Ice Cream Social

(Emilie Shumway)

The truck for Shawn Michelle’s Homemade Ice Cream sits tucked away under the pavilion of Kimbark Plaza at 53rd and Kimbark Avenue. Parked oddly between Leona’s and CVS, the powder blue truck’s painted-on slogan, “Best Homemade Ice Cream in the World,” is difficult to make out from across the plaza.

From behind the truck’s tiny order window, the server calls out to some passersby, “Want to sample some homemade ice cream?” Shawn Michelle’s is out of a handful of flavors even though it is barely four in the afternoon, but that does not stop the employee from doling out liberal samples of what he has left.

The menu consists of sixteen flavors, most of which contain the word “supreme.” The flavors range from the basic Vanilla Supreme to the more adventurous Jamaican Rum Raisin Supreme to the mysteriously named Melanin Magic (which, it turns out, is Shawn Michelle’s take on chocolate, with a hint of mint and cookies ‘n’ cream). But the menu is in no way fixed; there is a host of experimental and rotating flavors beckoning the courageous.

For $3.95 and up, you can get varying quantities of ice cream pre-scooped into styrofoam cups. Perhaps a traditionalist would find the lack of cones a disappointment, but the ice cream is more than capable of standing on its own. Less creamy and heavy than, say, a tub of Breyers ice cream, the flavors have a way of melting away on your tongue. Lacking the preservatives of store-bought ice cream (but none of the sugar), the ice cream is about as fresh and rich as it gets.

Owner Yahya Muhammad came up with the name as a way to commemorate his sister, Shawn Michelle. Herself a chef, Shawn Michelle was killed in a car crash in 1999. Muhammad has been making ice cream since his college days, and his concoctions were given many names before Muhammad settled on Shawn Michelle’s Homemade Ice Cream.

After several years of struggle, the business began to establish itself, and now it is really starting to take off. Shawn Michelle’s storefront is located in Blue Island, a southwest suburb. The truck used to traverse the route from Hyde Park back to its home base at 119th and Western Avenue on a daily basis. However, last fall the truck took up a more permanent residence at Kimbark Plaza, much to the benefit of Hyde Parkers. The truck has been parked there since October, with intentions of staying year round. The hours have been constantly renegotiated, but the truck is currently open from 9am to 9pm, Wednesday through Sunday. After braving out the long winter months, Shawn Michelle’s is gearing up for the summer season as the only ice cream vendor in Hyde Park, outside of the occasional roving ice cream truck blaring some worn-out variation of “The Entertainer” from its speakers.

You would have to sample a lot of pints to determine whether Shawn Michelle’s really is “The Best Homemade Ice Cream in the World,” as the truck proudly proclaims. But on a hot summer day in Hyde Park, it might as well be.