Restaurants: Cold Comforts, August 14, 2008 | Restaurant Review | Chicago Reader

Restaurants: Cold Comforts, August 14, 2008 

Forty-one places for ice cream

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Cold Comforts

Forty-one places for ice cream

Anna Held5557 N. Sheridan | 773-561-1940

$10 AM-6 PM Monday-Saturday | Closed Sunday

Behind the gilt-lettered awnings and plate glass on the first floor of the landmark pink Edgewater Beach apartment building stands a soda fountain that first opened in 1927. The ambience trumps the ice cream at the original marble counter and lone table: along with coffee, a few sandwiches, salads, and homemade soups there's a standard selection of Blue Bonnet sundaes, splits, shakes, malts, and sodas. —Elizabeth M. Tamny

Baladoche2905 N. Clark | 773-880-5090

$3-10:30 pm Monday-friday, 9 am-11 PM saturday-sunday

Baladoche specializes in waffles, but not just any waffles—Belgian zucker waffles. Instead of the usual thick, plate-size Belgian waffles sagging with fruit and whipped cream, these are crisp, about the size of your hand, and filled with pearl sugar chips, which look like something a storybook mouse would put in its tea. The pearls melt a bit during cooking, providing little pockets of crunchy sweetness that make syrup superfluous. Toppings include cinnamon sugar, chocolate, jam, Nutella, or the house gelato, though two small scoops of the last made the waffle too soggy for my taste. Each waffle takes about five minutes to make fresh, which could cause trouble if Baladoche's gets slammed with choosy customers who'd rather not take one of the half dozen premade and sitting on the counter. Also to be determined: whether anyone wants to pay $5 for one not terribly filling waffle. —Anne Ford

Bellezza Gelato Caffe3637 N. Harlem | 773-545-1239

$1-9 pm Tuesday-saturday, 4-9 PM sunday | Closed Monday

Opening a gelateria was a longtime dream for Bellezza Gelato owners Maria DiNunzio and Tim Ashorian, and it's safe to say that the couple's Harlem Avenue shop is a dream come true for us too. When I paid them a visit it was so hot outside that everything was melting, and after a previous customer's order oozed out of her cone in the heat, the guys behind the counter recommended I stick with a cup. Even half melted, however, my scoop of banana-caramel-praline gelato was one of the best I've had outside Italy. My second scoop—butter pecan—was just as good, whole pecans sprinkled liberally throughout. With its wide selection of gelati (for chocolate lovers there are two different, equally tasty choices, double-Dutch chocolate and dark chocolate chunk), Bellezza is a go-to spot, and the cheap coffee (espresso, cappuccino, latte, and Turkish coffee) and pastries only sweeten the deal. Don't miss the affogato: gelato with a flavored shot of espresso, topped with whipped cream and an espresso bean. —Sam Kaplan

Ben & Jerry's1634 Orrington, Evanston | 847-869-2640

$Noon-10 PM monday-saturday, noon-9 PM sunday

Chunky Monkey, Cherry Garcia, Phish Food—sweet, rich, and loaded with goodies, they're all available at this corner shop, along with sorbets and smoothies. Chicago locations of this franchise are at Midway Airport and Navy Pier. —Laura Levy Shatkin

Berry Chill635 N. State | 312-266-2445

$8 Am-11 PM sunday, monday-thursday, 8 am-4 am friday & saturday

The frozen yogurt at this trendy-looking River North spot is lactose- and gluten-free, and apparently chock-full of live active cultures of probiotics, which are said to aid digestion. To make it even healthier, there's a wide selection of fresh fruit toppings (and though the yogurt is light and refreshing, I wouldn't want to eat much without other ingredients to liven it up). Other toppings include cereal (Fruity Pebbles, Cap'n Crunch), cookies, candy, and granola, but the sweeter ones taste sort of strange with the tangy yogurt. If you're trying to be healthy, though, you should stick with the fruit anyway. And if you're not, head elsewhere for ice cream—it tastes better. —Julia Thiel

