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Rainbow Cone
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

The 14 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 and Emma Krupp

Summer in Chicago has arrived, and there are few better ways to beat the heat than seeking out towering scoops from the best ice cream shops in the city. Whether you're an ice cream purist or want to experiment with funky new flavors, you'll find top-notch ice cream options scattered throughout the whole city—from Chicago attractions like Navy Pier to homey neighborhood joints. For a novelty experience, opt for treats like the highly Instagrammable gold foil-wrapped soft serve cone at Kurimu or grassy olive oil gelato at Black Dog. For something a little more classic, grab a cup of hand-churned Bronzeville vanilla ice cream from Shawn Michelle's or the iconic Chicago Original Rainbow Cone piled high with five satisfying flavors. Whatever you're craving, the best ice cream shops in Chicago are here to whisk you into sugary, summery bliss.

RECOMMENDED: Explore more of the best restaurants in Chicago

Best of the city under one roof

Shawn Michelle's
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

Shawn Michelle’s

Restaurants Ice cream parlors West Loop

Inspired by the homemade ice cream he enjoyed as a kid, Yahya Muhammad has spent years experimenting with new flavors and sharing them with family and friends. When he opened Shawn Michelle’s in Bronzeville with his wife, Nataki, the pair committed to producing ice cream the way it used to be made, cooking their own custard daily and slow-churning it to creamy, frosty perfection. If you’re at a loss for where to start, sample the classic with a scoop of One Night In Madagascar vanilla followed by Sweet Dark Chocolate.

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. Aside from the original Beverly shop, you can also swing by locations at Navy Pier and in suburban Lombard.

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.

Scooter's Custard
Photograph: Morgan Olsen

3. 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.

Margie's Candies
Photo: Erica Gannett

4. 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.


5. Kurimu

Restaurants Ice cream parlors Austin

The technicolor soft serve at Little Italy's Kurimu is inspired by the always-trendy desserts of Japan, Taiwan and Korea, with a rotating list of flavors like Okayama peach, taro, and matcha (you can even get your soft serve wrapped in gold or silver foil, if you're feeling fancy). Pair your cone with a boba milk tea or frothy Dalgona coffee, and consider ordering ice cream tucked into the shop's warm melon buns, a type of soft, moon-shaped sweet bread that originally hails from Japan.

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. You can also pop by locations in Logan Square and the West Loop for more gelato goodness.

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 mangonada is another fan favorite, blending tangy mango sorbet, hunks of fresh fruit, lime juice and Tajin chili powder.

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.

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.

12. Kilwins

Shopping Chocolate and candy Hyde Park

This Michigan-based brand might be best known for its decadent slabs of fudge, but you'd be remiss to not check out the tubs of creamy, small-batch ice cream also tucked under its glass display cases. Classic flavors are loaded up with treats like caramel, nuts, chocolate chips and other dreamy confections (yes, including fudge), then piled into house-made waffle cones that you can smell baking from across the block. Pop by locations in Lakeview, Navy Pier, Hyde Park, downtown and in the suburbs. 

ice cream sundae
Photograph: David Calavera via Unsplash

13. 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.

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

14. 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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