#969: The Original

August 20th, 2018


The strip malls grew up around the ice cream.


It’s called Original Rainbow Cone, but I don’t know why they felt it necessary to add the “Original.” This isn’t a New York pizza place, Oregon-based chain of pancake houses or any other place that needs to declare itself “original” because it isn’t.

It’s the Original Rainbow Cone because it’s the only damn one.

PALMER HOUSE (New York Vanilla with cherries and walnuts)

According to Rainbow Cone’s website — the surest source of information on how any company wishes it could see itself — the location was chosen to hit the return traffic from Chicagoans hitting rural cemeteries on the weekends. A cold treat after cold graves.

They opened in 1926. It’s the 92nd year at 92nd Place and Western Avenue.


Sure, there are other ways to get it. There’s a Rainbow Cone at Navy Pier, I hear tell. They do a booth at the Taste of Chicago.

But the they who say things say the only real way to get that Rainbow treat of five seemingly disparate flavors slapped on one cone like a wedge is to head down to Beverly and wait in a long line on a hot day. That’s the best, they say.

I wouldn’t know. I’d never had it.


We went down to Original Rainbow Cone, a road trip to the miles of strip mall that grew up where grieving families once stopped for post-graveyard treats. We waited for friends and chatted as this year’s crop of smiling summer-job teens scooped wedges.

In the heat out back, after a photo op for some Beverly-born relatives of my wife, the cone licked and drooled over my hand. We had to eat quickly, racing against the melt.

It tastes like tradition, I guess, or some other dramatic intangible. It tastes like summer days and kids’ laughter. More concretely, it tastes like orange sherbet, pistachio, New York vanilla with cherries and walnuts, strawberry and a layer of chocolate, flavors I’ve never had together before and can never have anywhere else. 

Read about a summer tradition of fire and hula

And one of drums and communion

The Flutes of Aïn Draham

What's this?

You are currently reading #969: The Original by Paul Dailing at 1,001 Chicago Afternoons.

  • -30-