Your Must-Save List for the Coolest Ice Cream Shops in Chicago

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Want the scoop on the coolest ice cream shops across Chicago? These 20 spots serve up creative cones and tasty treats your kids will not soon forget

Going out for an ice cream is a simple and relatively affordable way to celebrate life’s little milestones. Although you don’t need a reason to treat yourself, whether it be the first day of school, a good report card, or a dance recital, a cold, creamy reward helps say, “cone-gratulations.” It’s also a great way to cone-sole (sorry, we couldn’t help ourselves!) a scraped knee, a lost soccer game, or even a bad day. Forget chicken soup: ice cream soothes the soul. 

And the options are endless, particularly in Chicago, where cool ice cream shops pop up often. From a single scoop to a banana split, from hard serve to soft, and from traditional flavors to avant-garde taste combinations, this sweet treat gets a new spin seemingly anywhere you go. In fact, even the lactose intolerant and plant-based vegans can indulge in some of our top 20 recommendations for the best, most unforgettable ice cream shops in the city.

Eli’s Ark
If you want your ice cream cone to have a cute face before you devour it, head to Eli’s Ark. The process? First, pick the number of scoops you want, then choose your animal—or animals. Do you want animals to piggyback each other? Picture a unicorn, on top of a pig, on top of a koala. The end result is a delicious, artistic creation almost too adorable to eat. 

1843 W. North Ave.
Wicker Park
Online: instagram.com/elisarkchicago/

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams
Jeni’s carries some of the most interesting flavors you will find, so it makes sense that the Ohio founder, Jeni Britton, started out mixing scented oils with different foods before she began experimenting with ice cream. Where else will you find cream cheese ice cream with everything bagel gravel or goat cheese with red cherries? If the saying didn’t already exist, Jeni’s would have certainly inspired, “Don’t knock it ’til you try it.” They even have dairy-free and gluten-free flavors.

Insider Tip: Keep a steady supply by joining their subscription pint club. 

Various city locations, plus you can buy at many local grocery chains, including Mariano’s, Whole Foods, and Target
Online: jenis.com

Kilwins
One of the newer entrants to the Chicago ice cream scene, Kilwins originated in Michigan. In addition to some of the kids’ favorite flavors like Superman and Blue Moon, they have an abundance of rich, hard-serve flavors and sorbetto. While you wait for them to scoop your ice cream, watch as they hand-craft Mackinac Island fudge and caramel apples. You’ll undoubtedly want to bring some of that home as well.

3519 N. Clark St.
Wrigleyville

Online: kilwins.com

Related: Chicago Restaurants With Desserts Worth Saving Room For

Kurimu
Kurimu puts an Asian spin to its ice cream flavors, from Thai ice tea to lychee pearl and purple yam. The exotic flavors are matched by the colorful, artful cones. Aside from the vibrantly color-blocked handheld desserts, you can also enjoy beautiful bubble teas.

1159 W. Taylor St.
UIC

1632 W. Division St.
Wicker Park

601 N. Martingale Rd.
Schaumburg
Online: kurimuchicago.com

Vaca’s Vegan Creamery
Vegans certainly need not miss out on the joys of ice cream, and Vaca’s is making sure of it. The creamery uses high-quality, certified gluten-free oat milk for their vanilla and chocolate soft serve and have designed four specialty sundaes. They ensure all of their ingredients align with vegan values, which means there are no animal sources whatsoever, and they also have a strong commitment to social responsibility and paying their employees fairly. 

1436 W. Blackhawk St.
Wicker Park

Online: vacascreamery.com

Shawn Michelle’s Homemade Ice Cream
Enjoy delicious ice cream while supporting a black-owned, woman-owned small business. Shawn Michelle’s signature flavors include banana pudding, bourbon butter pecan, strawberry cookies and cream, Blue Moon, Caribbean sunset (mango), Superman, lunchroom butter cookie, chocolate peanut butter and jelly, and chocolate harmony. She also has a vegan menu and five signature sundaes. Join their loyalty program and enjoy BOGO single size scoops on Saturdays and Sundays—but, heads up, both scoops must be the same flavor.

