Photos: Camil Sanchez-Polumbo
Siena Tavern (51 W. Kinzie St.)
$3 $5 each
Fifteen flavors of gelato. Seriously. Pastry chef Amy Arnold hand churns the treats each night, mixing top-sellers like maple mascarpone, lemon and olive oil, and even birthday cake (above). Since the restaurant's opening this year, pistachio has become the most beloved flavor, served in a cold spinning saucer with mashed pistachio and satisfying nuttiness in each bite.
bellyQ (1400 W. Randolph St.)
Soft serve may be best known as Dairy Queen's domain (and rightly so), but this redefined Asian barbeque spot edges out the fast-food franchise with cold glasses of its own creamy version. BellyQ's vanilla blend marries equal amounts of milk and coconut water, creating a light, yet full, taste. Cast with fresh toppings, the desserts appear as absolute craft. The PB + J combination revamps a childhood favorite with huckleberry compote and French imported peanut butter, mixed with tiny flour crisps for a delightful crunch. You don't have to be a kid to love it.
Butcher & the Burger (1021 W. Armitage Ave.)
Get custard in classic vanilla, chocolate, and an alternating weekly flavor at Butcher & the Burger. Fusing the aerated custard with chunks of housemade double chocolate and oatmeal cookies, Butcher & the Burger's cookies-and-cream is a fluffy, tasty version of a classic Midwest indulgence.
Little Goat Diner (820 W. Randolph St.)
Find a twist on this classic summer treat at Little Goat Diner, Chicago's worst-kept secret in dining. The Smoked Pork and Toffee Crunch milkshake may sound alien, but the savory gelato gives a nice balance to this tall, whippy drink. Sweet and salty toffee bits hide beneath a yummy layer of whipped cream.
Little Market Brasserie (10 E. Delaware Pl.)
A milk and cookies sundae is the perfect way to spend a sublime afternoon on Little Market's patio. This Gold Coast spot's take on classic is a soft-serve swirl and a chocolate chip cookie made with 70 percent dark chocolate. It tastes great, and it's distinguished by a focus on simplicity and no fuss—aside from the cheeky in-house Magic Shell you douse on top.
Two (1132 W. Grand Ave.)
$8 for trio
With an array of refreshing sorbets, this spot celebrates all things local and homemade. Mango, lime mint, and Nichols Farm strawberry round out the deep bowl freckled by the strangely named (yet delicious) Puppy Chow. Each spoonful is a sharp change, from the jolting iciness of the lime to the silky texture of the mango. As owner Yamandú Perez says, "What you taste is what the fruit gives."