Miko's Italian Ice in Logan Square
3000 West Lyndale Street, Chicago, IL 60647 (map); 773-645-9664; mikositalianice.com
The Short Order: Tart and refreshing Italian ices in dozens of flavors.
Want Fries with That? Only dessert is served.
Seats? Sometimes lawn chairs are set up on the sidewalk.
If you're looking for the entrance to Miko's Italian Ice in Logan Square, don't bother. You'll never find it. This operation only has a walk-up window, but even that description makes this all sound so much fancier than it actually is. If you inspect that window for more than a seconds, you'll notice the screen pushed up, and realize that is a regular window that looks into a garage. But rather than housing cars and tools, this garage is stocked with freezers full of Italian ice.
Instead of ramshackle or rundown, Miko's in Logan Square comes off as charming and quaint. Marked by a dark green awning and accented with colorful lights, Miko's feels more like a community lemonade stand run on the fly, than some polished operation. A few lawn chairs are set up on the narrow sidewalk, as people line up at the window.
Nine times out of ten, I get an order of the lemon ice. It's by far the most popular Italian ice flavor around town, and more than any other option, Miko's version proves why this stand is such a find. Tart and only slightly sweet, the lemon ice functions less as a dessert and more as a tool to help you cool down on a hot day. Plus, it's remarkably affordable. Pictured above is the extra small, which goes for $2.00. You can also order all the ices in small ($3.00), medium ($3.50), and large ($4.00).
Miko's also has a vast and constantly changing menu, stuffed full of intriguing and equally confusing options. While I've attempted to eat my way through as many different flavors as possible (all in the name of proper research), new options pop up faster than I can keep up. One of the best finds recently has definitely been the pineapple ice. Like the lemon, it's only mildly sweet, but it's more aggressively fruity. This also means that it's not quite as refreshing as the lemon, but that's not a bad trade-off.
Also very good is the tamarind ice, which uses just enough sugar to balance the citrusy-sour note of the tamarind paste. Sure, it looks brown and dingy, but fans of tamarind won't be surprised.
Honestly, the strawberry ice was the only one where the fresh fruit flavor didn't completely come through. By no means bad, this one just tastes a little flat, especially compared to the other flavors.
Regular readers of this column might recognize Miko's name. In the depths of winter, I stopped by Miko's Flipside, a little sandwich and soup shop on the lower level of a townhouse in Bucktown. Now that it's summer, the Flipside part of the name is gone, and the shop is back to exclusively serving Italian Ice. This second Miko's location in Logan Square (there also happens to be a third in Mobile, Alabama) closes during the winter because, well, there is nowhere to go. It's a garage in the realest sense, and like most of those, it has no heat or air conditioning. So I can't help but associate Miko's with the best of Chicago summers.
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