46 East 47th St.
Bronzeville

Online: smhmicmenu.wordpress.com

 

Pretty Cool Ice Cream
Pretty Cool Ice Cream launched in 2018 by founders Dana Cree, author of Hello, My Name is Ice Cream, and Michael Ciapciak, founder of Bang Bang Pie and Biscuits. They specialize in hand-made treats reminiscent of what you might find on an ice-cream truck. However, their skilled artisans work with the best ingredients to create edible works of contemporary art on popsicle sticks.

2353 N. California Ave.
Logan Square

709 W. Belden Ave.
Lincoln Park
Online: prettycoolicecream.com

Museum of Ice Cream
For the ultimate ice cream experience, visit the Museum of Ice Cream in the former Chicago Tribune building. Learn about the history of ice cream through 14 multi-sensory installations, take a dip in the sprinkle pool, and ride on the Chicago Sprink-L Line. Multiple ice cream treats in five different shapes and forms are included with your ticket.

Insider Tip: Reservations must be made in advance.

435 N. Michigan Ave.
River North

Online: museumoficecream.com

Sugar Factory
It’s not simply an ice cream shop, but the Sugar Factory cannot be ignored. After all, it is home to the World Famous Sugar Factory King Kong Sundae—a 20-scoop mountain of ice cream covered with hot fudge, caramel, and strawberry sauces and topped with bananas, marshmallows, chocolate chip cookie chunks, a donut, a cupcake, gummy bears, sprinkles, graham cracker crumbs, all sorts of candy, whipped cream, and cherries. The $99 masterpiece serves 12! Of course there are also their “Insane Milkshakes” and other desserts as Instagram-worthy as they are delicious. Plus the club-like party atmosphere will be a sure hit with the kids. 

55 E. Grand Ave.
River North

5445 Park Place
Rosemont
Online: sugarfactory.com

Lickity Split Frozen Custard & Sweets
Does anything say summer more than a peach cobbler concrete? It is one of the many rotating flavors available at Lickity Split. Along with ten other concrete concoctions, you can design your own using the various retro candy on sale. That’s right: with a base of either the chocolate, vanilla, or featured custard flavor, you can get anything from a simple cone to five sundae recipes, or a shake or malt. They even have warm treats including hot chocolate and affogato. 

6056 N. Broadway Ave.
Edgewater

7000 N. Western Ave.
West Rogers Park
Online: lickitysplitchicago.com

Related: Old-Fashioned Ice Cream Parlors That Scoop Serious Nostalgia

The Original Rainbow Cone
The Original Rainbow Cone is a 95-year-old Chicago tradition: it’s a tower of five flavors that include orange sherbet, pistachio, Palmer House (otherwise known as vanilla with cherries), strawberry, and, of course, chocolate. Although you could enjoy each layer individually and work your way down, if you start from the bottom, it is the perfect lick up to the top! Also available are tiered cakes and cake rolls, as well as additional flavors like black walnut and mint flake, a perfect addition to sundaes and shakes.

Various locations in Beverly, Lombard, Darien, and Navy Pier (as well as roaming ice cream trucks, which are often parked near Shedd Aquarium and the Lincoln Park Zoo.)
Online: rainbowcone.com

Margie’s Candies
Another Chicago institution, this ice-cream parlor and candy shop has been in the Poulos family since 1921 and is known to have been visited by the likes of Al Capone and The Beatles. The 57 different sundaes on the menu come with a side of hot fudge for you to drizzle yourself—so there’s a little fudge in every spoonful. Bring your children in with an “A” on their report card for a free cone. And don’t forget to bring home some decadent confections from their candy counter.

1960 N. Western Ave.
Bucktown

1813 W Montrose Ave.
North Center

Banana Cream Ice Cream
Looking to support a woman-owned business? Step right up to Banana Cream Ice Cream, whose specialties include coconut ice cream served within a coconut shell, five wild milkshakes, hot cinnamon waffle rolls, ice cream cookie sandwiches, vegan ice cream, and—of course—banana splits. Promotions include $1.50 scoops every Wednesday.

6305 N. Clark St.
Edgewater

Online: instagram.com/bananacream_icecream/

Sundae Stop
Kids will get a kick out of the replica CTA train inside the Sundae Stop, which makes its own ice cream, sorbet, vegan ice cream, and waffle cones just steps from the Belmont Red Line CTA stop. Its menu celebrates the various CTA train lines and Chicago neighborhoods, so step aboard for the Red Line Brownie Sundae or Pilsen Ice Cream Nachos. They also specialize in crepes.

