What is so hard about serving hot fudge on the side? That’s the way it’s supposed to be served. That is the way it must be served. That’s the way it was served in my personal golden era of ice-cream parlors, the 1950s (feel free to do the math).

Anyone but me remember the original Cunis? Or Tally Ho? Or the elegant Johnson’s Tea Room? Those South Shore gems of my youth got it right. The hot fudge was bittersweet and slightly grainy and, most important, came to the table good and hot, in a little decanter.

The newbies I’ve visited often miss the mark. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, on Southport, committed the cardinal sin: pouring the hot fudge at the counter. The result: cooled-off fudge and melting ice cream. At Bobtail, in Lake View, what they called hot fudge was syrupy and sweet and sank to the bottom of the plastic cup. (You can ask for it on the side, but it will cost you.) Then I stopped by Margie’s Candies, a Chicago institution since 1921. To my delight, the fudge came on the side—but it was tepid. 

Thank goodness for Gayety’s, a 96-year-old stalwart in Lansing, just south of Chicago, where the housemade bittersweet fudge is kept heated in a double boiler and arrives at your table at a perfect 120 degrees—on the side!