Almost everyone likes ice cream. If that weren't the case, why does dairy-free ice cream exist? From old-fashioned ice cream and soft serve to custard and gelato and Thai rolled ice cream, there’s a wide variety of rich and indulgent options to try. These 20 spots provide the best scoops and cones around Chicago. Some are seasonal, so it would be wise to double-check hours before heading out for a cold delight.Read More
Chicago’s Essential Ice Cream Shops
Cool down with a sweet, creamy treat
FRÍO Gelato - Evanston
This Argentinian-style gelato business, founded in 2013 in suburban Evanston, offers a bright and airy haven for distinctive flavors like yerba mate, cafe con leche, and dulce de leche. Chicagoans needn’t travel outside the city for a taste, as Frio is also available at Navy Pier.
Banana Cream Ice Cream
Banana Cream Ice Cream launched in late 2021 with a plethora of sugary treats including indulgent milkshakes, banana splits, doughnut ice cream sandwiches, hot cinnamon waffle rolls, and more. The shop is temporarily closed as of March 2023; its owners are looking for a new location.
Decadent, rich custard powers Lickity Split’s sundaes and concretes, and the signature banana splits are sure to brighten anyone’s day. The shop has an additional outpost in West Ridge; in addition to custard, both sell a selection of unusual candy and other sugary treats.
Vaca’s Creamery, Chicago’s first all-vegan ice cream shop, debuted in 2021 with a walk-up location in West Town featuring oat milk-based soft serve that’s won over locals of all dietary stripes. Co-owners Mariana Marinho and Dylan Sutcliff have since launched a second outpost in Lincoln Square with their signature vanilla, chocolate, swirl, seasonal flavors, and new varieties also available by the pint. The original location, which was temporarily closed earlier this year, is back open.
Scooter's Frozen Custard
Considered by many to be Chicago's finest custard, Scooter's brings the favorite dessert of America's Dairyland, a.k.a. Wisconsin, down south. Rotating flavors are made daily, and folks can customize their concretes and sundaes with an assortment of mix-ins.
This Lincoln Park establishment is one of the few places in Chicago that serve this unique Japanese dessert that’s shaped like a fish. Customers start by choosing a filling (red bean, Nutella, or peanut butter) for their taiyaki cakes. Soft serve ice cream and toppings are then added in to complete the hot-and-cold, Instagram-friendly delights.
Pretty Cool Ice Cream
Dana Salls Cree, the former pastry chef of the Publican, joined forces with Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits owner Michael Ciapciak to open this charming Logan Square shop in 2018.
Instead of cones, Pretty Cool’s lineup consists mainly of ice cream bars on sticks. Items range from custard bars and vegan ice pops to icicle pie pops dipped in graham cracker shells. A second location is open in Lincoln Park.
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Bust out the letterman jackets because Margie's is straight out of the 1950s. Have a malt or turtle sundae and pretend to be Richie Cunningham waiting for the Fonz. Happy Days, indeed. For the daring, there’s a massive sundae featuring 15 scoops of ice cream, sauces, and toppings. A second Margie’s outpost is located near the CTA Montrose Brown Line station in Ravenswood.
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There are plenty of fun, colorful ice creams found around Chicago, but the menu items at Eli’s Ark are arguably the cutest of the bunch. A mom-and-pop gelato shop that opened in 2018, Eli’s squee-worthy scoops are shaped like animals — think, pigs with pink marshmallow snouts and pandas with miniature Oreo ears.
Black Dog Gelato
Black Dog puts gourmet touches on a childhood treat. How else would one explain a Turkish coffee float or a strawberry lemonade gelato pie? The local gelato favorite previously operated three Chicago locations but has since narrowed its focus to the original shop in Ukrainian Village.
Instagram-famous dessert spot BomboBar, the walk-up window in the West Loop outside Bar Siena, has revamped its facade and menu, but still features a dozen varieties of gelato and gelato shakes alongside bomboloni — traditional hole-less Italian doughnuts — in six flavors including peanut butter and jelly, cookies and cream, and lemon pistachio. In an Earth-friendly move, the team has ditched the plastic mini squeeze bottles of filling that used come with the bomboloni, and cut back on the over-the-top decorations and garnishes.
Cone Gourmet Ice Cream
There's an obsession in preserving childhood for adults, and Cone does this with Irish-inspired creations. The “Banshee” sundae features ice cream covered in Lucky Charms. It’s magically delicious.
Get ready for cones in surprising colors, edible gold or silver leaves, boba ice cream bars, melon pan buns stuffed with ice cream, and soft serve flavors like taro at Japanese-style spot Kurimu in Little Italy. There’s a second location open in Wicker Park, and a suburban outpost in Schaumburg.
La Michoacana Premium
For a seemingly endless array of options, Pilsen’s Mexican creamery can’t be beat. Ice creams run the gamut from cucumber to Mexican Twinkie while the vibrant paleta selection is even more eclectic, boasting dozens and dozens of flavors. It can be an overwhelming experience but don’t fret; just jump right in and then come back (again and again) to try more things.
Legend Tasty House
This Chinatown spot was among the first in Chicago to offer Thai ice cream. Workers roll the ice cream by hand in front of customers and finish it off with mix-ins such as fresh fruits, Oreos, and chocolate chip cookies.
Scoops Ice Cream
Waffles are ice cream's best friend, and Scoops knows this. Its waffle cones and bowls are made in house and come in a number of different flavors. The candy toppings are top-notch as well.
Taste a variety of homemade flavors at this shop in Bronzeville’s historic Rosenwald Courts Apartments. Inspired by his memories as a kid, owner Yahya Muhammad has been perfecting recipes since college and moved his business back to the South Side after previously scooping cones in Lakeview. The inventive selection includes Muhammad’s signature honey cinnamon graham cracker, Jamaican rum raisin, and butter cookie, as well as a vegan menu. The ice creams can be enjoyed with freshly baked cobblers too.
Original Rainbow Cone
Rainbow Cone fans will come find anyone who says anything negative about their favorite iconic treat. For more than nine decades, the South Side institution has been stacking up colorful slices of orange sherbet, chocolate, strawberry, Palmer House (vanilla with walnuts and cherries), and pistachio ice creams. It’s a must-try for locals and visitors alike. Additional outposts can be found at Navy Pier, Lombard, Darien, and, in a truly historic recent move, Skokie, the first-ever Rainbow Cone location north of downtown.
Richard's Super Premium Ice Cream
Located in Pullman, Richard’s produces quality flavors by the pint. Enjoy intriguing options like banana pudding, peach cobbler, pineapple vodka, sweet potato pie, Key lime pie, and more. The ice creams are also available in sundaes.
Plush Horse Palos Park - You Deserve A Treat!
A southwestern suburban hit since its founding in 1937, the Plush Horse has charmed ice cream fans for more than eight decades with a head-spinning number of flavors from apple pie to vanilla malt, as well as dairy-free and sugar-free options. Ice cream cakes and ice cream pies are also available.