Whether you’re fretting about where to take that cutie you’ve been crushing on in chem for a casual coffee date or looking for a romantic anniversary dinner locale, we’ve got all the details here. We hope you enjoy reading about these date destinations as much as we enjoy writing about them and that you’ll give some of them a taste.
So, in the spirit of this selection: Let’s dig in!
Margie’s Candies, established in 1921, was recognized for having the "best ice cream" according to the Chicago Reader’s Best of Chicago Food and Drink poll this year. As avid ice cream aficionados, we decided it would be worth our while to check out this dessert diner the Chicago Reader judged “not for the weak of will.”
Restaurant: Margie’s Candies
Address: 1960 N. Western Ave.
Hours: 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 a.m., seven days a week
Getting there: approximately 40 minutes by L via the Purple Line Express, or one hour with a Red Line transfer (one stop beyond last week’s pick)
Sarah and I split a colossal Fudge Banana Split and we'll split our critiques as well: I will try to give you a sense of the portion and presentation of the food while Sarah will describe the taste. It was perhaps the most extravagant sundae I’ve ever had at a very reasonable price (less than $7). Scoops of house-made vanilla, mint chip and cherry ice cream (you pick the flavors at Margie’s) swam alongside fresh banana halves in whipped cream and homemade hot fudge. The whole dish was served in a massive china bowl shaped like a clam shell. Have I mentioned before that I’m a big fan of kitsch?
Service was timely and skillful and the people working there clearly have been for some time. Our waiter was even kind enough to waive the $2 splitting fee because the restaurant wasn’t very crowded on the weeknight we stopped in (you may be able to get away with this, but I wouldn’t count on it). However, there was a strangely solemn, almost annoyed air among the staff, as though they were reluctant to be on duty. This attitude clashed severely with Margie’s cheerful candy shop atmosphere.
First off, it is impossible to separate Margie’s food from the shop itself. This metaphor is literal in places, as much of the single room’s wall space consists of candy-lined shelves. Furthermore, Margie’s extensive menu of sundaes, splits and various ice cream creations is dripping with the same mid-century kitsch as its vinyl booths and heart-shaped wire chairs. Margie’s feels like a like a remnant of a bygone era. For better or worse, it is lodged firmly in the past and will certainly appeal, aesthetically at least, to lovers of nostalgia.
Date Factor (5/5)
To me, it’s the kitschy aura of Margie’s even more than its above-average ice cream that makes it a great place for dates. Go to Margie’s to sit in a chair that looks like it was salvaged from the set of "I Love Lucy" to eat ice cream out of Giant Clam or to inspect the Polaroids taped to the walls. It may be a bit out of the way for the average Evanstonian, but I promise that a date at Margie’s after a day in Chicago or an L ride out to Bucktown just for the occasion will be worth the trip.
While Margie’s touts itself for its homemade ice cream, I honestly couldn’t taste the difference. Don’t get me wrong, the Fudge Banana Split was perfectly decent. The banana was at the ideal stage of ripeness to complement a triumvirate of ice cream flavors and the hot fudge was most definitely homemade. That being said, it still wasn’t phenomenal. I found the appeal to be more in the value and portion size of the dessert than in the taste itself. Margie’s offers fun and creative ice cream options, but the actual ice cream is not particularly delicious (John disagrees with me on this point, but to each their own). Margie’s menu also includes a limited selection of standard diner fare, but patrons tend to pass up the meal for a meal-sized dessert. Penny-pinchers beware: Margie’s charges a $2 splitting fee for less-famished dessert seekers.
Having worked in the food service industry, I am well aware that rule number one is making the customer feel important. The wait staff at Margie’s seems to be relatively unaware of this food service tenant. While we were not painfully ignored, John and I most certainly did not feel an extension of welcoming enthusiasm. The middle-aged servers seemed to be off-put by the late operating hours of the establishment, an attitude that I believe should never be revealed to customers. I consider myself to be a generous tipper, but the service was so abysmal that I neglected to leave any sort of gratuity.
What Margie’s is missing in service, it makes up for in atmosphere. A mashup of 1920s and 1950s nostalgia, Margie’s embodies the zeitgeists of several bygone eras. Margie’s opened in 1921 and the large candy cases around the restaurant bring to mind an early 20th Century candy shop. The candy-making equipment visible from the window showcases the preservation of a skill that has commonly been replaced by mass manufacturing. Margie’s is a quaint ice cream parlor with an adorable atmosphere. It is a pity that the service doesn’t match this wonderful aspect of Margie’s.
Date Factor (3.5/5)
Margie’s Candies is a unique date destination. Its dessert-centric menu is an entertaining escape from the traditional dinner date. On the downside, the only sensible option is dessert. Health-conscious diners must be prepared to forego any semblance of nutrition for a fat-filled, calorie-rich and decadent dessert. The round-trip L ride is not enough to warrant one ice cream sundae in my book, so try to explore the rest of the Bucktown area if you make the trek. Margie’s is a good choice for something out of the ordinary, but I still found it somewhat less than fabulous.
Although Sarah may not be Margie’s biggest fan, 90 years of successful business merits at least the respect of both halves of this couple. Our metaphorical jury appears to still be out on this restaurant. Until it reconvenes, if you and your date like ice cream, nostalgia (and kitsch) Margie’s is probably worth a bite.
Margie’s continues our journey into the Bucktown neighborhood of Chicago. If you have any suggestions about other eateries we need to scope out in the Bucktown or greater Chicagoland area, feel free to leave us a comment below.