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pretty cool ice cream, ice cream, popsicle
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas Pretty Cool Ice Cream

The 13 best ice cream shops in Chicago

The best ice cream in Chicago comes in all shapes and sizes—from towering cones to decorated popsicles

By Morgan Olsen
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There's only one thing that can truly cool you down on a scorching-hot summer day: the best ice cream in Chicago. Thankfully, the city is dotted with shops that serve flavorful gelato, fancy-ass popsicles and sky-high cones of hand-spun custard. It's easy to see why ice cream is the best dessert in Chicago—and perhaps a Chicago attraction in its own right. Want to taste five flavors at once? Original Rainbow Cone is where it's at. Looking for sundaes with a side of old-school vibes? Check out Margie's Candies. Ever wondered what saffron-flavored sorbet tastes like? Black Dog Gelato has you covered. No matter what you have planned this summer in Chicago, these top-notch ice cream shops will give you a sugar rush while keeping you cool. Lick your way through the best ice cream in Chicago!

RECOMMENDED: Explore more of the best restaurants in Chicago

The best ice cream in Chicago

Rainbow Cone
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

1. Original Rainbow Cone

Restaurants Ice cream parlors Beverly

For more than 80 years, the awning-covered picnic tables of this South Side ice-cream shop have been packed with locals indulging their sweet tooth. The signature five-flavor Rainbow Cone features layers of chocolate, strawberry, Palmer House (vanilla with cherries and walnuts), pistachio and orange sherbet stacked one on top of the other to form an unbeatable classic.

pretty cool, pretty cool ice cream, ice cream, popsicle
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

2. Pretty Cool Ice Cream

Restaurants Logan Square

Inspired by the memory of standing at the end of her driveway with change in her pocket, waiting on the ice cream truck, Dana Cree opened Pretty Cool Ice Cream in Logan Square. The cute-as-a-button shop slings beautiful popsicles in fascinating flavors. Lick a peanut butter-potato chip custard bar, a plant-based blue moon pop or a strawberry buttermilk bar. If you close your eyes, you can almost hear that classic ice cream truck jingle from your childhood.

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ice cream, ice cream cone, shutterstock
Photograph: Shutterstock

3. Shawn Michelle’s Homemade Ice Cream

Restaurants Ice cream parlors Grand Boulevard

The cold case at Yahya and Nataki Muhammad's cheerful Bronzeville scoop shop is packed with hand-churned homemade ice cream in flavors like Jamaican rum raisin, honey cinnamon graham cracker and strawberry supreme. But it won't take long to spot someone devouring the creamery's crown jewel: a generous serving of peach cobbler crowned with melty vanilla ice cream. Once you try this summertime delicacy, prepare to crave it for the rest of your life.

Scooter's Custard
Photograph: Morgan Olsen

4. Scooter’s Frozen Custard

Restaurants Ice cream parlors Lake View

Walk into Scooter’s and disregard the hot dogs, Italian ice and anything else that doesn’t contain the words frozen and custard. Purists should order a cone of vanilla or chocolate and savor every last lick of the cream-laden treat. If you're hankering for something a bit more involved, opt for the banana splice: vanilla custard, banana, chocolate, strawberries, pineapple and nuts. It's big enough to split, but we won't judge if you're selfish.

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Margie's Candies
Photo: Erica Gannett

5. Margie’s Candies

Restaurants Ice cream parlors Logan Square

It’s nostalgia that draws people in droves to this kitschy diner and ice-cream parlor. Fancy silver trays, paper doilies and saucers filled with chocolate and caramel sauces bring back fond memories for many who’ve made this place a tradition since it opened in 1921. Equally reminiscent of the good old days are the display shelves, which are crowded with memorabilia from the Beatles, who just had to have some Margie’s ice cream after they played Comiskey.

Black Dog Gelato
Photograph: Andrew Nawrocki

6. Black Dog Gelato

Restaurants Ice cream parlors East Village

After peddling her gelato all over town to the city's best chefs and markets, Jessica Oloroso found a fitting home for her first storefront in Ukrainian Village. There, she lures folks with boundary-pushing scoops of gelato such as avocado-cinnamon and sesame-fig-chocolate chip. If you're downtown, check out her stall inside Revival Food Hall for a quick fix over the lunch hour.

