Food & Drink

The Best Ice Cream Shops in Chicago

Summer means ice cream.

With temperatures soaring into the 90s this month, you're pretty much legally obligated to purchase and enjoy as many frosty cold sweet treats as humanly possible. And lucky for you, our city has an incredible range of ice cream options, from forward-thinking Logan Square popsicles to classic Rainbow Cones at Navy Pier and lush gelato from a West Loop takeaway window -- all currently open for masked-up and socially distanced business. Here are all the best spots to consider when making this critical summertime choice.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams 

Southport, Wicker Park, Lincoln Park, Old Town, Wrigleyville, West Loop & Oak Brook
Though Jeni’s initially started in 2002 in Columbus, Ohio, the “splendid ice cream” shop grew into the Chicago area by September 2013 with its first scoop shop in Southport. What makes Jeni’s stand out is its roster of flavors you wouldn’t normally associate with ice cream, like sweet cream biscuits & peach jam or goat cheese with red cherries. While Jeni’s might seem intimidatingly “artisanal,” those looking for a more traditional scoop can’t go wrong with cookies in cream, green mint chip, or milkiest chocolate. To keep your scoops safe and sound, they’ve recently added a special COVID-19 Update section into their website -- stay tuned for information on location hours, timely precautions, and more.
How to order: Order pints for local pick-up and delivery from Jeni’s online shop, Postmates, DoorDash, and Uber Eats or grab a mask and stop by a shop for contactless take-out service (no flavor sampling, no cash payments, all cones will be served upside down in a bowl).

Margie’s Candies
Margie’s Candies | Kailley Lindman/Thrillist

Margie’s Candies

Bucktown
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 of vanilla or butter pecan drenched in hot fudge or you can make room for a turtle sundae. Margie’s also makes “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 then crowned with a cookie.
How to order: Order delivery from Postmates or drop by the shop for socially distanced take-out (ice cream and candy only) from 12pm to 9pm daily.

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 custard bars, popsicles, piecicles, and fancy ice cream novelties. The combination of flavors in each item makes this a standout, with fruit-flavored “truck pops” like passion fruit hibiscus and custard bars like the peanut butter potato chip. It’s a unique take on the standard ice cream shop, but given its operators’ backgrounds and those excellent flavor combinations, Pretty Cool is destined to last.
How to order: Surf on over to Pretty Cool’s online shop to place your pick-up order then swing by the walk-up window between 12pm and 9pm Tuesday through Sunday to cop your pops.

The Freeze

Logan Square
Soft-serve ice cream and fast food is The Freeze’s speciality. Formerly known as Tastee Freez and founded in 1950, The Freeze is a go-to spot in Logan Square that often has (appropriately socially distanced) lines of customers, young and old, forming around it during the warmer months in Chicago. If you like your ice cream served velvety soft and ladled with a heaping dose of nostalgia, it’s hard to beat The Freeze. The burgers, Italian beef sandwiches, and Chicago dogs ain’t half bad, either.
How to order: Order delivery via GrubHub and Postmates, call 773-384-5211 to place a pick-up order, or hit up the Armitage Ave icon to get your frosty fix weekdays from 1pm to 8pm and weekends from 1pm until 9pm (closed on Mondays).

George's Ice Cream & Sweets

Andersonville
The first thing you’ll notice about George’s Ice Cream & Sweets is its welcoming vibe. But alongside that comfortable atmosphere, George’s serves hearty scoops of 32 flavors, including caramel chaos, ultimate Oreo, munchie madness, as well as seasonal, no-sugar added, and dairy-free flavors. Not in the mood for ice cream? The store serves baked goods both made in-house and from other local bakeries plus Dark Matter coffee drinks, and Italian sodas.
How to order: Head to Postmates or GrubHub for delivery or grab a cone to-go from the Clark Street shop Monday through Thursday from 2pm to 10pm and Friday through Sunday from 11am to 10pm.

Lickity Split

Edgewater & Rogers Park
Lickity Split Frozen Custard & Sweets serves frozen custard, sundaes, candy, and locally sourced sweets in an old-school atmosphere. Business has gone so well that they expanded a few blocks away into neighboring Rogers Park. You could go “my way” with your choice of flavor and one topping, or you could go for a mix of cupcakes and custard in the Crazy Cake concrete. Even better is the “OMG”: frozen custard with fudge brownies, hot fudge, and peanut butter. OMG, indeed.
How to order: Delivery is available via GrubHub (Western Ave location, Broadway location) or Postmates and both locations are open for in-person take-out from 12pm to 10pm daily.

