CHICAGO — There is no shortage of ice cream options throughout the City of Chicago, so how does one choose where to indulge? One way to narrow it down is seeking out some of the more unique cream-based creations.
WGN has compiled a dozen such shops through the collective effort of readers’ suggestions, digital team experiences and old fashioned research. We’ve organized them into four categories of uniqueness: presentation, combination, ingredients, and flavor(s).
Use the following to choose your experience du jour, or perhaps plan a full-out ice cream crawl.
This Wicker Park gelato shop first opened summer 2018 and is known for crafting cones of cuteness.
Eli’s Ark’s cool critters can help you beat the heat and are a hit with kids and adults alike.
Address: 1843 W. North Ave., Chicago
Hours (change throughout the year): Tue-Fri 3-8 p.m. | Sat 1-9 p.m. | Sun 1-8 p.m.
Website: Eli’s Ark Chicago on Instagram
Be prepared when you order a Biggie Shake at JoJo’s ShakeBAR. These over-the-top creations are much more than simple blended milk and ice cream in a cup. Between the candy-crusted rim, full-sized cookie, whipped cream, and extra treat toppings, this one cup can be an entire meal.
For those in a boozy mood, the restaurant offers an alcoholic option for their creamy creations. They also have decked-out ice cream bars for an easier grab and go.
Address: Locations in River North, Water Tower Place, Time Out Market, and Naperville
Hours: Vary by location. Links to each above.
Website: JoJo’s ShakeBAR
Find true European gelato in downtown Chicago at Amorino. The company’s first store opened in 2002 in the heart of Paris and opened its Chicago location in April 2015.
Each cone comes as a gelato rose and customers can choose a different flavor for each icy petal.
Address: 38 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago
Hours: Sun-Thu 10 a.m. – 11 p.m. | Fri-Sat 10 a.m. – 12 a.m.
Website: Chicago location
Take a homemade traditional churro, twist it tight, fry two up, smash some ice cream in between, top with a variety of candies and sauces, and you’ve got yourself a Churro-Wich.
Churro Parlor offers three pre-designed ‘wiches to tantalize your taste buds.
Address: Chicago locations: 1604 W. Roscoe St. 9707 N. Milwaukee Ave. (Also located in Glenview)
Hours: Tue-Thu 4-10 p.m. | Fri-Sat 12-10 p.m. | Sun 12-9 p.m.
Website: Churro Parlor
Firecakes Craft Donuts
Firecakes is known for its, you guessed it, donuts, but did you know they also have “house-made ice cream?” They create a combination for a summertime donut delight.
They offer a “build your own” donut ice cream sandwich. Select your donut, then your ice cream, pick a sauce, and add some toppings. Yum.
Address: Four Chicago locations, one in Oak Park, one in Naperville – Full list here.
Hours: Vary by location – see link above.
Website: Firecakes Craft Donuts
This unique combination doubles as a story of quantity. Gather your entire extended family, cousins and all, and order the Royal George at Margie’s Candies. Mix and match 25 scoops of ice cream, top with whipped cream, various syrups, nuts, cherries and some sugar cones for good measure.
While you’re stuffing your stomach, take in the history of Margie’s which has been in business since 1921 and remains family-owned (now on the fourth generation).
Address: 1813 W. Montrose Ave., Chicago -or- 1960 N. Western Ave., Chicago
Hours: Montrose, Sun-Sat 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. — Western, Mon-Thu 10 a.m. – 11 p.m. | Fri-Sun 10 a.m. – 11:30 p.m.
Vaca’s Vegan Creamery
You don’t need cream from a cow to make a tasty frozen treat and Vaca’s Vegan Creamery is ready to prove it to you. The owners opened their first Chicago shop in May 2021 and have since opened a second location. In addition to their vegan menu, Vaca’s is also committed to socially responsible sourcing for its ingredients.
Speaking of which, are you wondering how they do it without cow’s milk? The answer: mostly oat milk, but some flavors use soy milk.
Address: 2324 W. Giddings St., Chicago -or- 1436 W. Blackhawk St., Chicago
Hours (may be extended in the summer): Giddings, Mon-Wed 3-9:30 p.m. — Thu-Sun 10:30 a.m. – 9:30 p.m. | Blackhawk, Wed-Sun 3-9 p.m.
Website: Vaca’s Vegan Creamery
Two words: bubble – waffle. A bit of air makes a surprisingly big difference in how one experiences the ice cream treats at Eiffle Waffle. Warm and crispy outside with a moist and chewy inside, then top with a full ice cream sundae. Divine.
See how the unique “cone” is made through WGN Morning News’ 2022 Around Town visit.
Address: Three locations in Chicago, one in Bolingbrook, one in Downers Grove – Full list here
Hours: Vary by location.
Website: Eiffel Waffle on Facebook
Milk and Wood
Design and construct your own ice cream bar to enjoy with a side of… crab? Milk and Wood may be devoted to dressing up dessert, but its found inside viet-cajun seafood house The Crab Pad.
The “exotic flavors and eccentric toppings” are regularly rotating for those who like to experiment with their creamy combinations.
Address: 2529 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago
Hours: Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri 5-10 p.m. | Sat 3-10 p.m. | Sun 3-9 p.m. (closed Wednesdays)
Website: Milk and Wood
Asian-inspiration best describes some of the flavors available at Kurimu. Tastes such as purple yam, lychee pearl, thai ice tea, sweet corn, avocado, durian, black sesame and pandan beckon those looking for something different in their ice cream.
Served up in a colorful cone with an added topping or two, options span the spectrum of sweetness to please palettes of the most discerning degree.
Address: Two locations in Chicago, one in Schaumburg – Full list here.
Hours: Vary by location, see link above.
No list of unique ice cream treats in Chicago would be complete without The Original Rainbow Cone. Historically a South Sider treat, a recent partnership with Buona is introducing this five sliced ice cream flavor layer experience to new customers across Chicago and the country.
New to the rainbow? From top to bottom it is: orange sherbet, pistachio, palmer house (vanilla with cherries and walnuts), strawberry and chocolate.
Address: More than one dozen locations and growing | Original at 9233 S. Western Ave. Chicago
Hours: Vary by location.
Website: Rainbow Cone
Legend Tasty House
The ice cream at Legend Tasty House not only has unique options, but it’s uniquely made in true Thai style. Pick from flavors such as passion fruit, green tea, taro, and dragon fruit, then watch it made in front of you.
The cream base is blended, poured onto a below-freezing surface, then hand-rolled into cylindrical ice cream segments. Customers can stop there, or turn the stack into a full on sundae with toppings such as pocky sticks, s’more marshmallows and mochi.
Address: 2242 S. Wentworth Ave., Chicago
Hours: Sun-Thu 11:30 a.m. – 11 p.m. | Fri-Sat 11 a.m. – 11:45 p.m.
Website: Legend Tasty House