have blown up around the city since opening their original location in Wicker Park (which survived a “sugar crash” shortly after opening) in 2010. Their self-serve, pay-by-the-ounce system means you can get as little or as much as you want, toppings or not, and only pay for your portion. Watch out though, because those pink cups are bigger than they look and it’s easy to go overboard! There are tons of frozen yogurt flavors to choose from, including some that rotate in and out like thin mint cookie and key lime sorbet, alongside ol’ standbys like french vanilla and mom’s cake batter. Some folks mix flavors for a personalized cup, while others play the scale like a game going for lighter weight toppings like marshmallow instead of fruit. Look out for their Forever Truck that serves froyo on the go. —Michelle Meywes
Forever Yogurt

The Original Rainbow Cone. Photo Credit: fotomattic

Here's another Chicago treasure that's provided memories and relief from the heat for Chicagoans Since 1926. Original Rainbow Cone has been making their own cones and filling them with one of their five signature flavors. The "rainbow cone" includes scoops of chocolate, pistachio, strawberry, orange sherbet, and a flavor they call "Palmer House" (cherry ice cream with chunks of cherry and walnuts), all fit into a wedge on top of the cone. During the summer months, the store's interior is sardine tight with kids watching the cones being made. There's some seating in the back, but you might be best served getting yourself a rainbow cone for immediate consumption and some ice cream to go. —Chuck Sudo
Original Rainbow Cone is located at 9233 S. Western Avenue, 773-238-7075.

In a sleek semi-brave new world increasingly dominated by low-fat froyo, Windy City Sweets is pure confectionery nostalgia, scooping up homemade all-American ice cream into flavored waffle cones or a salty pretzel nonpareil. Yes, you can get low-fat froyo here too, but why bother? The affable folk behind the counter won’t stint on the hot fudge, which makes everything better, including the French vanilla beneath. So close your eyes and dip your hand into a George Bailey-certified glass candy jar, and everything, we guarantee, starts coming up gumballs--or something of a similarly wholesome ilk. Point is, when you’re tired of trendy and could just scream for some basic and beautiful ice cream, take a walk into Windy City Sweets. It's even better now than in days gone by. —Melissa Wiley
Windy City Sweets is at 3308 N. Broadway Ave.

Sugar Shack's Funnel Cake Sundae. Photo Credit: Chuck Sudo

This Bridgeport shop is best known for its funnel cake sundaes (a Chicagoist "One Great Dish" selection) but they also have some of the best sundaes, floats, malts and soft serve and scoop ice cream on the South side. But you want to go for the funnel cakes, with three scoops of vanilla ice cream set atop a freshly made funnel cake, served with whip cream and the toppings of your choice. —Chuck Sudo
Sugar Shack on 26th Street is located at 630 W. 26th Street.

Paciugo. Photo Credit: Deep Blue Skies

We walk into Paciugo thinking we want something simple like chocolate or vanilla, and we wind up trying some unique flavor combo like Chocolate Green Tea or Rose Chocolate Chip or Black Pepper Olive Oil. There's always something different to try. If you want to kickstart your mood, get a Caffe Affogato. That's vanilla gelato with a shot of espresso. Just try and sit down after having one of those. There are three locations, but we're partial to the Lincoln Square location where you can take your sweetness out to Giddings Plaza and sit by the fountain. —Samantha Abernethy
Paciugo is at 2324 W. Giddings, 3241 N. Broadway and 2009 W. Roscoe.

Ferro's. Photo Credit: zol87

This Bridgeport Italian Beef shop has two huge secrets. It serves some surprisingly good barbecue, and their Italian lemonade is grossly underrated. Made with fresh fruit and available year-round, a serving of Ferro's Italian lemonade is just the thing to cool you as you're walking to 35th and Shields to watch the White Sox play hot potato with the baseball. —Chuck Sudo
Ferro's is at 200 W. 31st Street.