Bittersweet1114 W. Belmont | 773-929-1100

$ 7 aM-7 Pm tuesday-friday, 8 am-7 pm saturday, 8 am-6 pm sunday | Closed Monday

The delectable sweets of Judy Contino, former Ambria pastry chef and Lettuce Entertain You corporate pastry chef, are the attraction at this Lakeview bakery. Each day there's a light lunch menu—a soup, a couple sandwiches, salads, and quiche. Dessert might be a rich butter-crusted apple bistro tart, but the absolute winner when it comes to pastry is the brioche, its buttery egg dough by far the best in town. Ice cream, made in-house year-round, is also outstanding: "In my gastrocosmology," writes Reader critic Nicholas Day of the chocolate, "this is the ice cream that immediately precedes the rapture." —Laura Levy Shatkin

Bleeding Heart Bakery1955 W. Belmont | 773-327-6934

$6 am-7 pm tuesday-saturday, 8 am-6 pm sunday | closed monday

When Bleeding Heart Bakery opened in its original Ukrainian Village location three years ago, it was the country's first organic bakery—and chef-owner Michelle Garcia had faced any number of headaches and hassles. These days it's easier to source organics and locally grown products, and Bleeding Heart is thriving in its new location in Lakeview. Garcia, a graduate of the French Pastry School, is known for her over-the-top specialty cakes, but she's equally transgressive on a smaller scale. A new addition to the wares is house-made ice cream in flavors like strawberry-basil-ginger, goat-cheese-walnut-port, raspberry-orange-blossom-tequila, and chocolate-peanut-butter-bacon. There's a changing selection of sweets and baked goods, including a range of breads, but Garcia says her most popular item is the humble vegan Take a Hike Scone, made with dried cranberries and seeds. —Kate Schmidt

Bobtail Soda Fountain2951 N. Broadway | 773-880-7372

$ 11 am-11 PM sunday-thursday, 10 am-midnight friday & saturday

Twenty-one house-made flavors, plus two kinds of Italian ice, are available at this old-fashioned Lakeview soda fountain, from simple triple vanilla to espresso. Unfortunately, scoops and sundaes come in plastic cups, even when you choose to sit in the 12-seat red-and-white parlor. There are also locations at Buckingham Fountain and 1114 Central, Wilmette (847-251-0174). —Laura Levy Shatkin

The Brown Sack3706 W. Armitage | 773-661-0675

$11 AM-8 pm Tuesday-friday, 9 am-5 pm saturday & sunday | closed monday | cash only | BYO

It's a long way from Malaika Marion's first Chicago job at Planet Hollywood to her "soup, sandwich, and shake shack" on the western fringe of Logan Square. Most recently a manager at Lula Cafe, Marion's lived in the neighborhood for years, and when she saw the teeny Armitage storefront she knew the time was right to break out on her own. With help from her husband, Adam Lebin (formerly the GM at Red Light) she's turned the space into a sunny, six-table destination for hearty down-home standards like a gooey grilled peanut butter, banana, and honey sandwich and beefarific chili laced with head-clearing handfuls of cumin and chile (a vegan version is also available). The daunting Reuben—a popular choice based on an unscientific peek at the other tables—comes piled with thick folds of corned beef topped with the traditional Thousand Island dressing and melted Swiss, plus grilled onions. There's also rich mac 'n' cheese, meatball subs, Goose Island root beer floats, and daily soup, sandwich, and dessert specials (one week it was Lebin's grandmother's brownies). —Martha Bayne

Caffe Gelato2034 W. Division | 773-227-7333

$7 am-11 pm Monday-thursday, 8 am-midnight friday & saturday, 10 am-11 pm sunday

This sleek family-run Ukrainian Village spot offers 18 seasonally rotated flavors, including bacio (chocolate hazelnut), frutti di bosco (berries), ananas (pineapple), and panna cotta. You can also mix flavors or get your gelato fix in the form of a shake with a shot of espresso. The shop is now open year-round. —Susannah J. Felts