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Tastee Freez
Photograph: Jeff Snyder/Flickr

7. The Freeze

Restaurants Ice cream parlors Logan Square

The Freeze is a vintage time warp, and while there aren’t nearly as many locations of the fast food restaurant (formerly known as Tastee Freez) as once dotted Chicago (there were dozens), you can still find one in Logan Square. Waffle and sugar cones are filled with a high peak of soft serve and dipped in throwback flavors like butterscotch, cotton candy and peanut butter. If you're looking for cheap, no-frills thrills, the Freeze has you covered all summer.

La Michoacana Premium
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

8. La Michoacana Premium

Restaurants Ice cream parlors Lower West Side

No summer bucket list is complete without a trip to Pilsen to visit La Michoacana Premium, Chicago's premiere paletería. Upon entering this cheerful shop, you'll be pulled to the display case, which is jam-packed with dozens of paletas in flavors like blackberry, kiwi-strawberry and creamy pistachio. The shop's mangoneada is another fan favorite, blending tangy mango sorbet, hunks of fresh fruit, lime juice and Tajin chili powder.

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This just got serious (Salted Carmel sea salt fudge & cashews) at Scoops.
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

9. Scoops

Restaurants Ice cream parlors Bridgeport

The aroma of fresh waffles pervades the air of this Bridgeport parlor, evidence of the signature house-made waffle cones. Dipped in chocolate and adorned with brightly colored candies, these deep cones are indulgent carriers for both types of chocolate ice cream on offer (though our preference is for the darker variety). Should the ice cream be too rich, you’re in luck: Like all good Italians, these guys focus on espresso, the perfect antidote to your forthcoming sugar crash.

Cake Shake at Lickity Split
Photograph: Andrew Nawrocki

10. Lickity Split

Restaurants Ice cream parlors Edgewater

With locations in Edgewater and West Rogers Park, this custard shop is a community staple for families and sugar fiends alike. Guests can get their custard by the cone or dish or have it whipped into a sundae or concrete. Spring for the OMG—chocolate or vanilla custard dotted with peanut-butter fudge brownie pieces and a shot of hot fudge. As if that weren't enough, you'll also find cookies, cupcakes and chocolates behind the counter.

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Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

11. Sugar Shack

Restaurants Ice cream parlors Bridgeport

This family-owned walk-up window is the stuff that sweet sweet dreams are made of. From funnel cake sundaes and ice cream tacos to Italian ice and banana splits, you might just experience a sugar rush while browsing the menu. Order whatever makes your heart happy and take a seat at one of the umbrella-covered tables—you're in for a treat at this Bridgeport shop.

ice cream sundae
Photograph: David Calavera via Unsplash

12. George’s Ice Cream & Sweets

Restaurants Ice cream parlors Andersonville

Scooping ice cream for more than a decade, George's has long been considered a community gathering place for fans young and old. There are many reasons to love this sweet, family-owned shop, and among them is the Geor-Gantic, a five-scoop masterpiece that's loaded with brownie bits, waffle chips, chocolate pretzels, hot fudge, caramel and rainbow sprinkles. Bring a friend or two to help.

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Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams
Photograph: Courtesy Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams

13. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

Restaurants Ice cream parlors Lake View

When Ohio-based Jeni's moved to Chicago, it immediately upped the city's ice cream scene. Sweet corn ice cream with black raspberry swirls? Check. The richest, darkest chocolate ice cream you'll ever taste? They've got that, too. When you factor in toppings like salted caramel sauce, the decision about what to order is that much harder. Luckily, Jeni's workers are happy to dish out as many samples as your heart desires.

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Sweet Republic
Photograph: Debby Wolvos

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Whether you like oddball flavors or your taste is more vanilla, get your frozen fix at these top ice cream shops, from classic parlors to new-wave purveyors

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