Among its other ice cream offerings, the vegan menu at the Dairy Star in Lincolnwood has really taken off. (Dairy Star)
A visit to an ice cream shop is a summer rite of passage. These businesses not only serve up cool treats, but are community gathering spots, and in some cases, a window back in time. We sought out owners and staff from iconic ice cream shops (and frozen custard and gelato places, too) to get the scoop not only on what they’re offering this season, but to find out their favorite ice cream spot to visit when they’re off the clock.
The Brown Cow Ice Cream Parlor
7347 Madison St., Forest Park, www.browncowicecream.com
Who: Connie Brown, Owner
At work: Connie Brown opened this old-fashioned soda fountain, creamery and bakery in 2004. Craft sodas are made in-house, and there are freshly baked cakes and pies. The newest addition to the menu is homemade, deep-dish mini pies like apple and pecan and a daily special flavor-of-the-day.
Off-the-clock spots: Smokey Joel’s Red Hots, 810 Beloit Ave., Forest Park, http://bit.ly/2t5LzPa. "We don’t get to get out much during the summer months, but when we do, we love the lemon ice at Smokey Joel’s in Forest Park," Brown said. They also enjoy Scooter’s Frozen Custard, 1658 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago, www.ScootersFrozenCustard.com. "Not only delicious frozen treats, but wonderful people," Brown said. "I love their Boston shakes. I love that their custard is made fresh using products from a local dairy. They’re only open during the summer months, but we enjoy seeing the owners in our shop, too, in the winter."
10 S. Pine St., Mount Prospect, www.Capannaris.com.
Who: Katie Dolan Dix, Co-owner
At work: New flavors this year: Root Beer Ice Cream and Blood Orange Ice Cream.
Off-the-clock spot: Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream, 5337 W. Devon Ave., Chicago, www.ChocolateShoppeIceCream.com. "I love the quality and variety of flavors," Dolan said.
The Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream
5337 W. Devon Ave., Chicago, www.chocolateshoppeicecream.com
Who: Dan Moore, staff member
At work: The Chocolate Shoppe, an old-fashioned, family-owned store that’s been around since 1962, could hold its own on flavors alone, but when it comes to creative names they really take the cake. This season, ice cream fans everywhere are raving about the new flavor called This $&@! Just Got Serious. It’s salted caramel ice cream with sea salt chocolate and cashews.
Off-the-clock spot: Andy’s Frozen Custard, www.EatAndys.com. When he’s not at work, Moore sometimes heads to Andy’s Frozen Custard in Evanston, 719 Church St. His latest favorite at Andy’s is the Jackhammer. It’s a frozen custard mix with a pillar of fudge in the center.
Dairy Dream Drive-in
1229 W. Park Ave., Libertyville, www.DairyDreamy.com
Who: Justin Synnestvedt, Co-owner
At work: Since 1961, people have been making summer memories at Libertyville’s Dairy Dream Drive-in. "We have a couple new items this year," said Synnestvedt. "No. 1 is our Cinnamon Streusel Crunch. It’s a dry topping we roll our cones in and yes, it’s as delicious as it sounds. No. 2 is our S’more Flurry, which is our name for a Blizzard or a concrete." A concrete, by the way, is similar to a Blizzard, but made with thick frozen custard.
Off-the-clock spot: "In a cruel twist of fate I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes about 20 years ago, so I currently enjoy my treats vicariously through our customers. My favorite place growing up was the Dairy Bar in Glenview. I grew up about a mile from there and my friends and I would ride bikes there and enjoy a cone while watching trains pass by flattening our spare pennies on the tracks."
3472 W. Devon Ave., Lincolnwood, www.DairyStarIceCream.com
Who: Chris Kersten, Manager
At work: At Dairy Star in Lincolnwood, the vegan menu is so popular that Manager Chris Kersten said they’ve added more vegan flavors. Dairy Star has vanilla and chocolate (soy-based) parve/vegan soft serve. There are also vegan shakes and sundaes. "We even have a special vegan whipped cream," Kersten said.
