There’s nothing more exciting than a “best of” list from a national publication, probably written from a cubicle and based on surfing a few websites. People who actually live in the spotlighted regions perk up when an outsider chooses the best. Blogger Andrew Huff of Gapers Block, for example, was not a fan of Forbes Traveler's choice for best Chicago ice cream in a recent national round-up, and I am totally with him.
Writing about America’s best ice creams in the middle of summer is as journalistically unique as a story about Britney Spears gracing us with another crotch shot. But, geez, you figured Forbes could at least pony up and send a writer out to the Midwest who actually went beyond choosing an 80-year old soda fountain that Al Capone may or may not have patronized, as the best and only option from Chicago.
Margie’s Candies is certainly charming and the 25-scoop Royal George sundae could feed the entire pre-weight loss cast of The Biggest Loser. But the lure of Margie’s is way more about nostalgia and sundaes as big as Jay Leno’s head, and even in these categories, there are rivals. After the jump, find my guide to the best Chicago-area ice cream.
Best Use of Nostalgia
Original Rainbow Cone and Lindy's and Gertie's are on par, if not more nostalgic inside.
Best Use of Booze
Bobtail’s homemade Merlot flavor or the Dutch cocoa blended with Jack Daniel's.
Best Cow Quality
At least eighteen-percent butterfat here, and the milk comes from small, family-run dairy farms. No wonder Oberweis offers some of the tastiest, freshest ice cream around. Their soda fountain offerings are more diverse than Margie’s, their milkshakes thicker than Margie's, and their signature Pirouline cookie topper, superior to Margie's vanilla wafers.
Oberweis Ice Cream and Dairy Store: Multiple locations
Best for More Love Handles
Freddy’s Pizza in Cicero offers nine homemade gelati flavors, including extremely fattening varieties like tiramisu and Oreo.
Best Use of Fruit
Cunis Candies infuses ice cream with seasonal Midwestern fruits. Joe Kubiak, great nephew of the Cunis founder, has been known to haul back 50 pounds of fresh-picked blueberries from Michigan.
Cunis Candies: 1030 East 162nd Street, South Holland IL 60473; (map); 708-596-2440
Best Showing (Or at Least First That Comes to Mind) from a Gourmet Chef
Hell, I’m not even getting into the selections from gourmet chefs, but Mindy Segal’s concoctions at Hot Chocolate or Bruce Sherman’s anise hyssop sorbet at North Pond, which is made from anise hyssop grown on-site at the restaurant's garden.
Hot Chocolate: 1747 North Damen Avenue, Chicago IL 60647; (map); 773-489-1747; hotchocolatechicago.com
North Pond: 2610 North Cannon Drive, Chicago IL 60614; (map); 773-477-5845; northpondrestaurant.com