photo: courtesy of Bridget Montgomery
Bobtail proves rum raisin isn't the only ice-cream flavor with a little something extra.
Plain vanilla remains the best-selling ice cream flavor in the country, but millions of people can, in fact, be wrong. Especially in a city like Chicago, where the options for adventurous - and still tasty - creamy concoctions are nearly endless. Here are some sweet spots to go when you feel like taking a walk on the wild side of frozen desserts.
This unfortunately named Wicker Park storefront makes the frozen treat of your choice fresh, right in front of you. You pick the base (ice cream, light ice cream, soy milk, etc.), a flavor, an add-in and even a color. That's when the fun starts. Your ingredients go into a mixing bowl which is hooked up to a liquid nitrogen tank which solidifies your dessert with shots of smoke. No flavor is boring here, but for extra excitement, iCream offers burnt sugar, green tea, pear, hazelnut and other flavors. Add-ins include various candies as well as fruits like mango, blackberries and pineapple.
Bobtail Soda Fountain
An ice-cream stand with a location right by Grant Park's Buckingham Fountain would seem to be a tourist trap, but you'll think differently once you get a look at the menu. Among the 20 flavor choices are exotic creations like Signature Sunset (merlot ice cream with dark chocolate chips) and the Lakeview Barhopper (Dutch cocoa ice cream blended with Jack Daniels whiskey). More special flavors pop up throughout the year at the downtown, Lakeview and Wilmette shops.
Original Rainbow Cone
In business for over 80 years, this South Side shop is a true seasonal destination, as it's only open during the summer months. They're not gonna wow you with exotic choices here, because they don't have to; everyone goes for the five-flavor Rainbow Cone. The flavors are stacked (slabs, not scoops) in a specific order. From top to bottom you get orange sherbet (first to cleanse the palate), pistachio, Palmer House (vanilla with cherries and nuts), strawberry and finally chocolate (last because it's heaviest and would overwhelm whatever came next). It's a flavor explosion that'll be even easier to get now that a second location is opening in the South Loop.
This Lakeview fine-dining spot is known more for its fusion of French and Japanese cuisine in its starters and entrees, but the creativity keeps going with the dessert menu. The ginger green tea ice cream is a perfect way to end the meal, thanks to chunks of candied ginger amidst the creaminess. It can be ordered alone or as a dessert creation served on a tuile with sweet azuki beans (a small, red, sweet-tasting bean, popular in Asia) and white chocolate mousse.
Millie's Ice Cream Shoppe & Deli
Millie's has been serving up homemade ice cream (17 flavors daily) in an old-fashioned cafe in suburban Oak Lawn since 1995. But while the setting may be old-fashioned, the flavors are not. Millie rotated in various exotic flavors as the mood struck, and the new owners (who took over in December 2008) have promised to do the same. If you go, see if they have the coconut or the pistachio with amaretto-dipped nuts. Yum!
More spots to lick it up:
Flamingo's serves up enticing flavors like sweet potato, jalapeno, parmesan cheese and more.
Zanzibar gets creative with options including lemon meringue and the ever-popular Blue Moon (a fruity blue concoction found mostly in the Midwest).