The PopCulteer
July 28, 2023

Today we have a photo essay of a very special place in the Windy City. On our recent trip back to Chicago we made it a point to stop at the highly-recommended Sideshow Gelato, which as the name implies, is a combination of a great Gelato place with an old school sideshow exhibition.

Gelato is Italian ice cream, which uses more milk and less cream, and no egg yolks, so it has a denser texture with less air, and richer flavor due to having less fat.

We were there on a weekday afternoon, so while we saw the stage and most of the attractions, we didn’t get to see any performers or films or anything. Still, the Gelato was fantastic, on par with Charleston’s own Caffe Romeo, and the decor and attractions were priceless.

I first heard about this place from Mitch O’Connell, who was lucky enough to attend a sneak preview right before they opened. Later, Mel saw where they were carrying Penn Jilette’s own Gelato creation. The fact that it’s just half a block from the heart of Lincoln Square, one of our favorite places to go in Chicago, meant that we were destined to try it out.

Lincoln Square is home to Quake Collectibles, Laurie’s Planet of Sound, Enjoy-an Urban General Store, Merz Apothocary and Giddings Plaza, which is where I filmed Tautologic for RFC 217.

Sideshow Gelato is literally just across the street and past the Walgreens from this Mecca of coolness in Chicago. It’s technically in Lincoln Square, but everything else I mentioned is along one really cool stretch.

Now, when I say “sideshow,” I mean the really cool, freaky stuff like two-headed babies, monkey-fish carcasses, life-sized photos of the world’s tallest man–classic carnival sideshow material. Plus the decor is terrific. The tables are decorated with vintage and new magic show posters. There are cool books and T-shirts and stuff for sale. I don’t want to give away all the secrets of Sideshow Gelato, so we’re a bit skimpy on the sideshow attractions. If you’re curious, you’ll just have to go there yourself.

Also, I didn’t get any photos of the Gelato itself. It was over 90 degrees that day, and once we had Gelato in our hands, eating it took priority over photographing it.

And did I mention the Gelato itself is great?

Here’s how cool this place looks…

This is where the Gelato lives…until they give it to you to eat.

You may have noticed that I capitalized “Gelato” in this entire post. It’s so good that it demands the extra respect.

Behind the colorful counter and with just a glimpse of the cool ceiling.

If you choose, you can eat your Gelato in a retired Scrambler car.

The performance area, which was not in use while we were there.

One of the cool magic poster tables. Each one was different.

Cool, mostly inedible, stuff for sale.

What the sign says. You can educate yourself while you’re here.

I don’t want to give away too much, but I couldn’t resist showing you the FeeJee Mermaid.

This table was loaded with QR codes filled with wild stories.

Your humble blogger, crotch-high to the world’s tallest man.

This why we don’t ride coach on Amtrak any more.

Cool Chicago-area photos of sideshow performers.

Having ingested the delicious Gelato and viewed the mysterious artifacts, we found ourselves back out on the street, looking back in.

And that is this week’s PopCulteer. Check back every day for fresh content, even while your humble blogger is running all over the country doing cool stuff.