Jun 21, 2023 - Food and Drink

Lincoln Square's Sideshow Gelato serves scoops with a side of magic

guy behind an ice cream case

Owner and chef Jay Bliznick behind his gelato counter. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

A new shop is serving up gelato with a sprinkle of magic, mentorship and history in Lincoln Square.

Driving the news: After years of planning and fundraising, chef Jay Bliznick opened Sideshow Gelato this month — thanks in part to investors like magician Penn Jillette and City of Chicago COVID recovery funds.

What to expect: The space features a soda fountain, a gelato case, performance spaces and a small curio museum with a nod to the old Riverview Park sideshows.

  • Magicians, jugglers and a contortionist (who also work as scoopers) perform shows at 7pm, 8pm and 9pm on Saturdays and whenever there is a lull in business on other days.

What he's saying: "I want people to have fun," Bliznick tells Axios. "I want them to see stuff that they maybe haven't seen before.

  • "And if magic is not their thing, I want them to enjoy some really, really good gelato."

Backstory: A chef and co-founder of the Chicago Underground Film Festival, Bliznick studied with an Italian gelato master to expand his skills.

  • The result is a wide array of regular and vegan gelato flavors that pay homage to performers, such as his ginger-chocolate blend Chang & Eng — named after the famous conjoined twins.
kids in a museum
Visitors check out the curio museum at Sideshow Gelato. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

Between the lines: Bliznick says he's committed to using the venue to improve the community. Employees can participate in a performance art mentorship program.

  • "I don't want these [scoopers] around in five years," he says. "So I make it easy for them to take gigs outside of the shop, and when they have more gigs outside the shop than in the shop, it's time for them to move on."

Bliznick also features monthly specials to benefit local nonprofits and makes the space available for community groups to meet.

  • "The City of Chicago gave me the money to build out this place, so as far as I am concerned that money belongs to the people of Chicago."

The bottom line: Bliznick hopes the "freakshow" displays in the curio room sends a message that "being different is cool."

  • "It doesn't matter what you look like or who you are — everybody has a talent, and everybody is somebody."
two guys on stage
Scooper/magician Dylan Snow with owner Jay Bliznick at Sideshow Gelato. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

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