Jul 13, 2023 - Food and Drink

Top soft serve ice cream spots in the Chicago area

green tea swirly ice cream

Green tea soft serve in a fish waffle cone at Taiyaki in Lakeview. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

Even with all the fancy gelato and premium ice cream out there, for some of us, summer isn't complete without swirly soft serve.

Whether you're looking to relive the Dairy Queen or Tastee Freeze memories of your youth or going with the hipster new stuff, Chicago's got soft serve for you.

Taiyaki Chicago

2468 N Clark St. — Lincoln Park

Monica's pick: Matcha soft serve piped into the mouth of a waffle fish half-filled with sweet red adzuki beans at Taiyaki Chicago ($8.76).

  • I skipped the chocolate, caramel or condensed milk sauces for an adorable skewer of chewy rainbow mochi balls and a wafer straw.
  • Yes it's pricey — and TBH, the ice cream doesn't taste much like matcha — but how often can you slurp ice cream from a fish waffle?

BabyGold Barbecue

A purple and white soft serve swirl in a black cup.
Soft serve at BabyGold Barbecue in Berwyn. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

6613 Roosevelt Rd. Berwyn

Monica's honorable mention: I loved the dish of creamy combo swirled soft serve she got during the American Music Festival next door to this hot west suburban joint.


1659 N Ashland Ave. — Wicker Park

Carrie's pick: Old school all the way for me so I'm in for any place that has a picture of the cone withand the yummy vanilla swirls mounted on top, I'm in! But a special shout out to Chopper's on Ashland and Wabansia. They don't have cones but it's a heaping cup of the good stuff ($1.70).

  • I like straight vanilla but a little chocolate syrup is a nice touch. It has to start melting as soon as they hand it to you. That’s how you know it’s creamy, not icy.

Jeff's Red Hots

3901 N Cicero Ave. — Portage Park

ice cream cone
A swirl from Jeff’s Red Hots, and the cone was fresh too! Photo: Carrie Shepherd/Axios

Carrie's honorable mention: I definitely forget that the neighborhood hot dog joint also has soft serve, usually for milkshakes. Jeff's Red Hots in Portage Park has the classic chocolate-vanilla swirl ($1.69 — cash only!).


1159 W Taylor St. — Near UIC

1632 W Division St. — Wicker Park

orange ice cream cone
Dreamsicle-inspired flavor at Kurimu. Photo: Justin Kaufmann/AxiosFoo

Justin's pick: Soft serve stirs up deep nostalgia in me, thanks to growing up with the cones at Bobby Jo's in Wonder Lake.

Yes, but: I can't ignore the offerings at Kurimu on Taylor Street.

  • The Japanese-inspired ice cream dazzles your taste buds with unique flavors like Butterfly Pea Vanilla, Watermelon Delight and Mandarin Orange (pictured above).
  • They change the flavors regularly, so you just have to go with it ($6.95 for a swirl cone).

Of note: They have another location on Division Street in Wicker Park and one in the Woodfield Mall area in Schaumburg.

Lickity Split

6056 N. Broadway Ave. Edgewater

7000 N. Western Ave. Rogers Park

Reader Hanna K. enthusiastically recommended this spot, which has locations in Edgewater and West Ridge.

Dairy Star

3472 W Devon Ave. — Lincolnwood

Mike C. touts the toppings at this Lincolnwood ice cream shop.

Paul F. notes that "they even provide a hose in the back to wash your hands after indulging in the sweet treats."

Vaca's Creamery

2324 W Giddings St. — Lincoln Square

1436 W Blackhawk St. — Wicker Park

Brown paper cup filled with swirl of ice cream covered in peanut butter sauce.
Vanilla with peanut butter shell from Vaca's Creamery. Photo: Carrie Shepherd/Axios

This vegan spot was a favorite of a few readers.

  • "All of their ice cream is plant-based, but it's beloved by all," Devon B. says. "They have seasonal monthly flavors and fun sundaes and shakes."

Polar Bear

7901 Cermak Rd. — North Riverside

Connie B. says go for old-school swirl cone dipped in chocolate but stay for "delicious variations on cones, blitzes, and sundaes."

Honorable mentions

Hole in the Wall Custard Shoppe: Barbara W. says in addition to having great ice cream, this Oak Park spot "serves up a swirl of [childhood] memories, too."

Glenview Dairy Bar: Timothy P.'s fave is a large vanilla/chocolate swirl cone with crunch coat!

Sugar Shack: Loreal R. says this Armour Square spot has great soft serve, and even funnel cake sundaes and fried Oreos!

Jarling's Custard Cup: This Champaign shop serves fresh soft serve daily, according to reader Mark M. He loves the grasshopper snowstorm.

Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

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