Canady le Chocolatier824 S. Wabash | 312-212-1270

$10 am-9:30 Pm daily

Primarily an outlet for the handmade chocolates of Michael Canady—a glass partition behind the counter allows customers to watch him and his employees at work, meticulously shaping and dipping truffles-that are wonderfully fresh and delicate, Canady le Chocolatier also sells gelato made in-house. The eight daily flavors change regularly, and on a recent visit I tried chocolate, burnt caramel, raspberry, and mascarpone. The creamy textures were right on, and the raspberry had bright fruit flavor, but some of the others stumbled: mascarpone was too yogurty, and I found the chocolate disappointingly average—certainly not what you'd expect. —Peter Margasak

Cherubs2524 W. Fullerton | 773-235-8103

$10 am-9 pm daily | Cash only

The couches at my grandmother's house in northern New Jersey were ugly and overstuffed and perfect for a nap, food came out of the kitchen the moment you realized you were hungry, and the television was always on, even when no one was watching. Cherubs, a Logan Square deli/coffee shop (with WiFi) plus ice cream parlor, is such a place, complete with mismatched chairs and a case of used library books. My grandmother's house didn't serve a pastrami sandwich like this though, with salty and wonderfully marbled meat and thick slices of good Swiss between pressed, buttered French bread. The baguette was slightly dry and therefore great with a tuna salad on mixed greens that dripped with vinaigrette. A cold case of Breyer's ice cream has 16 mostly pedestrian flavors like a fantastic chocolate and a not-overly-sweetened strawberry. There's a coffee bar, fountain creations like a lovely coconut and pineapple smoothie served in a cutesy coconut-shell bowl, and a shifting menu of homey soups. —Tasneem Paghdiwala

Cold Stone Creamery21 W. Ontario | 312-280-5977

$ 11 am-11 pm daily

The ice cream's made on-site, and creating your own concoction is the deal at this outpost of the Tempe-based chain. Suggested combos include Apple Pie a la Cold Stone, Cocoa Banana Cabana, and Butter Fingers Fumble, but whatever you pick is mixed before your eyes on a freezing cold granite slab. The staff is young and friendly regardless. For other Chicago locations see coldstonecreamery.com. —Laura Levy Shatkin

Dairy Star3472 W. Devon, Lincolnwood | 847-679-3472

$noon-11 pm sunday-thursday, noon-midnight friday & saturday | Cash only

Any soft ice cream joints will sell you a Boston or a banana split. But this Lincolnwood stand makes a unique claim: all its ice cream is kosher. And the ice cream coming from the left nozzle in the machine closest to the west wall is Cholov Yisroel, an even higher dietary standard. Dairy Star is strictly walk-up, but there are picnic tables where you can dig into your sundae. It's the perfect place to go after 18 holes at the Bunny Hutch, a nearby miniature golf course with a similarly retro design. —Richard Lather

Drew's Eatery2207 W. Montrose | 773-463-7397

$11 am-9 pm sunday, tuesday-thursday; 11 am-10 pm friday & saturday | Closed Monday

Location, location, location. This little organic hot dog and ice cream shop across from Welles Park may not seem like much, but with its kid-friendly menu of sausages and well-pedigreed sweets, summer traffic seems all but guaranteed. The dogs themselves come in pork, two different combos of chicken and turkey (one with red pepper and jalapeno, the other spinach and feta), and classic nitrite-free beef; there's also a vegan version. While they're not char grilled, they've got a clean, snappy flavor and are refreshingly free of grease. Cookies and pastries are parbaked by Sweet Dreams Organic Bakery in Glenview and finished on-site; the terrific ice cream's from Traders Point Creamery in Zionsville, Indiana. Owner Andrew Baker carries through on his commitment to sustainability with furnishings as green as they come, all the way down to the biodegradable cornstarch takeout containers. —Martha Bayne

