There have been a lot of chat (off-board) about chow-bases, putting things on Palm Pilot's etc. All this talk has me somewhat inspired to do some summary reports, in anticipation of a possible Palm Pilot of my own.
It was either ice cream or salad, and ice cream won out. This report covers pretty much all of the ice cream places I know of around town, excepting obvious chains like Baskin Robbin's, Dairy Queen and Culvers. Also, I have not commented on the paletero's, the ice cream vendors seen wandering many streets and beaches as it is pretty much impossible to comment on a specific vendor/cart. Needless to say, these Mexican versions of ice cream are quite worthwhile. Finally, I skipped, perhaps for some other post, Italian ice/Italian lemonade and helado de coco/related ices.
Some of this was written in May, 2002. I've updated that. I've added new places after Soups and Scoops.
Palazzolo's Gelato (Available at Pronto Roma River Forest Town Center Lake and Harlem, River Forest) - Even though Pronto Roma is Sophia's favorite place, even more fav. than Flat Top, I'll warn against it. The Al Gelato Pronto served was much, much better than the gritty, bland Palazzolo stuff. Oddly, Local Palate loves it. UPDATE: Had their ice cream on 8/6/03. They've fixed their freezer, soupy ice cream has been a problem. The flavors are strong, but almost too strong, like their is something unnatural about them. This stuff still reminds of a factory rendition of what gelato should be.
Grampy's Frozen Custard (1 W. Illinois, St. Charles) - Never tried, but I am instantly attracted to the words, frozen custard. Without employment from AA, I've had no reason to visit St. Charles until now. UPDATE: Still have not tried, anyone?
Freddy's (16th near Ridgeland, Cicero) - Yes. UPDATE: A few weeks ago, I had the nutella, the sweet cream plain based mixed with the goey chocolate hazelnut spread. So good that I ended up eating about a pint in one sitting.
Cunis Candies (1030 E. 162, South Holland) - An old fashioned Margiesque place I NEED to try. South Holland? UPDATE: Still have not tried.
Sukhadia's Sweets (2559 W. Devon, Chicago) - Zim's commented on this, right? I do love the just frozen texture and ultra creaminess of Indian ice cream. UPDATE: Here's what Zim wrote in July, 03, "Unfortunately the kulfi (malai-cream,pistachio, and mango) now looks like its shipped in pre-made, I've got a couple in the freezer but haven't tried them out yet. But they also offer homemade ice cream. Most of the flavors are nothing special just good versions of something that might be in a neapolitan brick, not gourmet ultrafresh strawberry sorbet, but to satisfy kids. However, there's always a couple ringer flavors that are interesting and pretty good. Last night it was walnut ("akrote" in hindi). I'm not sure its a destination ice cream place, but if you're on devon and feel like something cold you could do a lot worse."
Penguin (2723 W. Lawrence, Chicago) - Famous chowhound discovery, proving definitively to me that I did not know everything about Chicago chow. Go for the friendly owners as well as the great ice cream. UPDATE The key thing at Penguin is too sample extensively. All those in the know, know that when the Penguin stuff sits around, it rots. Rookies occasionally complain that is not all its cracked up to be because they end up with a stale flavor. Try before buying.
Bittersweet (1114 W. Belmont, Chicago) - Ice cream's a new addition, but everything else is so delicious, I have high hopes. UPDATE: The Condiment Queen and I have had their ice cream a few times each summer. I never see anyone else order the ice cream when we go, nor do I remember too many comments on the board. Too bad. You can really taste the egg yolks in this stuff. A recent lemon verbena tasted like frozen pastry cream, and that is a compliment. Do try.
Chocolate Confections (3066 N. Lincoln, Chicago) - Local Palate does not review, but notes "A French-trained chef making Italian style gelatos with flavors like Bombay spice..." I'm there. UPDATE: Is this place still around? I know they closed their Old Town (Wells St.) branch. Enjoyed in 02, but have not sampled in 03.
