One of the most enjoyable ways to stay cool in the middle of a central Illinois summer is to indulge in a little ice cream—or frozen yogurt or custard. There are plenty of places to find ice cream around town, but we chose to focus on four local companies that do things a bit differently than the big chain guys—and enjoy a devoted following as a result. We predict you’ll soon be craving one of these cool, creamy treats, too.

The Spotted Cow

The Spotted Cow is famous in central Illinois for its homemade ice cream—a recipe that’s brought the company so much success that it now has several locations throughout the area. At the Peoria Heights location, where we sampled the tasty offerings, the scoopers said the most popular ice cream flavors are butter pecan and “moo-newer” (Belgian chocolate and Snickers candy). Blue wave (blue raspberry ice cream) is a popular pick with kids.

Featured treat: Waffle Cone with bubble gum, blue wave, and mint chocolate chip ice cream—topped with whipped cream, sprinkles, and a cherry. Editor’s note: as a personal challenge, art director Mandy Barrett finished the entire cone (including a fourth ice cream scoop not visible)—after she shot the photos she wanted, of course.

 

Ice Cream Shack


It seems no matter what time of the day or evening you visit the Ice Cream Shack, located at 2313 NE Adams, it’s swamped with people. Fortunately, the line moves quickly, and the portions are enough to satisfy even the biggest ice cream fan. Why is it such a popular destination? It could have something to do with its vast menu of ice cream and frozen yogurt treats, including non-fat French vanilla yogurt. The Wizard (their take on a Blizzard) seems to attract a lot of attention. Co-owner Claudia Smith said one of the most popular Wizard choices is the Freight Train Wizard, a concoction that’s made with nine different candies including favorites such as Oreos, Snickers, and M&Ms.

Featured treat: Strawberry Shortcake with strawberry sauce, whipped cream, and a cherry.

Lonny’s Dairyland

Located on West Farmington Road, Lonny’s Dairyland serves up homemade frozen soft-serve custard, which owner Lonny O’Bryant said is unique to Peoria. You can get custard other places in town, but he insists it’s his honey-flavored base that makes his recipe impossible to find anywhere else. Flavors include vanilla, chocolate, lemon, and strawberry. But if you can’t decide which flavor to order, try a twist cone: vanilla can be twisted with any of the other three flavors. Also on the custard menu are Barnstormers (also similar to Blizzards) and hand-dipped custard bars. O’Bryant said the most popular items include anything “turtle,” such as a Turtle Barnstormer or a Turtle Delight.

Featured treat: Twist Cone with strawberry and vanilla custard and sprinkles on top.

 

Emo’s

Perhaps no other central Illinois ice cream destination is as iconic as Emo’s. Much as the robin heralds the arrival of spring, people lined up under the big, friendly clown atop its building at the corner of War Memorial and Prospect starting in April means summer is here—even if the calendar and the weather say otherwise. What keeps people coming back year after year are Emo’s familiar, comforting favorites such as Banana Splits and Turtle Sundaes. Its Crumb-y Shake (again, a Blizzard-like treat) has proven to be long-standing winner, with the most popular choices being Oreo, banana split, strawberry shortcake, and Reese’s.

Featured treat: Banana Split with three sauces, whipped cream, nuts, and a cherry. a&s