Freddy's Pizzeria1600 S. 61st, Cicero | 708-863-9289

$10 am-7 pm monday-saturday | Closed Sunday | Cash only

The Zabar's of Cicero, Freddy's Pizza offers dry goods such as olive oil and pasta, but the real attraction is a display case of antipasti and hot dishes you can take away or eat on the crowded porch. Primi include a very fine chickpea salad, heart-challenging slices of salami in oil, and buffalo mozzarella with basil and tomato—the last, if you ask me, one of the clearest expressions of Italian culinary genius. I've sometimes thought I'd rather eat my toe than another plate of pasta Alfredo, but the rigatoni here is dressed with light cream, just a little cheese, and a few peas—I'd order it again, especially with some sauteed rapini on the side. The lasagna is quite delicate, house-made noodles layered softly over fluffy ricotta and discreetly covered with a chunky, conservatively seasoned tomato sauce. Rather than being cracker crisp, the pizza crust is like a good slice of puffy Italian loaf smeared with cheese and sausage (or any of seven or eight other options). The folks at Freddy's bake their breads in a range of shapes and sizes, and there's an array of Italian ices and gelati, ethereally creamy and, like most offerings here, made in the back. Note: Freddy's will be closed for vacation from Monday, August 18, through Friday, September 12. —David Hammond

Ghirardelli Chocolate Shop & Soda Fountain830 N. Michigan | 312-337-9330

$8 am-10:30 PM sunday-thursday, 8 am-midnight friday & saturday

This place is great for a late-night fix downtown on weekends, but don't go out of your way. The ice cream is unmemorable and the soda-fountain treats are merely adequate. During the day the store fills with tiny tourists clutching red bags from American Girl Place. —Anaheed Alani

Hartigan's Ice Cream Shoppe2909 Central, Evanston | 847-491-1232

$11 am-11 pm daily | Cash only

The two trains and a bus it takes to get from the city to Hartigan's Ice Cream Shoppe are no sweat when you know what's waiting for you behind the counter once you get there. The longtime shop offers more than 16 varieties of sundae—and the ability to go nuts and make your own—as well as around 50 flavors of ice cream from Wisconsin's Cedar Crest. Priced at $4.75 to $5 across the board, the creamy treats don't disappoint and are great for sharing. The peanut butter cup sundae is like a meal of its own, with huge chunks of peanut butter cups, hot fudge, and whipped cream. The butt-buster sundae called Terry Bets U Can't ($8) dares visitors to finish its five scoops with brownie fingers, your choice of three toppings, and more whipped cream. Hartigan's small-town soda-shop feel makes it a worthwhile escape from the city's hubbub, so scarf your ice cream in anonymity and maybe stick around for a hot dog and coffee. —Kelly McClure

Homer's Restaurant & Ice Cream Parlor1237 Green Bay, Wilmette | 847-251-0477

$11 am-11 pm sunday-thursday, 11 am-midnight friday & saturday | Cash only

I can walk into this store and instantly be transported to when I was five years old, going out with my dad for an ice cream cone after a T-ball game. Every summer they make their own peach ice cream, and the peppermint's good too, full of the store's own crushed candies. Ninety percent of the workers are high school kids; the others are men who have worked there since I was a child. If you don't want to drive to the burbs, Homer's supplies more than 100 city restaurants, including Maggiano's, Nick's Fishmarket, Big Bowl, Mike Ditka's, and Bob Chinn's. —Mark Greenberg

Istria Cafe1520 E. 57th | 773-955-2556

$6:30 am-8:30 PM monday-friday, 7 am-8:30 pm saturday, 7:30 AM-8:30 PM sunday

It's hard to think of a more perfect example of early 21st-century food culture than this bright Internet cafe, full of laptop-using, iPod-wearing U. of C. students, yet literally carved into the crumbling urban infrastructure of the South Shore Line. Turns out it was built not by WiFi-seeking dwarfs, but by two brothers who named it after their home region in the former Yugoslavia, where coffee culture is a source of local pride. The coffee and espresso, expertly handpulled, is Intelligentsia. Panini, the only real lunch offering, are served on a bread that doesn't have quite the crunch you'd hope for, but what's inside (prosciutto and fresh mozzarella, a couple of vegetarian choices) is fresh and flavorful. But the main reason to come here and try to snag one of the few tables is the house-made gelato. Texture-wise, it may seem a little too pliable as compared to authentic European gelato, but the fruit ones taste of real fruit, and the chocolate and hazelnut varieties are dreamily creamy. In the summer, sidewalk tables relieve the cramped interior somewhat. There's a second location in the Hyde Park Arts Center (1530 S. Cornell, 773-324-9660). —Michael Gebert

