You know where the best donuts and best pizzas are in every 'hood in Chicago, but ice cream? Ice cream is still a complete and udder (!) mystery. Luckily, we've got you covered: here's the scoop (!!) on the top ice cream shops in 17 Chicago 'hoods, for the next time you're wandering around sweating.
The best ice cream in Chicago, broken down by neighborhood
Best Ice Cream Shop: George’s Ice Cream & Sweets (address and info)
From old-school malts and floats to new-school scoops like Horchata and Fat Elvis (banana ice cream with peanut butter ripple and liquid chocolate chips) served in pretzel-encrusted cones, George’s is Andersonville’s go-to ice creamery and home to maybe the intense-est shake in Chicago: the Hocus Pocus, which's made with rainbow sherbet and POP ROCKS.
Best Ice Cream Shop: Delicias Natural (address and info)
This Mexican scoop shop does unique, South-of-the-border-inspired ice cream, with flavors like avocado and tequila. We tried them all, and the real gem is the gansitos, a blend of vanilla ice cream and chocolate-covered, strawberry & cream-filled snack cakes.
Best Ice Cream Shop: Original Rainbow Cone (address and info)
If ice cream flavors were food groups, you’d find a well-balanced meal in the Rainbow Cone from this Chicago institution. The iconic dessert is stacked high with scoops of chocolate, strawberry, Palmer House (New York vanilla with cherries and walnuts), pistachio, and orange sherbet. Fortunately (or unfortunately?) though, it tastes nothing like those a-little-bit-of-everything soda machine “suicides” you concocted as a kid.
Best Ice Cream Shop: Sugar Shack (address and info)
Because sometimes, adding ice cream and hot fudge to deep-fried carnival fare is just the right thing to do, Sugar Shack'll make your childhood county fair dreams come true with Funnel Cake Sundaes. If that doesn't make it the best ice cream shop in the neighborhood, nothing will.
Best Ice Cream Shop: Shawn Michelle's Old Fashioned Ice Cream (address and info)
Experimental ice cream-eater? You'll love the wide range of small-batch, house-made flavors at Shawn Michelle's Old Fashioned Ice Cream in Roseland, including "Banana Bread Pudding" and "Caribbean Sunbeam Supreme".
Best Ice Cream Shop: Lickity Split Frozen Custard (address and info)
A '50s-style sweet shop shelling out pastries, cupcakes, and candy, Lickity Split custard comes in many forms. There’s custard shakes (toppings of your choice), concretes like the OMG (blended with peanut butter fudge brownies), and sundaes like the Scarlets Last Fall, a red velvet cake bowl with marshmallow sauce, raspberries, and whipped cream.
Best Ice Cream Shop: Duff’s Dogs (address and info)
Cap off a fast-food run of hot dogs and jalapeño poppers with whatever avalanche sundae is on tap (past soft-serve specials have included peanut butter chip, s’mores, and chocolate brownie). They also boast 30+ milkshake flavors, including peppermint patty and tiramisu.
Best Ice Cream Shop: Jeni’s (address and info)
Lakeview is a veritable goldmine for great ice cream (Oberweis, Bobtail, Anthony’s Homemade Italian Ice), but ever since Jeni’s Southport came to town last Summer, it's been hard to imagine life without "brambleberry" crisp. The shop offers a mix of mainstay flavors and seasonal specials, as well as a small selection of unique French macaron ice cream.
Best Ice Cream Shop: Butcher & the Burger (address and info)
Okay, so it’s not exclusively an ice cream shop, but Armitage Ave’s premier burger vendor is home to some pretty killer milkshakes and custard, and for that reason, has earned our top Lincoln Park spot. Follow up a house-blend beef burger with a cone to-go. Or vice versa.
Best Ice Cream Shop: Margie’s Candies (address and info)
This traditional ice cream parlor has served homemade sundaes and splits, hand-spun shakes, and hand-dipped candies to Chicago’s North Side for a long time (long enough that Al Capone, The Beatles, and Bruce Springsteen have all been there). The space has changed little since it opened, and the vintage atmosphere enhances the experience of settling into one of the old, vinyl booths and chowing down on a three-scooper hot fudge banana split loaded with whipped cream, nuts, a cherry, and an old-fashioned wafer cookie.
