Top 5 places in Chicagoland to cool off your mouth

June 2, 2011

Yet another Chicago transition season where we've gone from a series of horrible, cloudy, rainy and cold days - aka Spring - directly into Summer. This week's forecast has me (probably somewhat prematurely) clamoring for all manner of things cool, icy and sweet. Here are my top 5, although really, the order is somewhat interchangeable.

1. Homer's Ice Cream, 1237 Green Bay Rd., Wilmette; 847-251-0477
Quite simply, the best locally-made, super-premium (butterfat content of 14-16%) ice cream. Margie's isn't even close anymore.

2. Black Dog Gelato, 859 N. Damen Ave., 773-235-3116
I just love Jesse Oloroso's way with alternative, out-of-the-box ingredients like cashews, sesame and figs.

3. Italian Ice from Johnnie's, 7500 W. North Ave., Elmwood Park, 708-452-6000; also, 1935 S. Arlington Hts. Rd., Arlington Heights, 847-357-8100
They come for the smooth, creamy ice almost as much as they do for the legendary Italian beef and sausage. I can't have one without the other.

4. Zarlengo's, 257 W. Joe Orr Rd., Chicago Heights; 708-754-9080
Choices are difficult here: soft serve? Italian ice? Ice cream? Gelato? Novelties? This shoebox of a joint has it all (in almost every flavor imaginable).

5. Miko's Italian Ice, 1846 N. Damen Ave., 773-645-9664; also, 3000 W. Lyndale, same phone number.
I just went on Tuesday this week, and was blown away by how good the ice here has become. They told me it's because the ice was made earlier in the day, as opposed to the day before, which makes all the difference. We especially loved the raspberry and passion fruit flavors.

Honorable Mentions:
Soft serve at Belly Shack, 1912 N. Western Ave., 773-252-1414, especially the Vietnamese Caramel (the key is using coconut water in the vanilla mix for the soft serve), Scooter's Custard, 1658 W. Belmont Ave., 773-244-6415, and Capannari's Ice Cream, 10 S. Pine St., Mount Prospect, 847-392-2277.

DQ - what can I say? Too many fond memories of post-game little league Dilly Bars and Peanut Buster Parfaits.