Dillons Frozen Custard (1157 N. State, Chicago) - See mine and Rene's comments on chowhound. Very worthwhile if you have a parking space. CLOSED
Homer's (1237 Green Bay, Wilmette) - I only get the Prairie Berry. Very rich ice cream. UPDATE: Interestingly, in 2002, we had one poster glorifying their hot fudge and another poster saying she liked everything BUT the hot fudge.
Oberweise (various locations) - Great, high fat ice cream, fair sundae toppings.
Soups and Scoops (2534 N. Clark, Chicago) - An ad in the Reader once promised homemade gelato, and the coupon offers 50% off the second scoop. Very close to Wiener Circle. UPDATE: Never did more than see an ad, anyone ever try. There's another place close by, see Ice Dreams below.
Zephyr's (Wilson and Ravenswood, Chicago) - Modern take on the traditional ice cream parlor. Full coffee shop menu as well as sundaes, soda's, etc. Their ice cream has a strong yellow tint that seems unnatural to me. Cathy2 is a bigger fan than me. She's written, "The whipping cream is made with a rich high-fat cream. They make their own ice cream. For years, we always got individual 2-scoop hot fudge sundaes until one day we ordered "War of the Worlds." You cannot beat a 10-scoop ice cream sundae with 4-toppings, slivered almonds, cookies, cherries and my special request of extra-extra whipping cream for $8.95. We always have someone who digs out their favorite ice cream flavor at an inconvenient location -- causing everyone to use their spoon to balance this monster sundae."
Sweeties (Clark, near Wrigley Field) - AnnieB mentioned this place in the last ice cream round up. I've never been, but here's what she said, "The owners are nice, Sweeties serves a good value of soup/chili/jambalaya in different sizes, a pasta of the day for around $5 (some of this stuff is only in winter) and a full array of ice cream, candies, and penny candy. The ice cream comes from someplace that is supposed to mean something to folks around here. Everyone I've been there with (used to work right around the corner) thought it was quite good ice cream. The berry smoothie things are good. The penny candy is a hoot. The ice cream cakes and pies look really good and I've heard that they're quite delicious. It's a nice change of pace in the area, fun with kids on game day."
Rainbow Cone (9233 S. Western Ave) - This should have been an obvious choice for the Westernathon, but they were on vacation during our adventure. Amazingly, I have never had the famous cone in its home setting. I've only had it at Taste of Chicago. For those who are unfamiliar, the Rainbow cone is a combination of ice creams (and orange sherbet) on a cone. Perfect for those who cannot make up their mind. I know some people find the amalgamation of flavors counter-productive.
Massa (North Avenue, near Johnnie's Italian Beef, Elmwood Park) - Massa makes its own gelato, mostly from cans of base imported from Italy. The stuff is smooth and rich and mostly very good. Sometimes, especially during the summer, there will be true homemade flavors made from various fruits. Look mostly for the stuff with handwritten signs.
Village Creamery (two locations 4558 Oakton, Skokie and 8000 Waukegan, Niles) - Village Creamery is mostly famous for its various Filipino flavors including very purple (ube) yam and sweet corn. In addition, they do a variety of gelato-ish flavors using the same imported bases as Massa.