Off-the-clock spot: Superdawg Drive-in, 6363 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, www.Superdawg.com. After Dairy Star closes at night, the staff occasionally visits the classic Superdawg Drive-in, and they often order some ice cream. "Superdawg is open even later than we are, allowing us someplace fun to go after work and offering some different/unique ice cream treats than we are normally used to," Kersten said. She loves their cubed ice cream cones and powdered malts. "They’re unique and yet still delicious after a long day of eating and serving ice cream," she said.
617 Central Ave., Highland Park, www.FrostGelato.com
Who: Steve Rams, Owner
At work: This year, Frost Gelato has new sauces that have been added as toppings to the gelato. "Similar to a traditional sundae, guests can choose two or three scoops and add Lotus Cookie Butter, Nutella or fudge sauce," Rams said. "We warm the Nutella and Lotus Cookie Butter to create very rich, decadent sauces."
Off-the-clock spot: Sweet’s, 260 E. Deerpath Road, Lake Forest, www.SweetsChocolates.com. "If I’m not sipping a Frost milk shake, I like to take my kids to Sweet’s in Lake Forest for its nostalgic feel and variety of ice cream and sweet dessert treats. I’m a milkshake guy, always have been and at Sweet’s, it’s no different," he said.
George’s Ice Cream & Sweets
5306 N. Clark St., Chicago, www.GeorgesIceCreamAndSweets.com
Who: Charles Williams, General Manager
At work: George’s serves over 100 flavors of ice cream, with 32 special varieties rotating on the menu at a time. Try seasonal flavors like Blueberry Cheesecake, Key Lime Pie, Root Beer, Cotton Candy and Lemon Meringue. The Shake-Your-Donut Shake is a new twist on ice cream and donuts. "Choose your flavor and your donut, and we do the rest," Williams said.
Off-the-clock spot: Kilwins, www.Kilwins.com. "It’s an old-fashioned setting with chocolates. It’s a great place for when I want to just go and try something different," Williams said.
Glenview Dairy Bar
1015 Harlem Ave., Glenview, http://bit.ly/2tp2zCE
Who: Luane Gabuzzi, Co-owner
At work: It has been a year of transition after the death in 2016 of Charles "Chuck" Boedicker who owned the storied ice cream shop for 26 years. Three of Gabuzzi’s new favorites this year are some of the popular Candy Blasts flavors — Birthday Cake, S’mores and Banana Cream Pie. Candy Blasts are ice cream in a cup blended with candy and other sweets.
Off-the-clock spot: Dairy Dream Drive-in, 1229 W. Park Ave., Libertyville, www.DairyDreamy.com. "Dairy Dream reminds me of our store; it’s a small mom and pop store. There are 28 flavors, and it’s fun to try different flavors."
Graeter’s Ice Cream
1347 Shermer Road, Northbrook, www.graeters.com/retail-stores/chicago/northbrook
Who: Maegan Duffy, Store Manager
At work: Cheesecake was recently revealed as this year’s mystery flavor at Graeter’s. "Each flavor is made in small batches, for a limited amount of time; once they’re gone, they’re gone," Duffy said.
Off-the-clock spot: Dairy Star, 3472 W. Devon Ave., Lincolnwood, www.DairyStarIceCream.com. "I grew up around the corner from Dairy Star, so it’s a nostalgic ice cream spot for me to visit. I’m partial to the Funnel Cake Sundae; it’s a fresh funnel cake topped with a two-scoop sundae."
Lickety Split Frozen Custard & Sweets
6056 N. Broadway St. and 7000 N. Western Ave., Chicago, www.LickitySplitChicago.com
Who: Ken Anderson, Owner
At work: Lickety Split staff is currently making strawberry ice cream, and the featured signature concrete treat is the Strawberry Cheesecake. "It’s strawberry custard blended with cheesecake bites and homemade graham crust made from the Growling Rabbit. It’s delicious and always popular," Anderson said.
