Not Your Average Scoop Shop
Last month, Chef Dana Salls Cree opened up Pretty Cool Ice Cream, a novelty shop in Logan Square with a rotating selection of inventive ice cream bars, popsicles, sandwiches, and push-pops. Dana knows dessert—she’s traveled the world honing the craft and has worked in Michelin-starred kitchens including Wolfgang Puck’s Spago, The Fat Duck, Noma, and Alinea. She helms the pastry program for several Chicago restaurants, including Blackbird, where her work has earned two Outstanding Pastry Chef nominations from The James Beard Foundation. When she’s not writing (her first book came out in 2017) or making killer sweet treats, you might find her chilling in her Logan Square home with her Corgi, Eleanore, her Siberian cat, Bianka, and husband, Dan. We hear the story behind Pretty Cool Ice Cream and get her recommendations for what to do in the neighborhood.
Pretty Cool Ice Cream seems like a dream brought to life—there’s so much care, thought, and attention in every element of the recipes and design. How long was this plan in the works?
We started working on the business plan last September. I had been kicking around the desire to open an ice cream shop for years, and while on the book tour for Hello, My Name Is Ice Cream in 2017, visited many different kinds of ice cream shops. While in St. Louis, my friend Mathew Rice hosted an ice cream–themed bake sale featuring my book, and in his kitchen I encountered the technology to make ice cream bars. We put my cream cheese ice cream base in the molds and then dipped them in orange magic shell, and I fell in love. After that everything fell into place quickly and naturally. The design teams I met, both Franklyn and Tumu Studios, helped bring a visual aspect the shop that was better than I could have dreamed of on my own. And my business partner Michael Ciapciak was able to bring his small business acumen from his other business Bang Bang Pie to help streamline the opening. I am very lucky to have the support that I do.
What will change in-store when winter strikes Chicago? It seems difficult to make warm ice cream pops but you are very inventive.
We don’t know what the winter has in store for us. We are prepared for a contraction in sales, but believe our best customers and most die-hard fans will still eat ice cream in winter. As for menu changes, we will add seasonal flavors like candy cane and pumpkin pie.
What else should visitors check out when they’re in Logan Square?
Quiote is my favorite restaurant for dinner, but I am biased—my husband is the chef-owner. And I eat a lot of my earlier meals at Bang Bang Pie, where grits and biscuits make for the best breakfasts, and their pies are a great snack any time of the day. My consumption of pie has been curbed by a gluten allergy that developed about two years ago, but Paulee Gees has an incredible pan pizza made without wheat flour that I am hooked on. I also absolutely adore Cellar Door Provisions, Lula, and Fat Rice. And I frequent The Chicago Diner, a vegan diner around the corner from the shop. Their milkshakes are so creamy you’d never know they were missing the milk.
What’s next on the horizon for you?
I’m having my first baby November 2nd, so as far as my personal life, I imagine it will all center around the arrival of our baby girl!