Just Indulge1755 W. North | 773-486-6680

$ 11 am-10 pm daily

Just Indulge serves Intelligentsia coffee, Chicago Chocolate Company chocolates, and house-made popcorn, but the focus is on frozen custard, available in vanilla, chocolate, and, on Thursday through Sunday, a flavor of the day. You can get soy ice cream, floats (root beer, cola, and Red Bull), fruit smoothies, milk shakes, sundaes, and concretes with a respectable 25 mix-in options ranging from caramel to fresh fruit to candy. And they're generous with their mix-ins—to a fault. I could hardly taste the custard for all the peanut butter cups in the concrete I ordered, but as far as I could tell it wasn't bad. It wasn't great either, though. Maybe it's the lack of competition—Chicago, inexplicably, has only one other place within the city limits to get frozen custard—but Just Indulge hasn't quite achieved the creamy, rich taste and silky texture I expect from high-quality custard. —Julia Thiel

Margie's Candies1960 N. Western | 773-384-1035

$sunday-thursday 9 am-11:30 pm, friday & saturday 9 am-1 am

The legendary ice cream parlor at the intersection of Western, Milwaukee, and Armitage dishes up sundaes with enough embellishments to satisfy the most demanding sweet tooth: bananas, cherries, nuts, fluffs of whipped cream, hot fudge in a pitcher on the side. A Chicago institution since 1921, the cozy room stuffed with dolls and other knickknacks has transported more than one Rater right back to grandma's house. And, as one aptly puts it, "Who else but your grandmother would give you such a huge bowl of ice cream?" Margie's also serves a limited menu of diner standards—burgers, fries, grilled cheese—but most patrons say skip the real food, have another dessert. —Martha Bayne

Mario & Gino's Gourmet Ice Cream Shop2057 W. Roscoe | 773-529-8664

$noon-10 pm sunday-thursday, noon-11 PM friday & saturday | Cash only

Mario & Gino's carries two grades of gelato: "premium" and "gourmet." The premium product comes from Edy's and is better than most American ice cream simply by virtue of being gelato. The gourmet version is made by Al Gelato and New York outfit Ciao Bella. It costs more per scoop than premium, and you can taste the difference. It is outstanding stuff, light and velvet smooth, with vivid but delicate flavor. (I had the hazelnut and the chocolate-chocolate chip.) The shop also carries Edy's ice cream, Ciao Bella and Al Gelato sorbets and gelato, and house-made Italian ice. —Anaheed Alani

Miko's Italian Ice2236 N. Sacramento | 773-645-9664

$1-10 Pm monday-friday, noon-10 pm saturday & sunday | Cash only

Little Italian ice shop, sister to the one in Bucktown, serving 12 flavors of the frozen treat in sizes ranging from $2 cups to $7.50 quarts. If you're driving you might pull up in the alley behind Miko's—or double park, as some risk—but chances are the place is busy. There's a couple of benches outside if you wish to eat there. The original location is at 1846 N. Damen (773-645-9664). —Brenna Ehrlich

Molly's Cupcakes2536 N. Clark | 773-883-7220

$noon-10 pm Monday; 8 am-10 pm sunday, tuesday-thursday; 8 am-midnight friday & saturday

This open, airy space has cute-as-a-button grade-school decor and an endearing backstory: the cupcake recipes are inspired by engaging owner John Nicolaides's third-grade teacher Molly, who would bring her students the treats on their birthdays. I was predisposed to push back from the preciousness, but no such luck: these moist cupcakes in a Leary-esque kaleidoscope of flavors coupled with silky, rich house-made ice cream in five flavors won me over with barely a struggle. Even a simple combo of a classic vanilla cupcake paired with chocolate ice cream had a subtle hint of cinnamon highlighting the flavors. —Gary Wiviott