Off-the-clock spot: Scooter’s Frozen Custard, 1658 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago, www.ScootersFrozenCustard.com. "Since I love custard, Scooter’s on Belmont is a must in Chicago, and for sure check out Kopp’s in Milwaukee (www.kopps.com); there are three locations," Anderson said. "I am also a huge fan of Graeter’s Ice Cream (www.graeters.com). I want to get up to Northbrook to check out their store. I love their vanilla bean flavor that I buy at Whole Foods. I love to try different concoctions that they make since our menu items are different, plus, knowing they have an excellent product keeps us on our toes. I love either a good, thick malt, a turtle sundae with fresh roasted salted pecans, or a dip of custard on a waffle cone."
Original Rainbow Cone
9233 S. Western Ave., Chicago, www.RainbowCone.com
Who: Bryan Feltman, Manager
At work: Nowhere else can you find a cone quite like the rainbow cone at Original Rainbow Cone in Chicago. Their signature sweet is made with thin slabs of five distinct flavors of ice cream piled high. The flavors are (bottom to top) chocolate, strawberry, Palmer House (New York Vanilla with cherries and walnuts), pistachio and orange sherbet. "We have stuck with the same recipe and flavors that have made us famous for 91 years," Feltman said. "We use our own special designed tool to slab the ice cream instead of scoops."
Off-the-clock spot: The Village Creamery, 8000 Waukegan Road, Niles, www.VillageCreamery.com. "Their turtle sundaes are incredible," Feltman said.
Park Ridge Dairy Queen
2 Devon Ave., Park Ridge, www.facebook.com/ParkRidgeDairyQueen
Who: Jeff Malarski, Owner
At work: With everything from dilly bars to good old DQ soft serve, Park Ridge Dairy Queen is about as classic as it gets. Proprietor Jeff Malarski said he still has a weak spot for the timeless favorite Peanut Buster Parfait. "It’s fudge and Spanish peanuts layered in vanilla ice cream," he said. "Add whipped cream and it is delicious." He loves making them, too. But Malarski said the really big hit this season is the Cotton Candy Blizzard. "It smells, tastes and looks like cotton candy," he said. "The kids go bonkers for it."
Off-the-clock spot: Margie’s Candies, 1960 N. Western Ave., Chicago, www.MargiesFineCandies.com. The Rolling Stones, the Beatles, even Al Capone are said to have gotten their sugar fix at Margie’s Candies, which is quite likely Chicago’s most storied ice cream parlor. "It’s an old-time feel and the ice cream creations are great," Malarski said, "It’s a fun place to go. I go for the hot fudge sundae, and the little wafer cookies in the scoops of ice cream." His favorite part? "They don’t skimp on the whipped cream."
1100 Chicago Ave., Oak Park, www.PetersenIceCream.com
Who: Jason Skiouris, Owner
At work: Petersen’s in Oak Park started in 1919 and has been at its current location on Chicago Avenue since 1927. "Walking into Petersen’s you truly grasp the feeling of an ice cream shop that was established in 1919 by the tin sealing, mosaic floors, Carrara marble counters, and onyx countertops," Skiouris said. There is also the smell of freshly made waffle cones, homemade turtle pies and more.
What’s new this year is the return of the popular Super Premium Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup with Peanut Butter swirls. There are also hot fudge sundaes, turtle sundaes, banana splits, original shakes and malts and homemade pies. There are newer items, too, like gourmet coffees and coffee/ice cream blends.
Off-the-clock spot: Nostalgic ice cream shops. "People want and miss the true all-American nostalgic ice cream shops, with the old-fashioned ice cream malts and soda fountains that have become a dying breed," Skiouris said.
The Plush Horse
12301 S. 86th. Ave., Palos Park, www.ThePlushHorse.com
Who: Sheri Chiappetti, CEO
At work: "We celebrate summer, one scoop at a time," said Chiappetti. "We’re excited about our newest flavor of waffle cone — the Fruity Plush." It’s a hand-rolled cone with Fruit Loops baked in. Chiappetti suggested filling it with one of their fun ice cream flavors like Cookie Monster, Honey Lavender, Cheesecake Cookie Crunch (made with Oreos) or Banana Ice Cream. You can satisfy your sweet tooth in the parlor or in the outdoor courtyard.
