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Sundae, Sweet Sundae

Uncovering the pleasure of vanilla whippped cream.
Thursday Mar 10, 2005.     By Misty Tosh
Centerstage Chicago Nightlife City Guide Arts

With my blistering sweet tooth, it's amazing that I'm not more of an ice cream type of gal. I'll take cakes, cookies and puddings any day over a scoop of ice cream, unless it's the homemade kind. Tragically, not too many folks have been privy to homemade ice cream, the kind where you have to put all the ingredients in a big metal bucket, load it down with ice and salt and then churn 'til your hands practically bleed.

My Southern youth was riddled with lazy afternoons in the backyard, announcing to everyone that what we really need is "a big fat dish of ice cream," and then regretting it immediately when I was the one who had to haul down the behemoth ice cream maker, round up all the ingredients from all over the house (we somehow had three refrigerators), and then fetch a bucket of plump cherries from the trees that grew in the side yard. In the end, it was worth it, though. That ice cream was so chilled and flaky, its miniature paper-thin slivers of flavored ice so rich with heavy cream, bits of fresh cherries and sugar, I'd be bouncing around for hours after a bowl (or four, let's face facts)!

Talk about a cherry on top. Once you've had ice cream like that, no scoop can ever compete, and since I haven't run across such divinity much in my escapades, I have become a faithful lover of the best substitute: ice cream sundaes. One of the most addictive that I've had is at one of the best coffeehouses in the city, the Pick Me Up.

I love this place for its late hours, chilled back atmosphere, vegetarian black bean chili cheese fries and most of all, for its insanely huge brownie ice cream sundae. This thing is just nuts; it's not like at Zephyr Cafe, where all the desserts are competing to be obnoxious (though they're all incredible), but just plain ol' crazy.

Served in a deep white bowl, the bottom is first covered with chunks of soft, dark brownie, then layered with three huge scoops of vanilla ice cream and topped off with swirls of warm chocolate sauce. The capper is about a cup of vanilla whipped cream, little sugar sprinkles and a perfectly unblemished maraschino cherry. I know it all sounds simple, but when you dig into the dish and hit rock bottom with the long teaspoon, the brownie bits have beautifully caramelized from the cold of the ice cream, becoming chewy and hard at the same time. Every single bite unleashes a new face from everyone I've convinced to share one with me; really, just a parade of clown faces are unveiled, it's that brand of rapture. Beware though, sometimes, it can get ugly.

The Final Rave: Though addictive, I'm still haunted by the ice cream of my early days. If you know of a place to get totally homemade ice cream, email me immediately; I'm still on the hunt.


Read It: Sip Coffee House
When spring finally hits, grab a book and head to this popular River West hangout. Sitting in the quiet back garden with a bunch of words and an iced Dreamy Mocha is the epitome of a perfect spring day.

Eat It: Penguin
Snuggled between a string of remote storefronts, this Argentinean ice cream parlor has some of the best flavors around. If you're lucky when you go, it'll be in the midst of a raucous birthday party, which quickly turns into a sample fest for every new patron that happens through the door.

Drink It: Potbelly's
There is nothing more appealing than ordering up a veggie sandwich, extra mayo, a side of chips and a thick and creamy Potbelly's strawberry shake. Served with a little flower cookie around the straw, every version at this sandwich shop deserves an award for just simply making you happy when you see it.

Get Crazy With It: Ben & Jerry's
My dad has created the ultimate ice cream concoction out of B & J's Cherry Garcia. Take about a quart of ice cream, put it in a four-cup measuring cup as he does, add lime soda water and be prepared for bliss with a handle. For best results, prepare daily.

Can you top this with your own tale of sprinkle-topped glory? Email


Explore More

Bars & Clubs

Brand-New Bars

Brand-New Bars

Get divey on Grace; go downstairs at River North's Curio.

Food & Dining

New Restaurants

New Restaurants

Go Dutch at Vincent and satisfy a familiar sweet tooth at BomBon.

What's Happening Today
  • John Barleycorn
    $1 sliders, $18 domestic buckets, $5 4 Rebels Dragonfruit cocktails, $7 two-pound chicken wing buckets (only during post-season Bulls games)
  • Tuman's
    $3.50 Point Pale Ale drafts, $2 PBR drafts, $3 Jameson, Gentleman Jack and Jim Beam Black shots (available only during post-season Hawks games)