Oberweis Ice Cream and Dairy Store1293 N. Milwaukee | 773-276-9006

$10 am-11 pm daily

My friend scooped ice cream at a Pittsburgh parlor one high school summer, so I brought her along for a professional opinion, not knowing beyond "good" and "really good" ice cream myself. "The quality of the strawberry and vanilla ice cream gauges the caliber of an ice cream shop," she told me, so we ordered them in a hot fudge sundae along with a marshmallow malt. The malt came in a giant glass goblet, big as a halved pomelo, with a dainty Pirouline stuck in. "Good malt finish, very smooth, can't taste much marshmallow, cookie is a nice touch," judged my friend. She peered into the sundae, speared a berry with the end of a spoon, and held it up to examine. "The strawberry's got some solid performance factors—doesn't taste syrupy, a little sweeter than I'd like, but nice-size chunks of fruit." The hot fudge was perfect, in my opinion, thick but not sticky, warm but not hot enough to create ice cream soup. My friend concurred, but the whipped cream was airier than she'd like. "Low density," she said. We were looking for "clean and fresh" in the vanilla, but by the time she unearthed it all I could register was the taste of yet more sugar. Cold cases of Oberweis dairy and meat products (and the heavy glass rectangles of iced tea and fruit punch) line the shop. My friend's verdict: she can do without Jim Oberweis's politics, his ice cream is good though not mind-blowing, but, she tells me, she's tried the bacon and it's fantastic: "Great marbling for the price." —Tasneem Paghdiwala

Original Rainbow Cone9233 S. Western | 773-238-7075

$11:30 am-10 Pm monday-thursday, 11:30 am-10:30 Pm friday & saturday, 11 am-10 pm sunday

The specialty of this family-owned spot is the eponymous rainbow cone—a manually assembled scoop of chocolate, pistachio, strawberry, and "Palmer House" cherry-walnut ice cream plus orange sherbet on a pointy cake cone—but there are more than 30 single-flavor options as well. The atmosphere's efficient but fun: patrons line up in a roped queue to order from cashiers who yell back endearing shorthand like "baby white" (for a small vanilla cone) and "heebie-jeebie" (for chocolate peanut butter), and there are picnic tables behind the aging pink stucco building. —Kiki Yablon

Paleteria Flamingo2635 W. 51st | 773-434-3917

$daily

Flamingo's lays out a colorful spread of made-in-house, off-the-mainstream flavors of yogurts, ices, and "ice creams" that use relatively fatty whole milk less like cream and more like half-and-half. For about $2, you get a cup/cone of any two; we tried chamoy (a peachlike fruit with salty heat), tejocote (nutty Mexican hawthorne), agave (tart tequila plant), and mamey (sweet melon). Fresh fruit is used for all frozen confections, juices, and shakes, and there's a big freezer case of paletas, if you like your dessert ice cold. Hours vary, but the shop is typically open from midafternoon to evening. —David Hammond

Paleteria Jalisco4219 N. Kedzie | 773-583-9257

$9 am-7 pm daily | Cash only

This shop supplies many of the pushcart vendors in Albany Park and has a walk-in storefront that sells the frozen bars for 15 cents cheaper. They have about two dozen ice milk and Popsicle flavors, including chile-dusted cucumber, guayaba, coconut, pina colada, rice pudding, pecan, cookie, banana, mango, chocolate, strawberry, and mamey, a fruit that looks like a coconut and tastes like a cross between mango and cantaloupe. —Mike Sula

Petersen's Ice Cream1100 Chicago, Oak Park | 708-386-6131

$11 am-10 pm daily

It's the Oak Park institution's 87th birthday, but the important number here is 18: that's the percentage of butterfat the ice cream contains. The 30 or so flavors range from old-fogy faves like rum eggnog and black walnut to kiddie fare like blue moon and Oreo. Their ice cream counter has a full-service soda fountain, and in the adjacent rooms are a diner and well-stocked candy shop. Or rather, shoppe. —Kiki Yablon