Scooters (1658 W Belmont, Chicago) - Scooters claims to be the only place in Chicago selling true frozen custard, custard in the style of Ted Drewes in St. Louis or Kopps in Milwaukee. Being pretty un-experienced with real custards, I cannot really place this place against the standards, but I found it plenty good. When I first went, I thought they swirled the ice cream instead of letting it fall into a bin for scooping. This led to a bit of controversy on chowhound, with Scooters vehemently denying it. On my second visit, they clearly were scooping. Scooping, for those who wonder the fuss, produces a much better mouth fee than swirling. Here's what the Ultimo, Gwiv, said about Scooters, "The husband and wife team who own and operate Scooter's are very friendly and were quite open to my questions. No, they are not part of a chain, this is their only store, yes they have been to Kopp's in Milwaukee many times and think it is exceptional. Scooter's, while the same style as Kopp's, is 10% butterfat, as opposed to
Kopp's 13.5-14%. I can say, having been to Kopp's just last Saturday, that Scooter's compared favorably to Kopp's though, as a Milwaukee native, Kopp's will always remain #1 in my book. The custard was a reasonable $6 per quart and when I asked for a cup of coffee they made a fresh pot using Intelligentsia coffee. Based on one brief visit I quite like Scooter's, though what's not to like about good custard"
Ice Dreams (2865 N. Clark, Chicago) - I have never been. Here's what Joan had to say, "a new ice cream place opened last week. they have gelato and american ice cream(their term). the 2 flavors of gelato i tried were very good. the mango tasted like it was made with super ripe fruit. the bacio (hazelnut and chocolate) was plenty nutty tasting and not overly sweet, which is my biggest problem with most ice cream. i actually prefer edy's frozen yoghurts and light ice creams to most of the sweeter and more caloric ice creams i try in ice cream shops."
Snookelfriz (Green City Market, Clark near North Avenue) - Joan discovered this very interesting sounding ice cream being sold ONLY at the Wednesday Green City Market. Here's her comments, "There's some new and tasty ice cream in town, but dont get too excited unless you can get to the green city market, wednesdays between 7am-1pm in lincoln park. nancy silver, the pastry chef for campagnola and campagne, is making some very rich organic ice cream just for the market. i tried the gianuja and passionfruit this morning and was very pleased with both. its $6.50/pint, or $1.75 for a very small scoop."
Margies Candy (Western/Armitage/Milwaukee) - This is pretty much it when you are talking about classic ice cream parlors within the Chicago city limits. Cramped and sometimes suffering from surly servers, but still capable of glamorous sundaes and other treats. I loved my recent turtle sundae. Cathy2 presented a dissenting view, "I love whipping cream, thus my first spoonful was the whipped cream. Right there, I was disappointed as the whipping cream was lower on the fat scale, thin and not too pleasant. The ice cream wasn't outstanding. The hot fudge was a very generous quantity, which tasted like Nestle's semisweet morsels. I'm glad to have tried it for simply the experience."
Petersen's (1104 Chicago Ave, Oak Park) - You would think that I'd have more to say about a rather famous place in my home town, but I am not a huge fan of Petersen's. Their ice cream itself is good enough, just not really wow-ful. The hot fudge is very poor and reminds me mostly of Smuckers. Petersen's has two sides, a restaurant side and a counter side. I mostly stick to the counter which is for cones. Petersen's changed ownership about a year ago, and the new owner makes some excellent candies, especially the caramels.
Marble Slab (940 Church Street, Evanston/7154 Carpenter Road, Skokie) - I have never tried. Zim, who with Joan, is the primary scout of ice cream places had this to say in 02, "There are about 15 flavors, each very rich, but not assertively flavored (with the exception of the lemon custard I tried) because the schtick here is the mix-in on the slab and I guess if the flavors were stronger the mixins wouldn't go as well...A couple minor gripes: about those waffle cones, they offer a number of different dips and flavors, but they didn't on the ones we tried out have much real flavor to them and more annoyingly feature a large nickel-size whole in the bottom for your ice-cream to leak out of. Maybe because it was new and the line was long of folks who have never been there before and were tasting flavors and the staff hadn't had a chance to get into a groove of doing the mix-ins on the slab, the line moves glacially. I think it will get a little quicker as the newness wears off the but the slab mixin thing ensures that it will stay a little slow. Also did i mention it's kinda steep for a waffle cone - $3.50"
Sweet Occasions - (4639 N. Damen, Chicago) - Has gotten some recent attention on the board. In 02, I said, "black raspberry truffle was their most popular choice...This IS their best. Smooth cream, toothsome chocolate pieces and strong fruit flavor...The chocolate also possessed a pleasing smooth texture. Chocolate flavor played a role, but it did not overpower. Butterfat also played a role, but also did not really get out there. I suppose in wine ratings, balance can be key, and this ice cream was balanced nicely between texture, flavor and richness, but I guess I want a little more than balance."
