Celebrate the end of summer by biting into an iconic Chicago summer treat! Here are three sweet summery treats that you'll only find in Chicago.
Original Rainbow Cone
9233 S. Western Avenue
Joseph Sapp grew up in Ohio as an orphan on a work farm. Whenever he managed to save up a few pennies, he would treat himself to a simple ice cream cone, dreaming of the day when he could afford a giant cone piled with scoops of every flavor under the rainbow. As an adult, he worked as a Buick mechanic by day, aspiring ice cream maker by night. In 1926, he opened Original Rainbow Cone, together with wife Katherine.
Always forward thinking, Sapp chose to build his shop at the corner of 92nd Street and Western Avenue, correctly predicting that Western Avenue would soon become a major roadway as Chicago extended farther south. Today, Original Rainbow Cone stands as one of Chicago's oldest ice cream shops.
You can also find a newer, smaller Original Rainbow Cone stand at Navy Pier. To this day, summer nights in the city call for an original rainbow cone. Stacked with horizontal layers of chocolate, strawberry, Palmer House, pistachio and orange sherbet atop a wafer cone, the original rainbow cone is an iconic Chicago summer treat.
Mario's Italian Lemonade
1066 W. Taylor Street
When little Mario DiPaolo was in kindergarten, he was so rambunctious his parents decided to put his energy to work. Mario's dad parked a shaved ice maker in front of their little storefront and Mario happily hand-cranked his way to fame.
Though Mario's no longer uses the hand-crank method, and though a cup of Mario's old-fashioned lemonade ices no longer cost two cents a cup, when Mario's Lemonade re-opens every year in May, summertime in Chicago can officially commence.
Mario's Italian lemonade is an Americanized take on the traditional Italian granita, slushy, shaved ice flavored with fruity syrups. Originally Mario only offered one flavor—lemon—and to this day lemon is the most popular of the bunch, as well as the base of every other flavor, which run the range of the fruit rainbow.
Mario's original stand-alone shaved ice maker has been replaced by a wooden lemonade stand on 1066 W. Taylor Street. Since there is no seating in-house, patrons take over the curbs or just mill about and make do on foot, giving the Mario's experience the feel of a summer block party. Mario's closes every September, marking the end of the season with yet more memories made sitting on the curb and dipping into an Italian ice with family and friends, new and old.
1960 N. Western Avenue
Nothing says summer quite like a sundae from Margie's Candies, with its three jumbo scoops of housemade vanilla ice cream, swirls of whipped cream, rich, sprinkling of nuts, wafer cookie and of course, a cherry on top. The hot fudge arrives in a silver sauce boat, so you can swirl it on as you prefer, and scrape off every last sweet bit with a spoon.
Margie's Candies has been placing cherries atop sundaes and life since 1921, when Peter George Poulos opened an ice cream parlour on the corner of Milwaukee and Armitage. It wasn't officially called Margie's Candies until 1933, when George married his sweetheart, Margie Michaels.
Anyone who's anyone in the city of Chicago has sneaked in for sundaes. Al Capone enjoyed the Black Walnut Sundae; the Beatles dug into an Atomic Sundae. Though Margie's serves all your diner favorites, including tuna-salad sandwiches, patty melts and grilled cheeses, sundaes are the stars of the menu. Served in giant white clamshell shaped dishes, all sundaes come with a silver pitcher filled with delectable, warm, housemade caramel or hot fudge sauce.
The Turtle Split—three scoops of French Vanilla and bananas topped with whipped cream and kettle-fresh caramel and fudge sauce—is always a classic, while Margie's Melody—a whimsical sundae combination of ice cream flavors topped with marshmallow sauce, whipped cream, nuts and of course, a cherry—has been a Margie's favorite since the 1940's.
Only the most daring patrons have what it takes to conquer the World's Largest Sunday, a half gallon of ice cream with flavors reminiscent of the tropics. It's even sweeter if you share the happiness that is a Margie's sundae—so remember to ask for two spoons!
Photo of Margie's storefront courtesy of City of Chicago, Dept. of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. Photo of Mario's by Adam Alexander.