Best Ice Cream Shop: Atwood Cafe (address and info)
The high-end American restaurant in the heart of the Loop, sharing space with the restored Hotel Burnham, has a knack for desserts. On the sweets menu you’ll find bacon-glazed root beer donuts, caramel-salted cheesecake with Guinness syrup, and a rotation of gelato and sorbets.
Best Ice Cream Shop: Lindy's and Gertie's (address and info)
Your one-stop shop for all your chili, sandwich, and ice cream needs, Lindy’s and Gertie’s is the oldest (103-years-young) ice cream shop on our list. Cozy up with a hot bowl of Lindy’s famous chili, then cool your palate down with a Green River float, a brownie sundae, and a “triple rich” marshmallow float.
Best Ice Cream Shop: Ghirardelli (address and info)
Conveniently located across the way from the Hershey’s shop (a little healthy competition never hurt anyone, right?), this premium, SF-based chocolate company goes beyond the candy bar wrapper with gourmet frozen offerings fit for the Downtown shopping crowd. Splurge on a bowl of robustly flavored espresso ice cream drenched in dark chocolate fudge, and wash it down with a mug of sea salt hot chocolate for an always-necessary pick-me-up.
Best Ice Cream Shop: Scooter’s Frozen Custard (address and info)
Regarded as Chicago’s oldest frozen custard shop, this family-owned destination hits the mark with its Blizzard-like concretes featuring homemade custard and a variety of mix-ins. The Coconut Cream Pie blended with graham cracker piecrust is a dead-ringer for the real-deal, and The Strawberry is loaded with hand-mixed fresh strawberry toppings.
Best Ice Cream Shop: Black Dog Gelato (address and info)
Whether you prefer your gelato in a cup, cone, or sandwiched between sides of a fresh, maple-bacon Glazed and Infused donut, Black Dog Gelato -- in all its manifestations -- is the answer to all of your problems. There's nothing that three scoops of blackberry French toast or a bucket of goat cheese caramel cashew gelato won't make better.
Best Ice Cream Shop: bellyQ (address and info)
Your soft-serve addiction started with the self-serve machine in your college dining hall. But your grown-up palate will appreciate the more sophisticated take at this Korean barbecue spot, where vanilla soft-serve is topped with either huckleberries and lime-basil seed, or passion fruit and cubes of young coconut jelly. Cubes. Jelly. Yes.
Best Ice Cream Shop: iCream (address and info)
Get in touch with your inner-mad scientist at this futuristic ice cream shop, where you choose from six liquid bases (ice cream, milkshake, low-fat yogurt, etc.), a variety of sweeteners, and more than 30 flavors. Once your concoction is prepared, watch it transform into ice cream right before your eyes, thanks to an industrial stand mixer outfitted with a state-of-the-art liquid nitrogen tank.
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Kailley Lindman is a contributing writer for Thrillist Chicago and Sean Cooley is Thrillist's Chicago Editor. Both of them are surprised there isn't an ice cream Segway tour yet. Help 'em start on Twitter @KailleysKitchen and @SeanCooley.
1. George's Ice Cream & Sweets5306 N Clark St, Chicago
2. iCream Cafe1537 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago
3. Margie's Candies1960 N Western Ave, Chicago
4. Black Dog Gelato859 N Damen Ave, Chicago
5. Original Rainbow Cone9233 S Western Ave, Chicago
6. Butcher & The Burger Custard Cart1021 W Armitage Ave, Chicago
7. Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams3404 N Southport Ave, Chicago
8. Sugar Shack630 W 26th St, Chicago
9. bellyQ1400 W Randolph Street, Chicago
10. Shawn Michelle's Old Fashioned Ice Cream1229 East 87th St, Chicago
11. Azucar3617 W 27th St, Chicago
12. Delicias Natural2867 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago
13. Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop830 N Michigan Ave, Chicago
14. Atwood1 W Washington St, Chicago
15. Lindy's Gertie's Chili & Ice Cream2353 S Laramie Ave, Cicero
16. Duff’s Dogs4835 N Austin Ave , Chicago
17. Lickity Split Frozen Custard6056 N Broadway St, Chicago
18. Scooter's Frozen Custard1658 W Belmont Ave, Chicago
From old-school malts and floats to new-school scoops like Horchata and Fat Elvis (banana ice cream with peanut butter ripple and liquid chocolate chips) served in pretzel-encrusted cones, George’s is Andersonville’s go-to ice creamery and home to maybe the most intense milkshake in Chicago. If you're feeling adventurous, order the the Hocus Pocus shake, made with rainbow sherbet, Sprite, and POP-ROCKS.
