Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Rainbow Cone shines up north, too


     Once upon a time, in order to savor the quintipartite joys of an Original Rainbow Cone, you had to somehow get yourself to Beverly. Not too difficult if you were already in Beverly, or near it, or at least on the South Side. But an insurmountable hurdle to guys like me, far, far away from the Pepto Bismol-pink ice cream shop at 9233 S. Western Ave.
     Then Rainbow began popping up at Taste of Chicago, where I first tried the five-layer frozen delight, perhaps the pinnacle of the Chicago ice cream world. (Which is a small planet. There’s Margie’s hot fudge. And Lezza’s Spumoni & Desserts. And ... that’s about it, right?)
     For the unenlightened, a Rainbow Cone’s fivefold path is, from top to bottom: orange sherbet, followed by four ice creams: pistachio, Palmer House (New York vanilla with walnuts and cherries), strawberry, chocolate. As with actual rainbows, the wonder was hard to find, but that’s changing.
     The past half-dozen years, Rainbow Cone has run a summertime kiosk on Navy Pier. Last year, another opened in Lombard.
     Beginning Wednesday, deprived North Siders can partake, as Rainbow Cone opens at 3754 W. Touhy Ave. in Skokie in a symbiotic relationship with Buona Beef.
     I swung by Monday with one goal: to enjoy a Rainbow Cone — whoops, I mean, to talk to Lynn Sapp, granddaughter of founders Joe and Katherine Sapp, who opened Rainbow Cone in 1926.
     “I grew up right behind it, and my grandparents lived above it,” she said.
     Has a lifetime of proximity muted the allure?
     “No. I’ve always loved Rainbow,” she said. “It’s kinda like a drug for me.”
     But scarcity drives value. Is she concerned the proliferation of Rainbow Cones — there’s also one in Darien — will dilute the magic?

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  1. The problem is that the Touhy Ave. Buona Beef is in a really weird location & mostly hidden from the street.

    1. Perfect for the Holy Grail approach Neil has taken in his column.

      I actually spent a lot of time in Beverly with an Aunt and Uncle who lived just a few blocks from 9233 S. Western without ever tasting a rainbow cone. No matter, as a child I abhorred the very concept of mixing up ice creams in that manner. I preferred chocolate to the extent of eschewing the vanilla ice cream given me after a tonsillectomy; fudgesicles were my favorite as to things on a stick, with hot fudge Sundaes (no bananas, no sprinkles, no whipped cream, to desecrate the magic concoction) the apex of ice cream delights. At Rainbow beach, close to my 78th & Coles home, they sold something like a rainbow cone (with fewer flavors I suppose) and frozen candy bars, an abomination of the worst kind in my eyes then and now.


  2. Growing up in Skokie in the 60's, the go to ice cream destination was Cock Robin on Skokie Blvd (4800 West) between Oakton and Main Streets. Five square scoops, similar flavors, it was all the rage. Started out as Prince Castle in the 20's and grew to one of the largest chains in the midwest until closing for good in 2007. I always thought this was the OG of funky ice cream delights.

    1. We used to go to the Prince Castle on Asbury in Evanston just north of Howard.

    2. I remember when the Prince Castle on Skokie Blvd. became Cock Robin, in the early or middle 60s. Don't recall much about the ice cream, or if it changed in quality when the name did. Mostly went for the burgers and the shakes and the fries. My mother kept right on calling it Prince Castle. She refused to use the new name. She thought it sounded profane.

      Prince Castle was several notches above White Castle.There were no White Castles on the far North Side then, or in the northern suburbs, either. Didn't eat my first sliders until the late 70s, on Elston Avenue, after a long night of drinking.

      All the White Castles in Cleveland were closed on Christmas Eve of 2014. Now I have to go all the way to Detroit or Columbus for a slider fix.The frozen ones are just not the same..

  3. The Rainbow Cone looks tasty, but do I really want orange sherbet dripping into my pistachio? No. Even though the order in which they stack the flavors makes sense, chocolate on top would be a deal breaker for me, I will start with straight pistachio when I stop by the Skokie location. I remember the square cones at Cock Robin, but Carvel in Niles was my favorite. Certified Kosher ice cream with many soft serve flavors available in addition to chocolate every other day. The Lollapalooza ice cream bars in lemon, cherry, pistachio etc. were a treat unavailable any where else at the time. I worked there as a teen and on hot days I still remember the bliss of churning the powdered chocolate into the cream mix, a 20 minute process that took place in the cooler. The aroma of the chocolate was like a drug. JP

  4. I'm a Southsider and lived west of Beverly, so it wasn't a thing for us kids until we could drive. We had the original Dove candy and fountain shop on 61st and Pulaski. If you never had an actual Dove bar, which seems to have been 2.5 larger than the current ones, my condolences. They were so big we actually split them in two.

  5. Surprised that none of the southsiders are mentioning the old Gertie's that I thought was at 63rd and something or other, though googling it places it at 59th and Kedzie.

    "And ... that’s about it, right?" Also surprised there was no push-back on that. While a signature gimmick may be missing from the menus, there are a number of swell ice cream shops around the area. Petersen's in Oak Park, Homer's in Wilmette, Massa's gelato in Elmwood Park, etc.

    I suppose it's sacrilege, but I'm with the young Tate when it comes to "the very concept of mixing up ice creams in that manner." We made a pilgrimage to the original Rainbow Cone location once and it was all right, but I've never regretted not living closer to it. (The nearby Top Notch Beefburgers, on the other hand -- that place is the real deal!) For a northsider seeking ice cream, however, one need look no further than Margie's, which received an appropriate shout-out in the column.

    1. Top Notch (on W. 95th) was a very long way from me, since I lived mid-North, and also in Evanston. But around 1990 or so, I stopped there one Saturday afternoon, before attending a sports memorabilia show in the southwest suburbs. Those "Beefburgers" just blew me away. A two-hour drive each way, in the rain and fog, but well worth the shlep. Vintage Cub collectibles, and a lunchtime that I still remember.

  6. As an original south sider all I can say is Rainbow cones are the bomb. My husband was a north sider after he had his first rainbow cone it was a yearly trek. Usually more love them best ice cream ever. For all you that don’t know you don’t have to get a rainbow cone, you can get a single flavor.


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