The kids are back in school, Labor Day is around the corner, and summer-as most of us think of it- is quickly coming to an end. Although the official first day of fall isn’t until September 22, like most summers, this one flew by. We might not have checked off everything on our summer bucket lists, but when it came to enjoying the best of summer ice cream at local ice cream shops, we did pretty well. I’ve done all the research to help you make the most of the last licks of summer!
Hole in the Wall 901 S Oak Park Ave, Oak Park
In South Oak Park it doesn’t feel quite like summer without a trip to Hole in the Wall. Most locals know all about the itty-bitty, teeny-tiny frozen custard shop and make weekly (if not daily) trips to pick up a dip top. Occasionally I will talk to friends living in different parts of Oak Park or surrounding towns who don’t know about the dimutive shop. My response is always a shocked, “You have never been to Hole in the Wall?! Oh you must go as soon as possible!” It’s cash only and ines are often down the block because only one group can fit into the small place at a time to order, but it moves quickly.
Hole in the Wall offers a variety of ice cream options. My favorites? The homemade drumsticks, homemade ice cream cookie sandwiches, and dipped custard cones. My husband often gets the freez-ins or shakes. Our daughter has tried many things. Some days she wants to order from the pictures and get something you would get from the ice cream man truck. Most days though she gets the “mixed” cone with is vanilla and chocolate swirl. Hole in the Wall is closed during the winter and late fall so get your custard fix while you still can!
Gina’s Italian Ice 6737 Roosevelt Rd, Berwyn
“Can we go to Gina’s?” is a phrase I hear often throughout the summer. My daughter says it as if we are going to a friend’s house, but really she is just clamoring for some Italian Ice. The owner, Gina or her son are always there with a friendly welcoming smile. Gina’s Italian Ice has been a local favorite for 41 years and is still under original ownership. It’s the quintessential locally owned shop; photos of fans, friends and neighbors from throughout the years line the walls adding to the neighborhood vibe.
The Italian ice is homemade from a recipe Gina learned back in Italy. Lots of love goes into making the Italian ice and it shows in the details and flavors. Watermelon and lemon are two of the most popular flavors. Personally, I love watermelon and horchata flavors. If you or the kids are more in the mood for ice cream they have that also. Gina’s is cash only and open during the warmer months usually spring to early fall.
Polar Bear, 7901 W Cermak Rd, North Riverside
I had driven past Polar Bear for years and always wanted to try it. Somehow summer always slips away and at the end of the season we say, “next year.” We’re so happy we put Polar Bear on our summer bucket list this year and got to check it off. This place is definitely in our regular ice cream rotation now!
I love a good dipped cone and the cherry dipped at Polar Bear was amazing. They offer loads of toppings for the ice cream (we can never get enough rainbow sprinkles) and I loved their waffle bowls. I haven’t seen edible bowl too often on the ice cream scene and trust me it’s the perfect mix of cone and a bowl.
I will be heading back for the turtle sundae before summer fades away. Polar Bear also has fast food options including burgers, hot dogs and nachos. I love all the little decor touches that give this place a nostalgic feeling of childhood-especially the charming polar bear and the ice cream parlor sign. Polar Bear is seasonal and is usually open late April to early October.
Petersen’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream, 1100 Chicago Ave, Oak Park
Petersen’s Ice Cream has been in the same location in Oak Park on Chicago Avenue since 1931. Their old world recipe dates back to 1919 when the first location opened in Chicago. Their famous recipe has 18% butterfat and you can really taste the difference; the chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream with filled with giant chunks of cookie dough and the ice cream was just plain creamier because of all that butterfat.
I loved the strawberry shake topped with fresh whipped cream. Petersen’s also offers sundaes, malts and of course scoops; there are many delicious flavors to choose from. The smell of freshly baked waffle cones fills the air when you walk into the Oak Park location and cozy tables are available inside and outside to enjoy your ice cream treats. Petersen’s does close for a short winter break but it is much later than most of the seasonal ice cream places.
The Brown Cow Ice Cream Parlor 7347 Madison St, Forest Park
The Brown Cow is such a fun place for a party. I have attended several birthday celebrations in their party room and love it. The build your own sundae expereince is amazing, but then again every day is a party when you get to have ice cream from Brown Cow. I love the ice cream parlor feel; being there makes me think of soda fountains of yesteryear. Of course they have floats, sodas and sundaes and they also serve pie a la mode and homemade cakes. The have vegan ice cream available which is both flavorful and satisfying.
The Brown Cow is also famous for the Trough. It’s seven pounds of ice cream! 21 scoops (one of each of our flavors) topped with mounds of whipped cream, sprinkles, nuts and a cherry. You get a t-shirt with it also. The Oak Park Eats team took on the Trough. The Trough won in the end, but it was a tasty battle. It was great to sample all the flavors. Our favorite flavors were predictable, mine was coffee and my daughter’s was chocolate chip cookie dough.