931 W. Belmont Ave.
Lakeview

Online: sundaestop.com

Cone Gourmet Ice Cream
Owner Sean McGuire hails from Ireland and thus infuses little Irish twists to Cone’s menu with toppings such as Irish chocolate flake bars, Lucky Charms, and salt ‘n’ vinegar chips. Cone offers European-style soft serve in both dairy and non-dairy options. As an added bonus, Lil Cones for kids 5 years old and under are only $2! Cone is also an excellent venue for a party with its spacious indoor party room or outside patio. Birthday party options include a build-your-own sundae bar, character visits, an ice cream cone piñata, homemade frozen bananas dipped in Irish chocolate, and more. Don’t forget to grab your Lucky You card which will get you a free cone or sundae after nine cone or sundae purchases. 

1047 W. Madison St.
West Loop

Online: conechicago.com

Black Dog Gelato
For those who prefer gelato to ice cream, there is no better place than Jessica Oloroso’s Black Dog Gelato. Flavors can vary month to month, but expect to find their signature Italian custard, which is inspired by the Italian dessert Zabione with additional yolks added for a richer custard base and finished with a Marsala wine. Their bold mint cookie is another signature flavor, while banoffee praline (bananas and coffee) and cassatta (Ricotta gelato, maraschino and dark cherries, candied orange peel, and chocolate), are featured periodically. Dairy-free flavors rotate on and off the menu as well, and you’d never guess they are free of milk, cream, and eggs. Try all their flavors by joining the Pint Club.

859 N. Damen Ave.
Ukrainian Village

1012 W. Lake St.
West Loop

2662 N. Sawyer Ave.
Logan Square
Online: blackdoggelato.com

Related: A New Mecca of Sweets and Other Candy Shops in Chicago

JoJo’s Shake Bar
Visitors to the city flock to JoJo’s Shake Bar for their out-of-this-world Biggie Shakes, certain to impress kids of all ages. They are less about the ice cream blend, and more about the over-the-top toppings. For instance, The Gold Digger is a caramel toffee shake with a toffee dodo, a gold star marshmallow, a toffee pretzel, and a full size white chocolate macadamia nut cookie. The Rocky IV is a banana Reese’s Pieces shake with a toffee marshmallow, a white chocolate boxing glove, and a full size peanut butter cookie. Kids also love the Milk and Cookie Flight which includes four fresh-baked cookies paired with four house-made milks. 

23 W. Hubbard St.
River North

916 W. Fulton Market
Time Out Market

5 Jackson Ave.
Naperville
Online: jojosshakebar.com

Hooyahs Ice Cream Shoppe
It might be a bit of a drive or a long ride on the Metra, but Hooyahs is worth the trip. Located within the Great Lakes Metra train station and a short walk from the Great Lakes Naval Base, the family-owned and operated shop has a naval theme. Patrons rave about the Barge, a nine-flavor sample or the Ships and Dip ice cream nachos. Kids will love their flavors from Playdough to Pirate’s Bounty and Elephant Tracks. Breakfast foods and hot dogs are also offered. 

3000 Sheridan Rd.
Lake Bluff

Online: hooyahsicecream.com

Scooter’s
Believe it or not, although it only opened in 2003, Scooters is the oldest frozen custard shop in Chicago. Vanilla, chocolate, and a custard flavor of the day are made fresh, daily, on-site. Although they have numerous concrete and sundae suggestions, you are welcome to create your own. They also serve Italian ice parfaits (half custard, half Italian ice.) Hot dogs are also on the menu. Because Scooter’s has become part of the fabric of Roscoe Village, residents often congregate outside the take-out window, while their toddlers, and even their dogs, enjoy free cones with their purchase. 

1658 W. Belmont Ave.
Roscoe Village
Online: scootersfrozencustard.com

Oberweis Ice Cream and Dairy Store
Serving both hard serve and soft serve, shakes, cakes, and frozen lattes, Oberweis has it all. The shop is very kid-friendly with chess and checkers on the tables and more games available upon request. Plus, colorful balloons are up for grabs to any kid who wants one. If you’ve got errands to run, it’s worth noting that you can pick up some light grocery items—like milk, butter, and eggs—while you are there. Oberweis also offers a HappyLicious loyalty program and great fundraising opportunities for local sports teams and school groups.  

3055 N. Sheffield Ave.
Lakeview

Online: oberweis.com

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