Cinnamon Stick Soft Serve at Grahamwich ($4.00)
Taking the term "à la mode" to an extreme, the Cinnamon Stick is extremely reminiscent of apple pie. The roasted apple, pie crust, and gooey salted caramel elevate one of the best soft serves that I've had the pleasure of tasting. From the flavor, richness, and texture (this soft serve forms stiff peaks that hold), this is my new go-to place for soft serve.
Fries and Ice Cream Course at El Ideas
Inspired by his daughter, and every child who has dipped his or her French fries into a McDonald's sundae or Wendy's Frosty, Chef Foss' whimsical take on fries and ice cream not only evokes childhood memories, but tastes divine. Soft serve vanilla ice cream is piped, cannoli-style, into a fried potato tube and served in warm potato soup. The contrasts of flavors, textures, temperatures make this a truly memorable dish.
Mexican Soft Serve at Xoco ($4.50)
While this masterful rendition of Mexican vanilla soft serve is partly sweetened with agave nectar, giving it a roundness on the palate, the true stars here are really the two homemade chocolate components—ganache and chocolate pasilla brownie. And just to be clear, while the accoutrements are house-made, the chocolate itself is also roasted, winnowed, and ground in-house. But if you're not in the mood for the dark stuff, the soft serve is also available with either a supremely buttered salted caramel sauce with a pepita bacon streusel or a seasonal side (in this case, blueberries and raspberries).
Affogato at The Purple Pig
Usually, the gianduja chocolate soft serve doesn't need much to shine, but it's definitely difficult to say no to salted caramel crumble and a shot of espresso. The mocha-esque dessert is creamy, crunchy, and chock full of flavor, making it the perfect ending to any meal at The Purple Pig.
Soft Serve with Thai Basil and Coconut Crunch at Yusho ($5.50)
Like every dish at Yusho, the soft serve is lighter and more subtly flavored than you have any right to expect from a yakitori-inspired joint. In fact, it's so refreshing this could almost pass as Italian ice or froyo—if it weren't so smooth. The Thai basil is nice, but the coconut crunch balls are the real find, admirably living up to their very accurate name.
Bacon Chocolate Chip Soft Serve at Belly Shack ($4)
With the trend of putting bacon on absolutely everything winding down, now is a great time to step back and appreciate the cases when the crispy pork strips genuinely did improve a dish. That's the case with the bacon chocolate soft serve at Belly Shack, which never seems unwieldy or too fatty. Instead, the crumpled bacon bits add a small burst of salty, porky goodness, while also breaking up the smooth soft serve.
Jameson Soft Serve at The Boiler Room ($3)
Included recently on our list of 5 Boozy Treats We Love in Chicago, Lindsey Becker had this to say about the alcoholic offering: "For the true whiskey-lover, this velvety soft serve is ideal if you've ever thought to yourself: 'This shot of Jameson is great and all, but what would really make my day is if it were just a tad sweeter and I could eat it with a spoon.'