Off-the-clock spot No. 1: Stix-n-Stones, 505 Village Circle Drive, Burr Ridge, www.EatStixAndStones.com. "My suburban stop is this scratch kitchen with wood-fired pizzas and an awesome Twisted Turkey Sandwich," Chiappetti said. Stix-n-Stones has outdoor seating and plenty of Lucky Monk brews (The Lucky Monk, 105 Hollywood Blvd., South Barrington, www.theluckymonk.com.) "On summer nights you can enjoy Friday concerts around the corner on the Village Green, and of course, Plush Horse Ice Cream."
Off-the-clock spot No. 2: Cone Gourmet Ice Cream, 1047 W. Madison St., Chicago, www.conechicago.com. When she’s in Chicago, Chiappetti likes Cone Gourmet Ice Cream. "The West Loop has many amazing places to visit. I especially love visiting ice cream parlors," she said. "Each one is individually unique in its own way; like a sweet personality."
Scooter’s Frozen Custard
1658 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago, www.ScootersFrozenCustard.com
Who: Dennis Moore, Co-owner
At work: The newest frozen treat this year at Scooter’s is a chocolate chip frozen cookie custard sandwich made with crispy chocolate chip cookie. "It’s seriously delicious," Moore said.
Off-the-clock spot: "When we close down for the season in December, January and February, we like to go to the Brown Cow Ice Cream Parlor in Forest Park. The homemade coffee ice cream is a favorite; it reminds me of the coffee ice cream I made at home as a kid. I either get the coffee ice cream plain or enjoy a hot fudge sundae made with coffee ice cream, but it really is best plain," Moore said.
Tates Old Fashioned Ice Cream
25 S. Ashland Ave., La Grange, www.Facebook.com/TatesIceCream
Who: Maria Marciniec, Owner
At work: This season, Tates introduced an old-fashioned float in a Mason jar. "It’s usually a Green River or a Cherry Float," Marciniec said. "They’re adorable — and traditional, old-fashioned, yum! We sell a lot during our weekly hula hoop contests."
Off-the-clock spot: Hole in The Wall Custard, 901 S. Oak Park Ave., Oak Park. "My favorite place for ice cream is a little place called Hole in the Wall Custard," Marciniec said. "I love it for its little small town traditional treats. You can get soft serve ice cream dipped in cherry or chocolate, and that gives me the good feelings that I remember from childhood. I think that your neighborhood ice cream shop provides the simplest fun memories for life."
Black Dog Gelato, 859 N. Damen Ave., Chicago, www.BlackDogChicago.com. Founder Jessica Oloroso was one of the first gelato makers on the Chicago scene when the trend struck about 10 years ago. She hasn’t slowed the pace of her intriguing line of flavors. Look for Goat Cheese Cashew Caramel, Sesame Fig Chocolate Chip, Rosemary Irish Cream and more.
The Daily Scoop, 9 S. Prospect Ave., Clarendon Hills, http://bit.ly/2tuInzs. If you like pretty sprinkles and candies in big glass jars, The Daily Scoop is worth a visit. There are also hot dogs and hamburgers – and plenty of varieties of good old ice cream inside the charming store.
Hartigan’s Ice Cream Shoppe, 2909 Central St., Evanston, www.HartigansIceCreamShoppe.com. You can get your fix of ice creams and frozen yogurts at Hartigan’s, and the team also makes custom cakes. At the fountain, you can order everything from Black Cows to Creamsicle Coolers and even good old basic malts. From Green Rivers to Cream Sodas, Hartigan’s is one of the classics.
Homer’s Ice Cream, 1237 Green Bay Road, Wilmette, www.HomersIceCream.com. Gus Poulos opened Homer’s in Wilmette in 1935, and his sons Steve and Dean keep the ice cream shop running. At one time, there were just two tables. Homer’s serves up dozens of homemade ice cream flavors, everything from apple cinnamon and banana macademia nut chip to Heath Bar crunch and white chocolate chip.
Massa Café, 7434 W. North Ave., Elmwood Park, www.MassaCafe.com. At Massa Café, you can find a display case filled with colorful varieties of gelato. There are gelato shakes and gelato sandwiches as well as good old root beer floats. The fried dough, sprinkled with cinnamon or powdered sugar, is a popular favorite.