Hartigan's Ice Cream (2909 Central St., Evanston) - Mentioned in passing by Zim, who notes it serves cedar crest dairy ice cream from Wisconsin. Any other info?
Cameron's Delight Ice (500 W Diversey, Chicago) - I have not been to this place in ages. It always looked much better than it tasted. Any reports?
Coffee Chicago/Double Rainbow (Broadway and Berwyn, Chicago) - This coffee shop sells this brand of ice cream, reputably famous in SF. When I lived nearby, I never remembered it being anything special. In 02, Harry V wrote, Strangely they did not have the only ice cream flavor I really like - vanilla. I had the butter pecan and my girlfriend had strawberry. Both were authentically, overpoweringly flavored - disagreeably so in my eyes, but likely to win plaudits from most, I suppose. I'd prefer ice cream to taste like cream, some sugar and vanilla are also nice. I'd bet Double Rainbow's vanilla would be excellent, based on the lovely richness of the ice creams we tried."
Double Rainbow on Southport (?) - In July, 02, Zim mentioned a Double Rainbow outlet on Southport that was quite crowded. I do not know if this branch still exists, nor do I have any idea of its quality. Any comments?
Chocolate Shoppe (5337 W Devon, Chicago) - A converted Baskin Robbins in the under-explored Edgebrook area. Gwiv noted, "The ice cream, which I have only had once, was good, though not exactly to my taste. I can't really describe why I wasn't thrilled, maybe I wasn't in the mood for ice cream at the moment...Chocolate Shoppe hails from Madison, Wisconsin and is practically a Madison institution, to the extent they had a spot on Food TV's Food Finds. The Devon location is a pleasant place, friendly service, chairs inside and out to relax and directly across the street from the Chicago Public Library, Edgebrook Branch."
Evanston Creamery/Chocolate Shoppe (1301 Chicago Ave, Evanston) - Also took over a Baskin Robbins in Evanston. Zim sez, "usually I'm not a big fan of store bought chocolate ice cream as their is little discernible darkness to the flavor, this was really pretty nice, not too sweet, good chocolate flavor and with good texture as well."
Sugar Shack (630 W. 26th St, Chicago) - Hot Dill Pickle threw this place out as an example of decent soft serve ice cream in Chicago. CMC disagreed. See below for other soft serve choices.
Hole in the Wall Custard (901 1/2 N Oak Park Ave Oak Park) - A very good soft serve. This may not be custard like Scooters makes custard, but I am always happy getting a cone here. In fact, I get a kid's cone because that is all I ever need to be satisfied. Of course, I always get it dipped in chocolate.
Toots Drive Inn (4354 N Central Ave Chicago, IL) - Old shack serving soft, possibly tastee freeze, ice cream. I have wanted to try for ages. Anyone?
Buffalo's (Arlington Heights Rd. and Lake-Cook Rd, Buffalo Grove) - Pretty much everyone agrees that the original Buffalo's on Irving Park and its subsequent incarnation in Skokie were great. Whether this local greek in Buffalo serves anything like the original is open.
Dave's Ice Cream & Italian Ice (1451 W. 18th St, Chicago) - This place does not look like much, but Zim reported in 02, "the tamarindo italian ice on offer there was really very good, dark brown almost black, with strong not washed out flavor and no cloying sweetness."
Cold Stone Creamery (Various locations including 1533 N Wells, Chicago) - Franchise'd chain trying to take over the ice cream world with the old Steve's formula of mixing in things into plain ice cream. I tried once to sample the Old Town location, but the line moved so damn slow, I gave up.
Hershey's Ice Cream Premium (5723 Dempster, Morton Grove) - Zim once noted that this place had halo-halo and Hawaiian Ice Cream. The Ultimo, being the Ultimo, once tried to try, but could not find it. No one else has done a report as far as I can tell.