Bode Nels, left, and Emmett Ball, both age 10, enjoy their scoops outside Hartigan’s on Central Street.Photo by Saskia Teterycz

The ice cream sundae, the ice cream cone and ice cream itself are loved by all and consumed by many. Throughout the hot Evanston summers, it is the one thing that easily settles on Evanston residents’ minds as they desert the beaches and move toward the City streets for a refreshing treat. With Evanston’s abundance of ice cream parlors, the hardest part about enjoying ice cream is deciding where to enjoy it first.

Each individual store gives ice cream its own identity, whether it be Hartigan’s, and the warm, comfortable sense of summer it gives its customers, or maybe Andy’s Frozen Custard, jam-packed with families and friends throughout the evening.

The community has welcomed some newer ice cream stores in recent years, and no one is complaining. Michigan-based Kilwin’s, with its old-style American decor, gives its customers a real sense of what it’s like to enjoy the treat in a traditional way.

With a long summer ahead, Evanston residents can look forward to enjoying Kilwin’s right at home.

Not as new to Evanston as Kilwin’s, Frio Gelato has continued to make a splash since 2013. Originating in Evanston, the gourmet gelato parlor has even expanded into neighboring Chicago and continues to turn heads even there. Its Argentinian flavor gives the community a break from regular ice cream.

There are Evanston classics that are loved and consumed by all. Hartigan’s, Andy’s, YoFresh, C+W Market and Coldstone Creamery are musts when it comes to ice cream. Though some must travel far north to Central Street or all the way to South Boulevard, the trip seems to be worth it when it comes to finding the perfect treat to share with friends and family.

The Evanston History Center will host its annual ice cream social on July 27 with a twist – frozen yogurt from Yo Fresh. This free community gathering invites people from all around Evanston to bond over frozen treats and live music activities for kids.

Although there may be some national dispute, this community still maintains its certainty an Evanstonian was in fact the creator of the ever-popular ice cream sundae. Two Rivers, Wis., and Ithaca, N.Y., also claim they are the sole home of the treat.

Several Midwestern states and municipalities banned the distribution and consumption of alcohol and soda water on Sunday, and Evanston was one of the first towns to pass such a law. From then on, ice cream parlors – then called “soda fountains” – began to dedicate Sunday as the one day a week they would serve the ice cream sundae – all the ingredients of a regular ice cream soda without the soda. This left only ice cream and syrup for customers to consume.

As demand for the dessert continued to increase and sell on weekdays, Methodist leaders in Evanston protested in naming the treat after the Sabbath, so the distributors changed the spelling of “Sunday” to “Sundae” as a play on words.  

While Two Rivers continues to get most of the credit for the invention, Evanstonians are unwavering in their belief that the sundae could not have been created anywhere other than here. With such a historical landmark, it is no wonder that ice cream is such a staple to the City.

Eating ice cream may seem on the surface to be just an activity to relax with at the end of long and hot days. But it may in fact be what really brings diverse residents of Evanston together.

As something that every person can enjoy, ice cream is one of the things in this community of opinionated minds that everyone can agree on. So no matter what ice cream store is the favorite or what flavor is a must-have, this treat reminds Evanstonians of the connections to each other within the community.

According to the website “What’s Cooking America,” Evanston is not even in the running as being the birthplace of the ice cream sundae.

Two Rivers, Wis., and Ithaca, N.Y., are the major contestants in the sundae rivalry. What’s Cooking America says the dispute “dates from the 1970s with letters and barbs between the mayors of these cities [although the sundae itself dates from the 1880s]. This is definitely serious business and a matter of pride for these towns. The two cities have sparred in a good-natured ‘Sundae War’ for several decades.”

Evanston, according to website, is a late-comer to the dispute, but it is credited with naming the creation: “Evanston, Illinois (then known as Chicago’s Heaven or Heavenston) was one of the first towns to outlaw the ‘Sunday Soda Menace.’”

Evanston was a very religious town where the Sabbath was strictly observed. The town even passed an ordinance prohibiting the retailing of ice cream sodas on Sunday. According to sources published in Evanston, the sundae originated at Garwoods’ Drugstore. In order for people to continue getting their ice cream treats, some creative person turned it into a sundae instead. They did not serve ice cream sodas. They served sodas without soda on Sunday. The Evanston Women’s Christian Temperance Union championed it as a pleasant alternative to alcoholic drinks. Richard Lloyd Jones, former editor and publisher of the Tulsa Tribune, wrote the following in an article he wrote on the history of the ice cream sundae:

“There are at least half a dozen communities in America that claim the Sundae as their own; another famous etymology traces the ice cream sundae to Ithaca, New York. But Evanstonians would like to believe the word belongs to them. The Evanston Review once wrote: ‘While Ithaca may have had the sundae as early as 1897, as the chamber of commerce there claims, it obviously got there by two means. Either some Northwestern student brought it home with him or a Cornell student from Evanston took it there.’”