It’s 9:30 in the morning, and I’m asking myself if it’s too early to have ice cream. I’m opting for blueberries instead of the Jeni’s Splendid in my freezer, but allow the question to demonstrate my obsession with sweets. I am an expert, and Chicago has no shortage of choices when it comes to indulging in a treat.
Thus, my list of the best places for sweets in and around Chicago. Enjoy!
Technically I’m not recommending ice cream, but rather frozen custard and gelato, and I can’t pick just one. Scooter’s Frozen Custard at 1658 W. Belmont serves up creamy, dense custard made fresh daily. The crowd gathered inside and out all summer says it all. And so does this picture.
Paciugo (Pa-choo-go) Gelato has three locations in Chicago and an awful lot of flavors. I mean a lot. Started by Italians who grew up in Italy and learned to make gelato in Turin, this is pretty authentic stuff. But if you want something exclusively Chicago, then try Black Dog Gelato at 859 N Damen Ave. But for me, Paciugo wins for freshness, flavor, and atmosphere.
Chicago has a serious shortage of pie shops. But thankfully, we have Hoosier Mama Pie Company (1618 W Chicago Ave), which is doing a fine job creating the most delicious pies in their tiny but adorable shop that looks like a mid-century country kitchen. With just two or three tables, you might end up taking your pie to go. Located a ways off the CTA blue line, it’s not the easiest place to get to, which might be a good thing, because otherwise I’d be eating a scary amount of pie.
I’ll admit it, I haven’t been to all the new doughnut shops that have popped up in the last few years. That’s because once I tried Do-Rite Donuts at 50 W. Randolph, my need to try any other kind of doughnut died right there, on the spot. I’m not a fan of doughnuts, generally speaking, but these doughnuts transcend the typical fried dough and become something completely different, and utterly amazing. Try the Cinnamon Crunch and the Old-Fashioned Buttermilk.
There are a lot of cupcake shops in Chicago, and you really can’t go wrong at any of them. But my favorites are Sugar Bliss at 115 N. Wabash and Sweet Mandy B’s at 1208 W. Webster Avenue. Sugar Bliss wins for overall deliciousness, with a substantial cake texture that holds up to the creamy frosting. But Sweet Mandy B’s wins for their irresistible, buttery frosting. Yum!
National Geographic called Chicago-based Vosges one of the ten best chocolates in the world, and we’re lucky enough to have storefronts on Michigan Avenue and in Lincoln Park, as well as O’Hare. If you can’t get to one of the “boutiques,” you can find Vosges chocolate bars and their less-expensive but equally delicious Wild Ophelia brand all over town—just check the website. My favorite is the New Orleans Chili dark chocolate bar, which has a crazy chili flavor that just shouldn’t work in a chocolate bar but really, really does.