Piccolo Cafe859 N. Damen | 773-772-3355

$11 am-9 pm sunday-thursday, 11 am-10 pm friday & saturday

This Ukrainian Village gelateria from Phil McFarland and Ty Fujimura (Lava Lounge, Small Bar) offers an array of gelati, panini, salads, and bruschetta, all made in-house. The selection of rotating gelato flavors on my last visit ranged from Vietnamese cinnamon to lychee to lemon-basil, an unexpected standout. A premium is placed on fresh ingredients—which means not only that the strawberry gelato is made with fresh strawberries but also that they roast the nuts for the pistachio and hazelnut gelati and cure the beef for the bresaola panini. It also means that the mint and pistachio gelati are not the neon green so often associated with those flavors, and taking a bite of the pistachio is uncannily similar to eating the roasted nuts. The chocolate flavors available on my visit—Jivara, a milk chocolate, and Manjari, dark chocolate made from Madagascan cocoa beans—were made from Valrhona cocoa powder. Quality over quantity seems to be not just a motto but a mandate here: small cups of gelato are the only size available, and there are no cones. The flavors are so intense, though, that even a modest cup is plenty. —Julia Thiel

Red Mango847 Davis, Evanston | 847-866-0998

$11 am-11 pm sunday-thursday, 11 am-midnight friday & saturday

The nonfat fro-yo that this South Korean chain offers is pleasantly tart: it actually tastes like real yogurt (complete with active cultures) instead of glorified soft-serve, and comes in only two flavors, plain and green tea. The green tea flavor is toned down for American taste buds but bold enough to stand up to the fresh fruit toppings and chewy mochi pieces on offer. There's a second location in Naperville (111 W. Jackson, 603-904-0994). —Bianca Jarvis

Sapore di Napoli1406 W. Belmont | 773-935-1212

$$tuesday-friday 4-11 pm, saturday 11 am-midnight, sunday 11 am-10 pm | BYO

"They used to do this a hundred years ago in Naples," the chef at Sapore di Napoli told us as he slammed a wad of dough against the counter—a little open-kitchen entertainment before the meal. The dozen kinds of authentic Italian-style pizza here include salsiccia e cipolle (Italian sausage with smoked mozzarella and onions), verdure (asparagus, zucchini, eggplant, and roasted peppers), and quattro stagioni (artichokes, prosciutto di parma, mushrooms, and olives). Thanks to the 800° brick oven, they're all rapidly prepared in "like, five minutes," said our server, and feature a crackerlike crust. A cooler holds about 14 flavors of gelato and sorbetto, all so good that you could be excused for playing dumb just to get samples. More exotic varieties include zabaglione, made with sweet marsala and tasting a lot like eggnog. Though this small, warm restaurant had been open only a few weeks, we found the service endearing: setting down after-dinner coffee, our server said proudly, "I steamed the milk for you, so there's no coldness!" Sapore di Napoli is BYOB, with a $5 corkage fee. —Anne Ford

Scooter's Frozen Custard1658 W. Belmont | 773-244-6415

$2-10 pm monday-saturday, 2-9 pm sunday

Scooter's is the oldest frozen custard place in Chicago—and it's only been around for five years. In that time, its dense, decadent, ultrasmooth custard and incredibly friendly service have earned it a well-justified fan base. What's hard to understand is why its success hasn't inspired more competitors to set up shop in town. —Julia Thiel

Starfruit1745 W. Division | 773-328-2900

$9 am-11 pm monday-thursday, 8 am-11 pm friday-sunday

This shop offers a twist on frozen yogurt stands, substituting frozen kefir, the cultured milk product Starfruit describes as the "lighthearted love child of taste and nutrition." It's available by the cup, with add-ins ranging from goji berries to mochi balls to Cocoa Pebbles, or in fruit parfaits and smoothies. You can also opt for frozen organic kefir, and Starfruit uses all-biodegradable packaging. —Kate Schmidt

Sweet Occasions5306 N. Clark | 773-275-5190

$1-11 pm monday-friday, 7:30 am-midnight saturday, 7:30 am-11 pm sunday

There are savories here: offerings include the French traditional, with ham, Brie, and French butter; the Italian classic, with hard salami and fresh mozzarella; and the Clark Street Mess, a grilled heap of ham, turkey, salami, and Swiss on French bread smeared with superspicy Dijon mustard. But what's drawing the summer crowds are the rotating two dozen or so flavors of Madison-based Chocolate Shoppe ice cream, among them cotton candy twist, Zanzibar chocolate, and Fat Elvis—banana with chocolate chunks and peanut butter swirls. Other sugar bombs: red velvet cake, red-miniature cakes topped with elaborate frosting flowers, giant lollipops, European chocolate bars, and mix-and-match bulk candy. —Anne Ford