Cone Gourmet Ice Cream

West Loop
Owned and operated by Sean McGuire, who was born and raised in Ireland, Cone offers a little bit of everything you’d expect from an ice cream shop, topped off with an Irish twist. Among the traditional waffle cones and bowls are specials like Cone O’Flake (European-style soft serve with an Irish chocolate flake bar), the Blarney Turtle sundae topped with caramel, fudge, and pecans, and the Sprouting Shamrock sundae piled high with chocolate syrup, 
Oreos
, and colorful gummy worms.
How to order: Order pick-up or delivery via GrubHub, Postmates, or Uber Eats or stop by the friendly Madison Street scoop shop between 12pm and 9pm every day of the week.

BomboBar

West Loop
BomboBar started as a walk-up window off the side of Bar Siena in the West Loop, serving house-made gelato and stuffed Italian donuts called bomboloni. And while the spot soon expanded into Old Town with a casual sit-down location offering those same sweet goodies -- including chocolate shakes, Italian ice, and gelato sandwiches plus a whole slew of savory options like burgers and pizza -- for now, you’ll have to settle for the OG walk-up window until the Coronavirus has run its course. 
How to order: Get your pick-up and/or delivery from Toast, Uber Eats, and Caviar or amble on over to the West Loop location Monday through Friday from 11:30am to 9pm and Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 9pm.

La Michoacana Premium

Pilsen & Oak Lawn
If you live in Chicago, you’ve probably seen a paleteria even if you’re unsure of what that might be. These sweets-loaded push carts are usually painted pink and serve everything from popsicles, agua frescas, ice cream, and even the occasional elote or torta. Paleteria literally means an ice pop vendor, and if you visit La Michoacana’s Pilsen brick and mortar location, you’ll want to try flavors like caramel, Oreo, strawberries with cream, or gummy bears.
How to order: Get your lollies delivered via GrubHub and DoorDash, catch them strolling through one of the city parks, or get your pops to-go from the cheery South Blue Island Ave outpost everyday from 7am to 11pm.

The Original Rainbow Cone

Beverly & Navy Pier
Five flavors in one, that’s really all you need. A Chicago institution dating to 1926, the Original Rainbow Cone is known for serving a thick stack of chocolate ice cream, strawberry ice cream, Palmer House (vanilla with walnuts and cherries), pistachio ice cream, and orange sherbet on 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 store to marvel, if briefly, in the timeless charm while waiting for your take-out order.
How to order: Order delivery from DoorDash, GrubHub, and Uber Eats or stop by either location Sunday through Thursday from 11am to 10pm and Friday and Saturday from 11am to 10:30pm.

Scooter's
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 texture, and as far as Chicagoland goes, this Roscoe Village stalwart does it best. While the friendly atmosphere is a plus, Scooter’s uses local ingredients from family farms in central Wisconsin, achieving 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 order: No delivery options yet but the front counter and walk-up window are open for properly socially distanced and super sanitary business Tuesday through Sunday from 2pm to 9pm (closed Mondays).

Legend Tasty House

Chinatown
Thai-style rolled ice cream had a big moment last year, 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, and it hasn’t looked back, curling luscious portions of Matcha Queen (green tea and strawberry), Double Trouble (Oreo and Nutella), Key Lime Pie, and other original flavors into neat rolls by hand to the delight of hungry onlookers.
How to order: Order pick-up via the store’s website, get delivery from GrubHub, Postmates, DoorDash, or Uber Eats, or watch the magic happen in person Sunday through Thursday from 11:30am to 11pm and Fridays and Saturdays from 11am to 11:45pm.

Kurimu

Little Italy
This Japanese-influenced relative newcomer brings pillowy soft serve adorned with edible gold and silver leaf, colorful flavored cones, and craveworthy 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.
How to order: Order pick-up from Kurimu’s website, get delivery via Caviar, or pop into the Taylor Street shop Wednesdays and Thursdays from 2PM to 8PM and Friday through Sunday from 12PM to 9PM (closed Mondays and Tuesdays).

Black Dog Gelato

Ukrainian Village & West Loop
This dual-location neighborhood gem starts with traditional Chicago-style gelato made with fresh local ingredients then spices things up with uniquely modern flavors 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 signature kitchen with the utmost care, quality, and Coronavirus-informed safety measures.
How to order: Hit up DoorDash and Uber Eats for delivery or grab take-out from the West Loop cafe Tuesday through Sunday between 4pm and 10pm and the UKV corner shop Sunday to Thursday from 12pm to 10pm and Fridays and Saturdays from 12pm to 11pm.

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Matthew Sigur is a Chicago-based journalist who writes about movies, music, and restaurants.
Meredith Heil is a contributor for Thrillist.