With warm weather driving people to crave anything cold and sweet, Chicago delivers with its incredible ice cream scene. With this roundup of ice cream parlors, you have the perfect guide to an ice cream crawl through Chicago’s vibrant and diverse neighborhoods. Grab your Ventra card, leave your jacket at home and follow us to frozen dairy heaven.
1. Bobtail Ice Cream Company
This corner ice cream shop may have an old-fashioned vibe, but its flavors are anything but outdated. Sure, Bobtail stocks some all-American classics, but their team is always innovating. We tried indulgent flavors like Cubby Crunch — vanilla ice cream packed with toffee, Oreos, chocolate chips and sprinkles — and boozy takes like Signature Sunset — merlot ice cream with dark chocolate chips. The passionate staff was happy to share their favorites as well (they recommend Salted Caramel Dark Chocolate Pretzel).
This location is open 12 hours a day during the summer, but you can also enjoy Bobtail’s addicting ice cream at home — they’ll soon be selling pints in nearby grocery stores.
2. Lickity Split
This vintage-style sweet shop specializes in frozen custard, which is similar to ice cream but with less air. This difference in production gives Lickity Split treats a velvety, creamy texture with just the right amount of sweetness.
Since the custard is made on site, the shop only serves three flavors at a time, but those flavors are used to create an impressive number of confections. From blended concretes to oats to straight-up pints, Lickity Split can satisfy any craving. Don’t do dairy? Try their espresso bar or explore the floor-to-ceiling shelves stocked with old-fashioned candy.
Paciugo is another stop that strays from traditional ice cream – it’s actually a gourmet gelato shop. The three Chicago locations boast both milk-based and water-based gelato and sorbet, which means they’re perfect for your vegan and lactose-intolerant friends. With 24 rotating flavors a day and 350 flavors in total, there’s always a reason to keep coming back. Our favorite is the sea salt caramel gelato.
4. George’s Ice Cream
George’s is known for its West Town Bakery pastries, house-made chocolates, Dark Matter coffee and, of course, ice cream. The community establishment serves up 32 flavors on any given day, and they’ll make a shake out of anything.
Our pick? A sugar cone with one scoop of Munchie Madness (sweet cream ice cream with rainbow sprinkles, caramel cups and Oreos) and one scoop of Sticks and Stones (chocolate ice cream with cookie dough, caramel and pretzels).
5. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams
Jeni’s is the definition of ice cream nirvana. If you’re looking for flavors with ingredients like candied ginger or Ndali Estate vanilla bean, the Wicker Park or Lakeview locations of this Columbus-based scoop shop are your holy grail.
Jeni’s uses only grass-fed dairy and seeks to work with other “good food makers.” The shop’s most popular flavor is Salty Caramel — it’s the first flavor Jeni herself ever created — but we recommend a waffle cone with one scoop of Brambleberry Crisp and one scoop of Salted Peanut Butter with Chocolate Flecks.
6. Margie’s Candies
Margie’s is a true old-school joint. The original location on the North Side has been open (and family-owned) since 1921, and the second location on Montrose opened in 2005.
The shop’s famous candy is handcrafted by Chicago candy companies, the fudge is homemade, and all of the classic ice cream flavors are handmade in Minnesota and trucked in weekly. The most popular menu items are the Hot Fudge and Turtle Sundae and the Hot Fudge Banana Split.
7. Black Dog
Black Dog boasts artisanal gelato made daily in small batches. They aim to experiment with innovative and intriguing ingredients, resulting in unique flavor experiences like goat cheese cashew caramel and rosemary Irish cream.