The 15 Best Ice Cream Shops in Chicago

Vegan soft serve, monster sundaes, and everyone’s favorite Rainbow Cone.

Chicago summer is here, which means it’s time to roll up your sleeves, put your hair up, and eat accordingly—we’re talking ice cream, of course, that frosty refresher that is wildly hard-earned after every Chicago winter. Luckily, our fine town is continuing to up its scoop game in big, memorable ways each year, serving up enough sundaes, fro-yo, gelato, and soft serve to keep you cool all season long. From ice-cold curls and koala-inspired cones to avocado scoops and vegan soft serve, here are this summer’s most scream-worthy ice cream shops.

FRIO Gelato

Evanston & Navy Pier
After relocating to the States from Buenos Aires, cousins Sebastián Koziura and Enrique Schcolnik missed the moments they shared indulging in dulce de leche gelato with their grandmother. Thus, they decided to transport the sweet treat to Chicago with FRIO, a family-owned gelatería featuring Argentine favorites like Sambayon, Malbec Wine with Berries, Tramontana, and, of course, Dulce de Leche. The offerings range far beyond these, though, with up to 36 flavors in the portfolio including hyper seasonal musts like avocado, pumpkin, and white chocolate.
How to book: Stop by for counter service or order delivery via GrubHubDoorDash, or UberEats.

Vaca’s Creamery

Noble Square
After meeting at a vegan ice cream shop in Austin, Dylan Sutcliff and Mariana Marinho made their way to Chicago to open this Noble Square newcomer specializing in all things vegan soft serve (plus a medley of housemade cones and locally sourced toppings). Sweets aren’t the only thing the duo takes seriously—sustainability and ethics play a vital role here, as evidenced by higher employee pay, no animal-based products, and no questionable ingredients. Those efforts yield a cone you can feel as good about buying as you do about eating.
How to book: Stop by for counter service.

Shawn Michelle’s

Bronzeville & Time Out Market
This frosty favorite debuted in the Time Out Market just last month, bringing with it the same homestyle scoops that put its original Bronzeville location on the map two years ago. Owners Yahya and Nataki Muhammad wanted to deliver their version of the old-fashioned scoops Yahya remembers having as a child, and one might say they’ve succeeded—mega fans arrive on the regular to choose between 25 rotating flavors (including vegan and sugar-free options) spanning homey creations like Banana Pudding, Black Walnut, and, their nostalgia-sparking bestseller, Grandma’s Old-Fashioned Vanilla.
How to book: Stop by for counter service or get delivery via DoorDash and UberEats.

Eli’s Ark

Wicker Park
Ready your Instagram for a visit to this North Avenue outpost, where ice cream becomes even more magical as it shapeshifts into an array of different animals right in front of your eyes. That’s right—the talented team here calls upon cones and precisely placed toppings to create everything from koalas and bears to monkeys and, the fan favorite, unicorns. The best part? The animal “accoutrements” are as flavorful as they are fun—mini Oreo “ears,” pink marshmallow “mouths,” and white chocolate “horns” all hold their own against punchy base flavors like ube, Biscoff cookie, and bourbon-pecan.
How to book: Stop by for counter service.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams 

Multiple locations
Initially started in 2002 in Columbus, Ohio, this “splendid” venture entered the Chicago market in September 2013 with its first scoop shop on Southport and hasn’t looked back since. The biggest draw? A roster of culinary-inspired flavors not normally associated with ice cream, like Sweet Cream Biscuits and Peach Jam or Goat Cheese with Red Cherries. While some may seem intimidatingly “artisanal,” those looking for more straightforward scoops will surely find them in options like Cookies in Cream, Green Mint Chip, or Milkiest Chocolate.
How to book: Stop by your nearest location for counter service or order local take-out and delivery via Jeni’s online shop, Postmates, and DoorDash.

Margie’s Candies
Margie’s Candies | Flickr/David B. Gleason

Margie’s Candies

Founded in 1921, the original Margie’s Candies comes with tales of visitors like the Beatles and Al Capone (we also named it one of the best ice cream shops in America.) This Bucktown staple has maintained the old-fashioned decor and vibes, as well as a knack for serving handmade confectionery candy, chocolate, and fudge. On the ice cream side, you can go for classic scoops or make room for any of the shop’s famous banana splits. Bring a group for “the world’s largest terrapin,” a gargantuan indulgence featuring 15 scoops of French vanilla ice cream topped with a deluge of hot fudge, caramel, whipped cream, nuts, and banana before being crowned with a cookie.
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Pretty Cool Ice Cream

Logan Square
Founded by pastry chef Dana Salls Cree and Bang Bang Pie and Biscuits’ Michael Ciapciak, Pretty Cool Ice Cream serves an array of frozen novelties, including ice cream bars, ice cream sandwiches, and ice pops (vegan ones, too!). Clever flavor combinations make this spot a standout, with fruit-flavored “truck pops” like passion fruit hibiscus and custard bars like peanut butter potato chip, coffee pretzel toffee, and caramel horchata crunch. It’s a funky (handheld) take on the straight-up scoop shop, and between the operators’ backgrounds and its stellar selections, don’t expect Pretty Cool to melt away anytime soon. 
How to book: Stop by for counter service or order take-out online.