Hatched as a class project by two UofC b-schoolers, iCream's futuristically fatty idea was to let customers direct a customized process involving ice cream made from scratch, on-the-spot, using blasts of liquid nitrogen; after a 2-day August opening, their equipment blew a gasket, forcing them to re-up with $80K in shiny, 2nd Gen gear.
To put it in blunt terms, you simply haven't lived the true Chicago life until you've been to the legendary Margie's Candies. Serving Bucktown since 1921, this generations-old candy shop offers every confection imaginable, all made by hand every day. The ice cream, scooped into homemade waffle cones and delicately dipped in a rich chocolate sauce, is so decadent that both The Rolling Stones and The Beatles have ventured here after shows to satisfy their (brown) sugar cravings.
From the ice cream queen whose small-batch, handmade frosty treats long graced local restaurants and specialty retailers, Black Dog is an adorable corner parlor with pink, white, and floral-striped walls, a handful of wooden tables, and -- most important -- unique flavors of velvety gelato. Trust on this one: go for the goat cheese cashew caramel, a bowl of tangy, nutty goodness that will make you question why more frozen desserts don't involve goat cheese. Some other bizarre yet genius flavors? Sesame fig chocolate chip, blueberry French toast, and maple cayenne bacon.
This iconic Beverly ice creamery features myriad ice cream flavors to satisfy your sweet tooth, especially their signature cone that is stacked high with scoops of chocolate, strawberry, Palmer House (New York Vanilla with cherries and walnuts), pistachio, and orange sherbet.
Coinciding with the unveiling of its cedar-fenced sidewalk patio, B&TB is amping up the experience with a new custard cart slinging cones of homemade creaminess in rotating flavors like peanut butter 'n banana, pear mascarpone brulee, and pina colada, which is unlikely to help you start makin' love at midnight.
Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams, an Ohio-based chain, brings its crazy-good and exotic flavors, like fresh-shucked sweet corn and raspberry, to Chi-town. Take your treat in frozen yogurt, ice cream sandwich, or pint form, and pair it with a warm cup of french press Intelligentsia coffee.
This Bridgeport sweets spot will make your childhood county fair dreams come true with Funnel Cake Sundaes (!) and a host of other dishes with super-sweet flavor combinations.
While dining at a resto with the word "belly" in the name may make you feel weird, you should get over it and chow down on Korean short ribs and banana leaf-wrapped salmon, or opt for the likes of Thai fried chicken, wood-fired bacon 'n kimchi pancakes, or some tea-smoked duck breast served with steamed Chinese buns. Also: cocktails, wine, and beer.
If you qualify yourself as an "experimental ice cream-eater" then you'll love the variety of small-batch, house-made flavors at this Calumet Heights spot, including "Banana Bread Pudding" and "Caribbean Sunbeam Supreme".
This Little Village shop doles out some of the tastiest treats in the city and is extremely popular because of their famous out-of-the-ordinary ice cream flavors like sangria and guava.
Delicias Natural is a Mexican ice-creamery scooping up some crazy South-of-the-border-inspired frozen treats, such as avocado and tequila ice creams.
This SF-based chocolatier hub in Near North Side is doling out all of the usual, delectable suspects. Try the salted hot chocolate, any number of unique ice cream flavors, or just get a bar of the original stuff.
This new-American spot on Washington has some of the best local fare in Chicago. If you're in the mood for something sweet, be sure to dive mouth-first into some of the renowned ice cream/gelato. It surely cannot be missed.
They've got chili AND ice cream. Seriously, what could be better than warming up with some chili, then cooling your palate down with some homemade ice cream. Answer: nothing.
This Jefferson Park hot dog joint also serves up some of the best soft-serve in the city. Go there late-night for some cheese fries, or sidle up with a double dog and some pop.
Pastries, cupcakes, and candy fill this '50s-style sweet shop in Edgewater -- treat yourself to custard shakes, concretes, and sundaes as well.
This mom and pop shop serves their frozen custard anyway you like. Their top selling "concrete" is known as the Elvis, and features vanilla custard with peanut butter cups and bananas. But if that's not your style, you can grab a sundae, plain custards, shakes & malts, or create your own concrete. You can also grab a hot dog and chips, if, for some reason you want one.