JEFFERSON PARK — A Jefferson Park gelato and paleta shop is open for the summer with new flavors and treats.
Ix-Chel, 4968 N. Milwaukee Ave. #1N, reopened this month. It serves more than 30 flavors of gelato and paletas, or popsicles. The family-owned spot also offers smoothies, coffee drinks and affogatos, or gelato with espresso.
New to the menu this year are banana splits and ice cream sundaes, owner Lupe Tsironis said.
Tsironis, who lives in Mayfair and is on the board of the Jefferson Park Chamber of Commerce, enjoys prepping the flavors before the shop opens, using herbs from her home garden in the gelato. She and her son, who helps run the business, work with Italian companies to get most of the ingredients and shop local for fruit when possible.
All of the sauces and whipped cream are also made in-house. The owner said she’s not much of a sweet person, but the caramel sauce “is to die for.”
“This is what I have been wanting to do: serve gelato and eat it,” Tsironis said.
The owners plan to release a flavor each week. This week’s is juicy pear and almond gelato.
Although the pandemic was difficult for the small business, it pivoted to offering to-go items and opened its patio. It also received two city grants, which helped, Tsironis said.
“Despite COVID, we are still doing well, so I am blessed,” she said.
Tsironis opened the shop in 2019 with her husband, who died in 2020 from pancreatic cancer. The name of the shop, Ix-Chel (pronounced Ishchel), is an ode to the place in Yucatán, Mexico, where he received plant medicine from an herbalist specializing in alternative cancer treatments.
Because of this, the gelato shop invokes happy memories for the family and is a nod to the Mayan culture present in Yucatán. Ix-Cel is also the name of the Mayan goddess of love, gestation, medicine and textile arts, and the name translates to “rainbow woman.”
That title is perfect for a gelato shop that carries “all of the colors of the rainbow,” Tsironis said.
In 2019, Chicago Magazine listed Ix-Cel on its Top 10 Hot List of “dining” places in the city.
Tsironis, who is Mexican, has a background in cooking and has sold banana leaf tamales at local festivals. Her food has been so popular that her booth always had lines — which got her thinking: Why not expand the cafe to include food?
“I am thinking of staying open [for winter] because when I am closed, it looks so dead in the area,” she said. “It’s a good area [now] because we have seating outside.”
Plans to add food to the menu are still in the works; in the meantime, neighbors can catch Tsironis and her tamales at this year’s Jeff Fest, which runs July 29-31 at the Jefferson Memorial Park, 4822 N. Long Ave.
Ix-Chel is open 4-9 p.m. weekdays and 1-9 p.m. weekends, but the owners may extend the night hours after receiving neighborhood feedback.
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