The Freeze

Logan Square
Soft serve piled high and burgers served hot top the bill at this retro Logan Square drive-in. Formerly known as Tastee Freez and dating to 1950, The Freeze is a go-to spot that often draws long lines of customers encircling it during the warmer months. If you like your ice cream served velvety smooth and topped with a heaping dose of nostalgia, it’s hard to beat any order here. The burgers, Italian beef, and Chicago dogs are on point, too.
How to book: Stop by for counter service, call 773-384-5211 for take-out, or order delivery via GrubHub.

George's Ice Cream & Sweets

The first thing you’ll notice about George’s Ice Cream & Sweets is the undeniably welcoming vibe. But alongside that comfortable atmosphere, George’s also dishes up hearty scoops spanning 32 flavors, including Caramel Chaos, Ultimate Oreo, and Munchie Madness, as well as seasonal, no-sugar added, and dairy-free flavors. Not in the mood for ice cream? Baked goods, both made in-house and sourced from other local operations, plus Dark Matter coffee drinks and Italian sodas have you covered.
How to book: Stop by for counter service or order delivery via Postmates and GrubHub.

Lickity Split

Edgewater & Rogers Park
If you couldn’t tell from the name, Lickity Split Frozen Custard & Sweets serves frozen custard, sundaes, candy, and other local treats in enchanting old-world digs. You could go “my way” with your choice of flavor and one topping, or opt for a mix of cupcakes and custard in the Crazy Cake concrete. Even better is the “OMG,” a concoction of frozen custard, brownies, hot fudge, and peanut butter that’ll have you exclaiming its moniker with every bite. Business has gone so well that they’ve expanded a few blocks away into neighboring Rogers Park, so make sure to catch ‘em all. 
How to book: Stop by for counter service or order take-out and delivery via GrubHub (Broadway, Western Avenue) and Postmates.

The Original Rainbow Cone

Navy Pier, Beverly, Lombard, & Darien 
Five flavors in one—that’s really all you need. A Chicago institution since 1926, the Original Rainbow Cone is known for serving a thick stack of chocolate, strawberry, Palmer House (AKA vanilla with walnuts and cherries), and pistachio ice creams plus orange sherbet atop a sturdy cake cone. While you can get your paws on the prized classic at the spot’s Navy Pier stand, it’s worth making your way to the OG South Side location to marvel, if briefly, in its timeless charm while waiting for your order. This summer, two new locations in Lombard and Darien join the lineup, along with a fleet of ice cream trucks roaming Chicagoland.
How to book: Stop your nearest location for counter service or get nationwide shipping via Goldbelly.

Scooter's | Kailley Lindman/Thrillist

Scooter's Frozen Custard

Roscoe Village
What’s the difference between ice cream and frozen custard? Simply put, custard is made with egg yolks, resulting in a creamier, thicker consistency, and as far as Chicagoland goes, this Roscoe Village stalwart does it best. Stashed in a cheery storefront, Scooter’s uses local ingredients from family farms in central Wisconsin to churn out an extra-fresh product that shines in the form of cones and concretes. Patrons can pick from a variety of rotating flavors or try monthly concrete specials like the Raspberry Crave, which blends together raspberry topping, marshmallow, and chocolate chunks.
How to book: Stop by for counter service.

Legend Tasty House

Thai-style rolled ice cream had a moment a couple years back, and as far as we’re concerned, it’s still the belle of the sweet, sweet ball. This Chinatown hotspot was one the first to introduce Chicago to the curious confection, curling luscious portions of Matcha Queen (green tea and strawberry), Double Trouble (Oreo and Nutella), Key Lime Pie, and other originals into neat rolls by hand to the delight of admiring onlookers.
How to book: Stop by for counter service, order take-out online, or get delivery via GrubHub, Postmates, DoorDash, and Uber Eats.


Little Italy
This Japanese-influenced dessert destination brings pillowy soft serve adorned with edible gold and silver leaf, colorful flavored cones, and crave-worthy boba and milk tea to the heart of Little Italy. And the cozy, sundrenched scoop shop is as slickly decorated as the ice cream it dishes up, with large-scale cartoon sketches lining the white walls and brilliant neon illuminating the front window. Keep an eye on their social media channels for news on the forthcoming Wicker Park spot, too.
How to book: Stop by for counter service, order take-out online, or get delivery via Caviar.

Black Dog Gelato

Ukrainian Village, West Loop, & Logan Square
This tri-location neighborhood gem starts with traditional Chicago-style gelato made with fresh local ingredients, then spices things up with modern medleys like mango hibiscus, goat cheese cashew caramel, and malted vanilla pretzel. The best part? It’s all whipped up by hand in the shop’s pint-sized kitchen with the utmost care and quality. If you’re craving more ‘scream beyond the occasional shop visit, consider their membership, a subscription service snagging you three epic pints per month.
How to book: Stop by for counter service or order delivery via DoorDash and Uber Eats.

Nicole Schnitzler is a contributor for Thrillist.
Meredith Heil is a Senior Cities Editor at Thrillist.
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