Tastee Freez2815 W. Armitage | 773-507-7477

$11 am-11 pm daily

At this Logan Square institution owner Tony Zarcone dispenses plenty of cones. He touts his soft-serve ice cream (vanilla, chocolate, twist) as being 96 percent fat free, and it might be a good idea to cut some calories considering the rest of the fare: quarter-pound burgers, cheese fries, funnel cakes, and a deep-fried Polish, an innovation Zarcone is particularly proud of. Friendly kids staff the counter, and a baby cone goes for about 70 cents. —Kate Schmidt

Treats Frozen Desserts3319 N. Broadway | 773-525-0900

$2-10 pm sunday-thursday, 11 am-11 pm friday & saturday | Cash only

For people who want to have their ice cream and eat it too: the soft-serve ice milk here is low calorie, low cholesterol, and 99 percent fat free—but more than 30 mix-ins like Oreo crumbles, gummy bears, and granola are available for a premium. The frozen concoction comes in six flavors: chocolate, vanilla, and four specials from a rotating list of 65 that includes apple pie and green tea. As for that soda fountain vibe: as a friend remarked, walking by the location at 2224 N. Clark, "It looks like a Web site." —Kiki Yablon

Ventrella's Caffe4947 N. Damen | 773-506-0708

$10 am-8 pm daily

James Ventrella modeled his homey Ravenswood cafe on the restaurants and shops he visited as a child in Chicago's Italian neighborhoods. "I wanted to pick up a store from Harlem Avenue in, like, 1950 and just drop it here on Damen," he says. Hence the many vintage pieces, such as a sink from a 1930s-era Pullman railroad car and a fridge from the mid-50s. Even the mint in the iced tea is vintage of a sort—Ventrella gets it from his mom, who transplanted it from a garden that her father planted 80-some years ago. His other offerings include Lavazza coffee and espresso, panini (Gorgonzola with pear, proscuitto with provolone and green apple, a Caprese), soups, and baked goods, many made by Ventrella's aunts. But don't miss the gelato and sorbetto, crafted by a small-batch artisan in Michigan in flavors like chocolate espresso bean, stracciatella (vanilla ribboned with chocolate), and pistachio. The last is "kind of an old-guy flavor," Ventrella says. "But even the kids ask for it." —Anne Ford

Village Creamery4558 Oakton, Skokie | 847-982-1720

$11 am-10 pm daily

Outside there's nothing to indicate this storefront carries anything more thrilling than Baskin-Robbins, but the menu's filled with uncommon homemade Filipino ice creams. Among the many startling flavors are two coconut-based varieties, corn, avocado, purple yam, jackfruit, ginger, lychee, and, most flamboyantly, halo-halo, a hash of red and white beans, sugar palm, Jell-O bits, coconut, and Rice Krispies based on the popular Filipino dessert. Many flavors, like a pale green soother made from pandan leaves and large hunks of coconut, are lightly sweetened, letting the tropical elements do the talking. There's a second location at 8000 Waukegan, Niles (847-965-9805). —Mike Sula

Windy City Sweets3308 N. Broadway | 773-477-6100

$11 am-11 pm daily

Come for the ice cream, stay for the homemade candy. Or is it the other way around? It's hard to resist trying both at this Lakeview sweets shop. The 32 flavors of ice cream (supplied by a dairy farm in Iowa) include Moose Tracks, vanilla with swirls of chocolate and peanut butter, and Birthday Cake, a rich blend of "Funfetti" cake and white butter-cream frosting. It's a bit pricey (nearly $5 for two scoops), but portions are enormous. Lighter options like sugar-free butter pecan and several fat-free yogurts are available to ease your guilt about sampling the store's colossal candy selection: truffles, chocolate-covered pretzels and s'mores, and several seasonal varieties of fudge beckon from beneath shiny glass cases. Don't miss the Windy City Crunch, Rice Krispies and peanuts held together with white chocolate and peanut butter. —Sarah Sumadi

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