As summer commences in Chicago, frozen dessert season kicks in. Luckily, Chicago is rife with great scoop shops, but for those interested in more unique and plated ice cream-based desserts, local restaurants are ready to serve. A myriad of eateries offer inspired sundaes, like Sunda’s jackfruit and coconut gel-garnished dish with avocado, sweet corn, cheddar cheese, and ube-macapuno ice cream. Others riff off frozen cream via creations such as Aba’s iteration of kulfi — the classic Indian sweet — with Turkish coffee, coriander caramel, and Marcona almonds. From North to South, here’s where to cool off this summer with Chicago’s most compelling composed ice cream dishes.Read More
Where to Enjoy Sensational Plated Ice Cream Desserts in Chicago
Go beyond Good Humor and scoop shops
1. Mon Ami Gabi
Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises’s French bistro chain Mon Ami Gabi in Lincoln Park dips into the ice cream pool via house-made profiteroles ($10) filled with vanilla bean ice cream, topped with hot fudge, and garnished with a mix of sea salt and powdered sugar. Fun fact: This dessert has been on the menu (created by former pastry chef, the late Michel Briand) since the very first location opened in 1998.
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2. Dos Urban Cantina
New to Dos Urban Cantina’s menu in Logan Square is a chef Jennifer Enyart’s Mexican take on the classic sundae ($10). Think horchata ice cream, rice pudding, and whipped cream, topped with puffed white rice, sitting on a bed of toasted and crumbled rice flour shortbread.
3. Café Cancale
French newbie Café Cancale — from the forces behind Blackbird and the Publican — is embracing the season with a strawberry sundae ($9). Executive pastry chef Erika Chan spins grey French sea salt into a strawberry ice cream base, then adds strawberry caramel, white chocolate cardamom streusel, whipped cream, and fresh strawberries. Chan says the combination of cardamom and citrus zest brings out the fruitiness of the strawberries.
4. Ina Mae Tavern & Packaged Goods
Over in Wicker Park, Ina Mae Tavern & Packaged Goods just rolled out New Orleans-style Sno-Balls ($4-$9) for dine-in guests, and those who’d like to grab and go. On offer, nearly 20 options, in flavors like Bywater Boho (fresh pineapple, cilantro, lime) and “stuffed” versions like Ultimate Peach Cobbler (fresh peaches combined with sugar, spices, and butter, topped with soft serve, flambéed peaches, whipped cream, cookie crumble, and a caramel drizzle).
The Viceroy Hotel’s new American eatery Somerset, in Gold Coast, is offering a sundae for two, schemed by James Beard Outstanding Pastry Chef finalist, Boka’s Meg Galus. On the menu since this past spring, the loaded dessert calls for strawberry and tonka bean ice creams, strawberry sorbet, white chocolate crunch, pound cake, and tonka bean whipped cream.
6. IO Godfrey Rooftop Lounge
New to the summer menu at River North’s I|O Godfrey, the Godfrey Hotel’s rooftop lounge/eatery, chef Alfonso Martinez has rolled out ice cream tacos ($12). Expect a house-made waffle cone shell with pistachio gelato, chocolate-covered banana, Froot Loops, strawberry marmalade, plus the requisite whipped cream and sprinkles.
River North’s Southeast Asian eatery Sunda is offering an exotic take on the classic sundae. The restaurant’s Sunda Sundae ($15) — on the menu for the last decade — calls for scoops of avocado, sweet corn and cheddar cheese, and ube-macapuno ice cream. Atop, sweet red mung beans, jackfruit, berries, coconut gel, plus a drizzle of sweetened condensed milk and toasted coconut flakes to round it out.
8. Flora Fauna
River North’s new Latin American meets Asian-inspired joint, Flora Fauna debuted its “Giant F*%$ing Banana Split” ($14). The creation is decked out with horchata ice cream, toasted banana, dulce de leche, shaved chocolate, caramel, Angostura peanuts, macerated strawberries, plus fresh blueberries, and blackberries.
9. RPM Steak
When stalwart River North steakhouse RPM Steak opened in 2014, Lettuce Entertain You introduced a Baked Alaska ($18) which has remained on the menu ever since. Sizable enough to feed two to four humans, this fiery sweet involves salted caramel ice cream and vanilla sponge cake, enveloped in toasted Italian meringue. Order one up and expect a rum-fueled table side flambé.
10. Travelle at The Langham, Chicago
Travelle, within River North’s Langham Hotel, recently debuted its new piña colada-inspired dessert ($12). Created by pastry chef Danielle Marelli, the treat combines pineapple-buttermilk ice cream, coconut sorbet, rum-caramelized pineapple, and coconut crunch. Says Marelli, “I can never decide between having dessert or a cocktail at the end of my meal, therefore I created a dish that solves that problem.”
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11. London House Rooftop Bar
Chicago, IL 60601
Up at the rooftop bar of LondonHouse, executive pastry chef Samantha Santiago Torres has organized a tribute to honeybees. Her Honeycomb ($10) dessert incorporates vanilla frozen yogurt, crème de cassis, dried honeycomb, granola cookies, and raspberry cremeux. The hexagonal frozen yogurt centerpiece is also drizzled with local Heaven’s Honey tableside.
Chef CJ Jacobson’s Middle Eastern-flavored number Aba — Lettuce Entertain You’s Fulton Market masterpiece, is looking to India for inspiration to create this kulfi dessert ($8). Though in India kulfi is often sold on sticks, his version is plated, flavored with Turkish coffee, served atop coriander caramel, and garnished with marcona almonds.
13. Joe's Imports
Newish Fulton Market wine bar Joe’s Imports is celebrating ice cream via meringue gelato. Created by chef Elvia Granados, the marshmallow-ish dessert is built from house-made meringue gelato, Spanish peanuts, and covered with toasted meringue. Joe Fiely, Joe’s Imports’ wine director, suggests pairing it with a glass of sweet Vietti Moscato d’Asti.
14. Yūgen Restaurant
Japanese tasting menu haunt Yūgen in the West Loop is celebrating the classic milk and cookies combo via this minimalist dessert ($16), available à la carte or via 10-course tasting. Hiding under those meringue shingles is caramelized hojicha milk ice cream.
15. Bad Hunter
Heisler Hospitality recently reopened its veggie-friendly eatery Bad Hunter along Randolph Street. It’s going vegan with its sunflower butter ice cream sandwich. Pastry chef Danielle Snow is behind this vegan sweet, which is made from sunflower brittle, chocolate “ice cream,” and fresh apricots.
16. Blackbird Restaurant
Over at fine dining haunt Blackbird on Randolph Street, dessert includes a pretty milk chocolate sassafras sundae ($13). New as of last month, pastry chef Nicole Guini makes a sassafras-Valrhona chocolate ice cream, and pairs it with chicory cocoa nib crumb, chicory brownie, hot chicory root beer chocolate sauce, tonka bean whipped cream, chocolate cocoa nib meringue, and she finishes it with Maldon salt, shaved tonka bean, tarragon, and flowers.