As Illinois begins to thaw and travelers start flocking to Route 66, ice cream parlors along The First Hundred Miles begin to plan their 2023 reopenings. Here’s a look at four of the classic ice cream shops and throwback diners serving up everything from old-school treats to moderns favorites.
565 W Jackson Blvd, Chicago 312-939-3111
Even before the opening of Route 66, Lou Mitchells’ location at Jackson Boulevard has been feeding hungry travelers and commuters since 1923. With the opening of the route in 1926, Lou’s was and is conveniently located at that very same spot, almost 100 years later. Besides getting a great breakfast and lunch, did you know that Lou Mitchell’s serves up some great soft serve?
Try an old-fashioned root beer float known as a ‘Black Cow’ or enjoy one of their classic shakes and malts made with fresh bananas, strawberries or a combination of the two. Lou Mitchell’s is a great starting point to your journey along The First Hundred miles, you’ll find plenty of nearby parking, official Route 66 signage and great prices.
Eleven City Diner
1112 S. Wabash Ave., Chicago
The Eleven City Diner, a Chicago staple for deli delicacies and American fare, is also home to some of the most authentic throwback ice cream treats. The perfect spot to kick off your culinary road trip across The First Hundred Miles, Eleven City Diner still offers old-fashioned counter service, complete with a throwback soda fountain.
On the dessert menu, you’ll find rare classics like a delectable Brooklyn-style egg cream, alongside tried-and-true favorites like shakes, malts and ice cream floats, all crafted live by an in-house soda jerk. True Midwesterners won’t want to miss the Green River Float, made with Green River soda and vanilla ice cream. Beyond the frozen treats, you’ll find a large selection of in-house smoked meats, a full breakfast, famous deli sandwiches and a well stocked bar.
Rich & Creamy on Broadway
920 N. Broadway St, Joliet
Expected To Reopen Late March
The Rich & Creamy ice cream stand is the official starting point for historic Route 66 in Joliet. Alongside an offering of classic soft serve ice cream options, you’ll find the beautiful Route 66 Park. The walkway that snakes along the Des Plaines River is the perfect spot to stretch your legs and enjoy your ice-cold treat, before hopping back on the Mother Road for more adventures.
Snap some photos of the life-size fiberglass likenesses of Jake and Elwood Blues dancing on the roof of the nostalgic ice cream spot, just a stone’s throw away from one of “The Blues Brothers” legendary filming locations, the historic Old Joliet Prison. Follow facebook.com/richandcreamyonroute66 for opening date details.
Walt’s Ice Cream “The Original”
1314 W. Jefferson St., Joliet
Tentative Opening March 9th
Looking for some hand-dipped ice cream? Pay a visit to The Original Walt’s Ice Cream, a staple of Joliet since 1926, the same year Route 66 was opened to the public. Walt’s boasts a wide menu of over 24 flavors of hand-scooped ice cream (including the regional favorite “Superman,” the classic multi-color mix), premium sundaes, malts, shakes and frozen yogurt.
Walt’s famous Rainbow Cone, a tower of orange, vanilla, pistachio, strawberry and chocolate, is a can’t miss for connoisseurs of hand-dipped ice cream. While you’re there, pick up a bag of the gourmet popcorn, a perfect snack for traveling along Route 66.
Polk-a-Dot Drive In
222 N. Front St., Braidwood
This 1950s-inspired roadside diner, lined with fiberglass statues of your favorite characters from yesteryear, serves up delicious milkshakes, malts and much more. If you’re in the mood for some mix-ins, be sure to order an Arctic Swirl, loaded to the brim with your choice of candies. You’ll also find frozen yogurt options if you’re looking for something a little lighter.
Polk-a-Dot also features a full menu with all the drive-in classics you know and love, like burgers, malts and chili cheese fries. Inside, you’ll find jukebox booths, iconic black-and-white checkered floors, and black patent leather booths, all held together with miles of stainless steel. Dine in or enjoy the outdoor picnic tables overlooking Old 66.