A fun thing I did this summer was don sackcloth and sit outside the Happy Place pop-up exhibition, offering to reveal the exact time and cause of death for each person that exited. I didn’t end up in many selfies, but I did my best to reset an appreciation for the malignant horror of the moment.
A more genuine Instagram trap opened in the waning days of summer that has me feeling more cheerful. Pretty Cool Ice Cream is a twee Logan Square ice cream parlor from Dana Salls Cree, the ace pastry chef and author of last year’s cookbook Hello, My Name Is Ice Cream, whose talents over the years could only be appreciated with reservations at posh spots like Noma, Alinea, Blackbird, Avec, and various other outposts in the One Off Hospitality empire. A few years ago Cree teased the masses with the potential of going retail with her flavored milks, yogurts, and frozen treats at the never realized 1871 Dairy, but until now, her work was a rare indulgence.
There’s no scooping at Pretty Cool, which traffics strictly in novelty pops that are at once inventive and nostalgic. The variety is dazzling: mustered like soldiers in the frozen display cases, the offerings include chocolate-covered custard bars (caramel-potato chip, coffee-pretzel-toffee); dairy-free “truck pops,” unlikely to encourage “Turkey in the Straw” earworms (cherry-pineapple, pink lemonade); vegan “plant pops” (banana-horchata, matcha-mint); kid-size “pony pops” (cookie monster, bubble gum); fruity buttermilk-based bars (roasted nectarine, black raspberry); and lysergically colored party pops coated in vivid magic shell and sprinkles.
It’s an almost overwhelming selection that almost led me to a panic attack during my first visit, which I staved off on a follow-up with a cooler that I packed with everything from a “MacArthur Park”-worthy green-apple party pop to the very adult Arnold Palmer to the peach-buttermilk bar with its keen fermented tang.
This is all set in a kid-friendly Wonkaesque environment with magnetized lettering on the walls and bamboo bleachers like the story room in a children’s library. The bubblegum-pink facade also looks in on the kitchen, where you can watch Cree and company in production and R&D modes, which has already led to disruptions like peanut butter-banana-hemp doggy pops and wild huckleberry bars made with Washington State fruit that are likely to keep this happy place’s Instagram tags populated all winter long.
Pretty Cool Ice Cream, 2353 N. California, 773-697-4140, prettycoolicecream.com.